Psychotherapy with Alien Beings: Cultural Competence (and Incompetence) in Psychotherapy Practice

Psychotherapy with Alien Beings: Cultural Competence (and Incompetence) in Psychotherapy Practice

by Laura Brown

Psychologist Laura Brown critiques the limited and limiting methods so often used in psychotherapy training programs to promote cultural competence, and offers a model of intersectionality and integration that honors the full complexity of modern identities—including those of psychotherapists.
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A Klingon, a Cardassian and a Betazoid walk into Coffee Bar…

A Klingon, a Cardassian and a Betazoid walk into a coffee house in Fremont, Washington, otherwise known as the neighborhood in Seattle where I live and work. If you know something about Star Trek, you will know that in its universe, ethnic differences are represented by differences between the natives of various planets, rather than by within-planet variation. Their phenotypic differences are denoted by ear shape and the size and depth of forehead wrinkles, or the presence or absence of stippling on the skin. Skin tone, the terrestrial marker of phenotypic difference, is meaningless in the Trek world. There are light and dark-skinned Vulcans and Romulans and Bajorans, but what’s important about them phenotypically isn’t how much melanin is there. That’s an Earth-bound preoccupation, a way in which humans socially construct difference.
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Copyright © 2014 Laura S. Brown
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Laura BrownLaura S. Brown, PhD, is a clinical and forensic psychologist in independent practice in Seattle, Washington. A writer and speaker on feminist therapy theory and practice, she offers workshops and trainings to professionals and the public on such topics as trauma treatment, cultural competence, psychological assessment, and ethics. She is also the founder and Director of the Fremont Community Therapy Project, a low-fee psychotherapy training clinic in Seattle.
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CE credits: 1
Learning objectives:

  • Describe the shortcomings of current methods of cultural competence training.
  • Illustrate the importance of intersectionality in understanding the multiple identities of clients.
  • Understand how common factors in therapy tend to help clinicians be more culturally competent.
  • See multicultural competence as an aspect of integrative practice.
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