Cultural Competency and the DSM-5

At MSPP we talk a great deal about becoming culturally competent and building our skills of understanding how others interpret and understand their world.  In my studies, I have been reviewing the Cultural Information Interview (CFI) within the DSM-5.  I believe the set of interview questions will be an extremely important tool for me as a clinician serving refugee communities.

As a diversity consultant, I have spent a lot of time understanding the ways in which people are made aware or unaware of the ways in which their culture mitigates their experiences in life.  It is certainly the case that we all belong to various cultures – and I have found that many discussions of culture lean heavily on our understanding of race and ethnicity and overlook other aspects of culture that mitigate experience.  I also think it is important that the CFI not only be used for people whom I perceive as different from me, but is a useful tool for those whom I perceive as “like me.”  The CFI allows us to discover aspects of someone’s life that may not be obvious or may arise organically from the questions.  It is clear that the DSM-5 situates culture not as descriptive, but discursive – culture is not neatly ordered, it arises in language, it is filled with idiosyncrasies and complexity – the most significant of which may not even be of conscious awareness to the client.

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