How do agency values reflect culturally responsive programming for diverse client population groups?

There is growing demand for practitioners to provide culturally appropriate assessment, treatment and preventive services. Practitioners need to be attuned to the high risk of mental health disorders such as depression among certain ethnic and cultural groups. Additional practice opportunities reflect the likelihood that some members of these groups face challenges in adjusting to unfamiliar communities and cultural norms. Chronic stressors may include the experiences of racism and acculturation by minority and immigrant populations.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics comprise the largest minority group in the country (approximately 40 million, or 13.7 percent of the total U.S. population) and have the highest population growth rate. Meanwhile, the millions of Americans of Asian descent speak dozens of languages and dialects. According to the 1999 U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health, more than 35 percent of the U.S. population who identify themselves as Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders live in households where individuals older than 13 have limited proficiency in English.

Studies suggest lower overall rates of treatment for mental disorders among racial and ethnic minorities. These groups have lower aggregate education and income levels than non-minorities. Researchers have associated this disparity with a higher likelihood of individuals not receiving any mental health services, as well as receiving less adequate treatment than other mental health patients.
In today's health care marketplace, providing services to specific populations and building a niche practice can help a psychologist remain competitive. Gaining experience in providing services to members of certain communities can help a psychologist become recognized as an expert in working with particular populations. Many practitioners also find it very gratifying that, beyond growing their practice, they are providing a valuable service by meeting community needs for mental health and health services.

This article addresses opportunities and challenges for practitioners in reaching out to build community connections and offering professional services to diverse ethnic and racial groups.