What is cultural competence in relationship to correctional counseling?

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mizzwillie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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In correctional counseling which I do currently, cultural competence, which is to be aware of your own cultural worldview, your own attitude toward cultural differences, your own knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and cross cultural skills, is critical to working with inmates.  The sad expectation of inmates is that any counselor will know very little about their culture and so they expect nothing.  For example, if you have a schizophrenic Iranian 20 year old who sees Tinkerbell in the mosque during prayers (true example), you need to understand the horror for the father and the family, the complete bewilderment of the son, the desire of the father to punish what he does not understand and which his culture does not "allow", and try to find a way to help the son understand what is happening, why his father will not see him, and how to proceed from there considering what the courts will do.  If the inmate is Hispanic, you need to understand whether they are from Mexico or from Argentina, because while both speak Spanish, they are very different cultures. If the inmate is Native American, you need to know which Nation they are part of and at least some of the beliefs about the Great Spirit, and cultural customs such as the importance of tobacco and "fancy dancing" by the men.  In other words, you need to understand where the inmate is coming from culturally in order to be able to understand and help counsel correctly. As the second reference link states,  "Competence is not a state, but a constantly evolving process of adaptation and refinement."  Cultural competence is a necessary skill in  working with correctional counseling.


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