Social workers shall function in accordance with the values, ethics, and standards of the NASW (2008) Code of Ethics. Cultural competence requires self-awareness, cultural humility, and the commitment to understanding and embracing culture as central to effective practice.
Cultural Competence – National Association of Social Workers
One of the things I find so important about social work and cultural competence is “cultural humility.” I have seen a few times that professionals who hold degrees my feel that they are more qualified than they really are (Clients are the experts, another topic) and end up causing more harm to the individuals they are working with. I find it helpful to step back and attempt to understand where my client is coming from by simply listening. As a professional it is okay to admit they you don’t know or are’t aware. Allowing clients to share who they are, their experiences, their opinions is what makes social workers unique. The idea that our practice is rooted in client experiences and interaction. I simply love when my clients can educate me and teach me things. You should never assume that you know something. Its better to ask questions then make guesses that could potentially be harmful. Sometimes clients may feel uncomfortable expressing that what you are saying is harmful. Below is a few TIPS
- Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that you don’t know
- Don’t be afraid to admit to your client that you don’t know
- Be willing to let them teach and educate you
- Be willing to be open minded
- Just because you’ve never encountered or experienced something doesn’t mean it never happened
One example that will always stay with me is one in which one of my former professors shared from her practice. She expressed that she was called into a school to work with a young girl who was referred by her teachers. Adults in the classroom expressed that the student was expressing that she was seeing imaginary people around her. Her teacher and other staff felt that she was too old to be engaged in such things. Once my professor met with the students parent she found out that what the girl was describing was something native to her culture. He mother expressed that in their culture children her daughters age do see “The little people” and that to them it was normal.
An interesting example, but a good example about why cultural competency is important.