In today’s healthcare, creating an environment of openness and respect for all individuals is more important than ever. Healthcare providers who take the time to understand their patient’s cultural beliefs, practices, and communities allow us to provide a space where everyone can feel safe in their own skin. Culturally sensitive care—including physical and mental health— requires special consideration but can empower patients toward healthful healing.

Culturally sensitive care is an approach to healthcare delivery that recognizes and respects the unique cultural background of each patient. It acknowledges the impact of culture on a person’s beliefs, values, customs, and lifestyle. This kind of care is based on the belief that individuals have different ideas about what constitutes proper medical care and are best served when they can draw upon their own cultural traditions while receiving treatment.

Examples of culturally sensitive practices include:1

  • Providing information in a patient’s native language.
  • Offering culturally appropriate food choices in hospitals, accounting for special dietary restrictions or beliefs.
  • Engaging family members in decision-making whenever possible.
  • Using traditional remedies alongside more conventional treatments.

Focusing on cultural sensitivity also includes understanding how racism, inequality, colonialism, and other forms of oppression may affect a person’s access to healthcare. These factors are essential for creating a safe and supportive environment where patients feel comfortable openly discussing their health concerns with their healthcare provider. Culturally sensitive care is vital to providing holistic, effective treatment for physical and mental health issues because it acknowledges the complex relationship between culture and well-being.

What Does Culturally Sensitive Care Look Like?

Culturally sensitive care means that therapists are making accommodations for lifestyle and culture when providing therapeutic services. A therapist trained in culturally sensitive care will be open to learning about a person’s background and belief system rather than making assumptions about it. They will take a question-oriented, conversation-centered approach, where people can help lead needs from their own context. This allows for more personalized care, as it considers any potential cultural differences that may be present.

Benefits of Culturally Sensitive Care

Culturally sensitive care provides numerous benefits to those seeking therapeutic services. Some of these include:

  • Improved patient satisfaction: Culturally sensitive care for mental health allows patients to feel respected and understood, providing them a greater sense of safety, security, and trust in their providers. This can lead to an improvement in overall patient satisfaction with their care.
  • Improved treatment outcomes: Studies have shown that patients who receive culturally sensitive care typically have improved treatment outcomes, including better quality of life, lower levels of depression and anxiety, and decreased symptom severity.2
  • Greater access to care: By considering the cultural needs and preferences of different populations, it can open access to mental health services for those who may not have been able to access traditional forms of treatment due to language barriers or cultural differences.
  • Opportunities for partnering with clients: Culturally sensitive care allows clinicians to partner with clients by involving them in developing culturally tailored interventions that are more likely to be successful in addressing their specific mental health needs.3

Culturally sensitive care is essential in providing quality mental health services today. It fosters an atmosphere of trust between therapists and clients while helping reduce stigma around mental health issues within our society. Discover more resources to help support culturally sensitive care on our resources page.