Unit 10 - Health/Clinical Psychology and Culture

Promoting health and healing mental illnesses are universal goals of human beings. Counseling and psychotherapy serve to reach these goals. Based on this perspective, this unit is divided into three subunits.

Cultural values and beliefs that influence general areas of health and well being are presented in subunit 10.1 (Health and Well-Being Across Cultures). Along with physical health, questions of mind-body interaction are examined (Aboud). Practices that enhance survival such as sharing of food and other life sustaining materials, are usually passed from generation to generation for the purpose of sustaining the strengths of a people, especially when living conditions may be challenging as in climates of extreme heat, cold, moisture, or dryness. Although people in richer countries seem to be happier than people in poorer countries but this perspective is incomplete as there are other relevant features to predict happiness (Suh & Oishi).

We know that in different cultures the symptoms of mental illness are not always interpreted as illness or dysfunction. For example, in some cultures, those who hear voices and appear to have many persons inhabiting and functioning within their body are regarded as extremely gifted or "god-like" in their unusualness. An age-old question concerns the universality or cultural specificity of conditions we tend to call "mental". Clinical psychologists are constantly challenged by these issues, all of which affect both diagnosis and treatment. These issues are discussed in subunit 10.2 (Culture and Mental Illness). Beside a more general perspective on the link between culture and mental illness (Sam & Moreira), depression (Tanaka-Matsumi & Chang) and emotional distress (Ryder, Young, & Heine) as specific forms of mental illnesses are discussed.

Due to the increase of migration, clinicians and counselors from are often confronted to counsel or offer therapy to people from quite different cultures. It is often difficult to be an effective counselor with people from one's own culture. When other cultures and world views enter the picture, things can become quite complicated and challenging. Yet there is currently, at least in the United States, an increasing requirement that counselors and psychotherapists become interculturally competent. To avoid or neglect this area of preparation is considered by many to be professionally irresponsible. The articles in the subunit 10.3 (Counseling and Psychotherapy in Cultural Context) address many of the problems in this active area of professional involvement. The articles range from broader overviews (e.g., Pedersen) to talk about culturalle senstivie approaches in counseling and therapy in relation to specific groups, e.g. Japanese clients (Nippoda), Canadian first nation clients (Blue, Darou, & Ruano), or native Americans (Hayes). These articles should be especially interesting to individuals who are either in or are contemplating a career in professional counseling.

Subunit 1
Health and Well-being Across Cultures

Subunit 2
Culture and Mental Illness

Subunit 3
Counseling and Psychotherapy in Cultural Context