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What is Cultural Psychology?

Updated on February 28, 2020
Cultural Psychology, first developed in the 1960s, has made leaps and bounds and is now a prominent area of Psychology.
Cultural Psychology, first developed in the 1960s, has made leaps and bounds and is now a prominent area of Psychology.

There are many factors that make studying or treating different patients challenging. Different groups of people think differently (obviously.)

These difference can make it difficult for doctors and researchers to understand their subject, even if the patient is just of a different gender as they were raised to lead a different role. Likewise, it can be difficult to treat those who come from a different cultural or ethnic background.

Sadly, because of these differences, those who are of minority backgrounds don't respond as well to treatment as those who are from majority backgrounds.

Those from minority groups are less likely to seek treatment because of the many difficulties they face in receiving treatment, one of which is an inability to develop a strong rapport with mental health professionals of a different ethnic or racial background.

In recent years an area of psychology has been created to address these issues. With the emergence of cultural psychology, studies have been made to help mental health professionals understand and treat those from differing backgrounds

What is Cultural Psychology?

The basis of cultural psychology is that a person's cultural background is tied to the way they think. A therapy or psychological theory that works well with people of one culture may work differently with those of another culture.

The belief behind cultural psychology and in many fields of psychology is that there are no universal laws for how the mind works. Cultural psychologist study different cultures for the purpose of finding different ways to treat patients of differing cultures.

Another important part of cultural psychology is learning how social practices of a particular cultural group affect cognitive development in members of the group.

The Effects of Cultural Psychology on Therapy & Treatment

Cultural psychology enables mental health professionals to increase the effectiveness of the treatment of those from different backgrounds. By having a great sensitivity to those of differing cultural backgrounds, treatment can become more successful. Also, by studying different cultures, an increased understanding can be made.

An important part of cultural psychology is understanding the social differences of varying cultures. Something that may seem bizarre in one culture may be the norm in another, so when treating those of different cultures, it is important to understand these differences. This is not only to avoid hurt feelings but to also get an increased understanding of the patient.

An action, that may be common in the patient's culture and bizarre by the standards of the majority, may otherwise be mistaken as a sign of mental illness if the mental health professional has a lack of understanding of that particular culture. Another way to increase the effectiveness of treatment for those from differing backgrounds is to include models from that particular model in the patient's treatment.

By including cultural morals and models in the treatment, the therapist will more likely reach the patient's goal. It is important that the mental health professional understands that those from differing backgrounds aren't likely looking to be changed into a person of the majority. The patient isn't likely to want to abandon their culture, but, instead, is wanting to be able to work on their problem within their differing cultural background.

The birth of cultural psychology has brought with it the development of culture-sensitive therapies. These types of therapies aim to help those with particular backgrounds to work with the issues that make the person culturally unique.

Each person with a differing ethnic background has issues that are unlike than issues that others face because of their cultural uniqueness. Because of the way that culture-sensitive therapy works, those of differing cultural backgrounds respond to this type of therapy much better than other types.


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    • arthsabi profile image


      8 years ago from World

      Great article! I agree that there should be a greater awareness of cultural differences in all aspects of life!

    • yusefblack profile image


      8 years ago

      Agreed, nice article Melbel. Seeing it from the other end, and having experienced different cultures and backgrounds, it makes sense; ... it really takes time and effort to learn and adjust to new ways

    • The Midwest Man profile image

      The Midwest Man 

      8 years ago

      Nice article. Working towards my LCPC and one of the most important courses I've taken was on Multicultural Counseling. This is one of the bigger challenges practitioners will face over the coming decades as they interact with their clients. It's important that both sides are aware of the communication gaps, potential lack of cultural knowledge, and possible treatments that can be helpful to some and hazardous to others.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Mel-I've never heard of 'cultural' psychology as a field of psychology. Is there a particular university that offers a program? When I lived in CA/ East Bay area I worked at a hospital in Berkeley. It was filled with many asian and hispanic patients as well as a large deaf clientle. I was amazed and pleased at how well the hospital set up programs to accommodate them. WE were always seeing the interpretors around and many of the asian staff also helped to translate. Nice hub, and interesting.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for doing this great job or writing this article. Very interesting and and eye opener.


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