Cultural Sensitivity: How it impacts the client-clinician relationship?

I grew up in India in the South, then moved on to one of the most populous metropolitan/ urban cities in the world. My career took me to the United States, where I lived in 4 different states, two different coastlines, all in all 5 different cities and towns-some rural, some urban. I have traveled to over 7 countries and have close friendships with individuals from at least 4 different continents. I currently live in an urban city surrounded by individuals from  about 12 different states that all speak a minimum of 5 different languages. And while all of those life experiences make me perfectly equipped to understand cultural differences, I continue to remain amazed about how every new client I treat provides me with an incredible opportunity for new learning.

Every client comes with a specific culture that belongs to their own specific family, tied in with value systems that they come with via their own upbringing, their life experiences, their family dynamics, their educational background, their current living situation and their religious beliefs. Any or all of these components might impact their outlook towards their communication disorders.

Developing a deep understanding of these components and figuring out how they affect the individual is in essence what makes the job of a speech-language pathologist so exciting!

I often feel like a forensic specialist or a detective...piecing together all the little bits that matter to someone, that defines them, that makes them tick and that impacts the way they view the world.

It is no surprise that to get my services across in ways that are meaningful, valuable and earnest, it requires what is termed as "cultural sensitivity". Cultural sensitivity by definition is a concept that encompasses the knowledge, awareness and acceptance of other cultures. Clients respond well to intervention when they know that their beliefs are valued, that the speech pathologist across the table "gets it" and that I will be "mindful" towards meeting them exactly where they are at.

Cultural sensitivity cannot be taught through text books.

It takes life experience.
It takes an ability to learn how to read and connect with people.
It is a database of knowledge that takes continued knowledge addition.

Being culturally sensitive to my client says to them:

 "I want to connect with you. I want to help you with ____. And I want to make a difference to you".

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