University of Leicester
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'Can there be cultural competence without culture?' : psychologists' discourse on working with minorities

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posted on 2009-10-06, 10:42 authored by Saima Masud
The literature review in this thesis is an exploration of the recent emphasis in policy on the equality of mental health services for minority ethnic clients, with a focus on cultural competence models in clinical psychology. The review is based on a textual analysis of a policy document to consider whether cultural competence is a promotion or restriction of equality. The policy and models of cultural competence were found to employ essentialist definitions that could be an issue in developing appropriate and relevant services. It is argued that a context-specific and flexible interpretation of culture is required. The empirical research examines clinical psychological discourses about working with minority ethnic clients. It discusses an interview study and a group discussion study conducted among clinical psychologists. Drawing on discourse analysis this research examines the interpretative repertoires and discursive strategies that psychologists use in their accounts of working with minority ethnic clients, and how these construct a particular version of cultural competence. In the interviews, an interpretative framework in terms of 'social context' involved a consideration of the client's cultural background, and an interpretative framework of 'individual context' was considered to be a way of formulating the client's own interpretation of cultural background. In the group discussion, the key interpretative framework was the 'individual/curious' repertoire, which also focused on understanding cultural background from the client's interpretation. It is shown that in using these repertoires the psychologists' construction of cultural competence oscillates between a risk of reifying minority ethnic groups and a risk of neglecting issues such as ethnic discrimination. Based upon the literature and empirical parts, the reflective part of this thesis considers the researchers orientation to the research, in terms of epistemology, and as a minority ethnic researcher conducting research on the subject of minorities.


Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • DClinPsy



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