"Cultural competence is the ability to recognize the importance of race, ethnicity, and culture in the provision of behavioral health services. Specifically, it is awareness and acknowledgment that people from other cultural groups do not necessarily share the same beliefs and practices or perceive, interpret, or encounter similar experiences in the same way. Thus, cultural competence is more than speaking another language or being able to recognize the basic features of a cultural group. Cultural competence means recognizing that each of us, by virtue of our culture, has at least some ethnocentric views that are provided by that culture and shaped by our individual interpretation of it. Cultural competence is rooted in respect, validation, and openness toward someone whose social and cultural background is different from one’s own (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment [CSAT] 1999b).

"Nonetheless, cultural competence literature highlights how difficult it is to appreciate cultural differences and to address these differences effectively, because many people tend to see things solely from their own culture-bound perspectives. For counselors, specific cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors characterize the path to culturally competent counseling and culturally responsive services. Exhibit 1-2 depicts the continuum of thoughts and behaviors that lead to cultural competence in the provision of treatment. The “stages” are not necessarily linear, and not all people begin with a negative impression of other cultural groups—they may simply fail to recognize differences and diverse ways of being. For most people, the process of becoming culturally competent is complex, with movement back and forth along the continuum and with feelings and thoughts from more than one stage sometimes existing concurrently."


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Improving Cultural Competence. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series No. 59. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4849. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.