When is Cultural Incompetence Okay?
<rant>I was at a gathering recently where some social work colleagues–therapists in this case–were talking about Facebook–several proclaimed proudly that they aren’t on Facebook and that they don’t understand it at all. Then, in the next breath they acknowledged that many of their clients use Facebook a great deal.
I was left wondering how you can practice effectively with people if you don’t understand significant parts of their lives. Mind you, I’m not saying that all social workers need to be on Facebook (or whatever the platform). But doesn’t the principle of culturally competent practice require that we at least understand the important aspects of their worlds? For example, if I don’t understand the platform, how can I help my client determine how to set boundaries in this new medium? Setting boundaries requires an understanding of what’s normative and what works in a particular setting.
Are there any other areas of people’s lives where we would find this level of therapist ignorance acceptable? I don’t think so. And yet I still repeatedly come across social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and other human services professionals who proudly declare their ignorance of new media, social media, and much of the Internet. </end rant>
As with all areas of cultural competence, it’s not necessary to know everything about something ahead of time. But what is required is a sense of respect and curiosity, a willingness to learn. What distresses me most about the attitudes I encounter in some of my colleagues is their disdain and dismissiveness when discussing social media, social networking sites, and Web 2.0. Such attitudes can only create barriers in therapy when the client is someone who integrates new media into their lives. And over time, it might well lead to therapy become less relevant for a generation.
Photo Credits: *Emalaith