Cultural competency training is now commonplace in most health and social service organizations. However, some critics have noted that while the model can be useful in certain contexts, it can also inadvertently lead to discriminatory, and or unhelpful, practices in others. As an example, according to Arthur Kleinmanand Peter Benson (Anthropology in the Clinic: The Problem of Cultural Competency and How to Fix it, 2006 ) cultural competency can become:

“a series of “do’s and don’ts” that define how to treat a patient of a given ethnic background. The idea of isolated societies with shared cultural meanings would be rejected by anthropologists, today, since it leads to dangerous stereotyping—such as, “Chinese believe this,” “Japanese believe that,” and so on—as if entire societies or ethnic groups could be described by these simple slogans. Another problem is that cultural factors are not always central to a case, and might actually hinder a more practical understanding of an episode”.

Everyone — regardless of race — has a culture, and cultures are ever evolving. Further, an individuals culture is just the beginning of the book that makes up who they are (i.e. a persons identity is comprised of more than their cultural background). So, to engage or support a service user through the singular lens of culture can prove problematic. This myopic cultural lens can lead professionals to overlook other , and possibly more important, factors that might contribute to who that person is. This limited perspective can negatively impact how professionals respond to and support service users. With this, to better support service users, professionals should consider looking beyond culture — or at the least, view each service user as an “individual”, with their own unique issues, worldview and responses to being a member of a specific cultural group.

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