What are ways you can engage clients in a culturally responsive way?

Steps for initial encounters that have been shown to improve client engagement with culturally diverse clients include:

  • Get a description of the client’s concerns in their own words. Use their words when talking about these concerns.
  • Let them know help is available and that a positive outcome is possible.
  • Find out about their beliefs or past experiences regarding mental health services.
  • Inquire about their family and cultural background. Ask about their family beliefs towards mental health services.
  • Inquire about culturally acceptable ways of coping and use of emotional expression.
  • Ask about concrete barriers to attending appointments and problem solve around those barriers.
  • Without generalizing or making assumptions, draw on the knowledge of what you already know about diverse cultural and ethnic groups and what you have learned from specific clients. Seek out additional knowledge based on what they tell you during initial encounters.
  • Give a clear and accurate description of treatment, differentiating if necessary from any negative past experiences or preconceptions.

For more information, view SAMSHA’s Tip 59: A Treatment Improvement Protocol for Improving Cultural Competence.

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