The meaning of transculturalism, as a competency for professional practice must not remain vague. For therapists to emerge from training with multicultural competencies their knowledge and understanding of diversity and oppressions need to be supported. Development of awareness and practice in these areas is a training responsibility.
Working with immigration, refugee status, intergenerational trauma, oppression and sexual health need to be identified as competencies on the training agenda and this Knowledge should be transferred into practice. Training courses must therefore prioritize these issues and fully integrate them into the curriculum. Therapists need to feel competent to address these complex issues in their practice and be supported by their supervisors and respective organizations. In the first place trainers have a responsibility to re-evaluate their attitude and approach to teaching multiculturalism.
Therapists need first to acknowledge, then understand the nature and impact of difference and similarity, identity, culture and belief systems in the therapeutic relationship. Therapists must accept that their clients may experience oppressions. This means that therapists must examine the impact of oppressions on their own personal development process and their clients. Therapists should develop ways of being present in the client’s process of cultural identity development and oppressions. Most importantly therapists must find ways to engage with clients in non-oppressive, empowering ways that support intercultural, intracultural experiences and the impact of racism. The rigid application of traditional theories that rely on Eurocentric thinking need to be challenged and re-framed for their usefulness to individual experiences.
It is not enough to create a curriculum that has no way of evidencing students learning about multiculturalism. Students who are not confident in transcultural dialogue may bypass a cultural issues criterion in their assignments. Trainers can use their own transcultural awareness to support these students to develop their understanding and ways of reflecting on the process. This may mean being explicit about engaging with the social and cultural elements of the training.
Dialogue about racial context raises vulnerabilities and fears among student groups. Due to these fears, some students do not disclose cultural and racial information about their client’s background unless prompted. Often rigid belief systems prevent students from empathizing with clients of a sexual minority. Disabilities are sometimes denied for fear of offending. Students are quick to abandon clients whose cultural diversity they are unfamiliar with rather than face their prejudices and mistakes and walk with the client.
Appropriate use of transcultural literature to supports these concerns are important for a multicultural curriculum. It is not enough to add references and expect students to convert text into practice. Transcultural concepts tend to remain theoretical mysteries. They need discussion, elucidation and ways of integrating them into practice. Multicultural literature does not always give suggestions about working with attitudes about diversity and oppressions. Students claim that they want models of applying transcultural and intercultural therapy. Unlike the application of traditional models, they may struggle with the cultural aspects of therapy and need support.
It is also important to be aware of Eurocentric frameworks that dominate traditional approaches to understanding psychological well-being.