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To quote George Clinton of Funkadelic, "You don't drink what I drink; You don't smoke what I smoke: You don't think like I think; You don't joke like I joke. I got a thing, you got a thing, everybody's got a thing."

Everybody has a thing, and a culturally sensitive intervention would respect that thing and run with it.

To be culturally sensitive, an intervention must have content that is welcoming to the target culture. It must contain issues of relevance to the culture and not be offensive. And it must be familiar and endorsed by the target culture.

If a given intervention has universal principles of health behavior change--aspects of the intervention create social fabric, generate connectedness, help develop social skills, build self-esteem, facilitate some social monitoring, and help to minimize trauma--that intervention can usually be retrofitted for cultural sensitivity with a little work.

Using the universal principles of health behavior change, the culture can be examined for manifestations of these principles and then they can be expressed in culturally sensitive ways. For example, if, in Native American culture, going on a spirit quest builds self-esteem, the process of building self-esteem in a Native American intervention might be best served by a spirit quest exercise--rather than by building a soccer team.

Cultural specifics might need to be supplemented to make the intervention culturally specific so the universal principles of health behavior change are fully embraced.

In this country, a wealth of research is done on specific cultures, but a lack of interventions exists based on this research for those cultures. This is because the principles of what makes something culturally sensitive are not being followed. To move from the on to the for scenario, content and processes are needed that include stakeholders from the target cultures as full partners. Such a scenario tends to be threatening to service providers, as most are from European American bastions of power.

Until the balance of power shifts, the available interventions are unlikely to support everybody's "thing."


DR. BELL is chief executive officer and president of Community Mental Health Council Inc. in Chicago and serves as director of public and community psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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Title Annotation:Community Psychiatry; culturally sensitive intervention
Author:Bell, Carl C.
Publication:Clinical Psychiatry News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2005
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