Extending boundaries: clinical communication with culturally and linguistically diverse mental health clients and carers

Wendy M Cross, Melissa J Bloomer
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing 2010, 19 (4): 268-77
We are often confronted with the dilemmas of interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds. How do we ensure that we meet their needs, if they have some barriers to communicating those needs? This project explores the communication mechanisms used by mental health clinicians, to explore how they modify their communication to reconcile cultural differences and promote self-disclosure. It also identifies the practical experiences that have enlightened clinicians' practice when interacting with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups. Through focus groups, mental health clinicians were probed about their experiences with CALD groups and the methods used to facilitate communication. Clinicians were working in either acute adult inpatient or community settings in a large metropolitan health service. Fifty-three clinicians formed 7 focus groups. In the focus groups, clinicians were asked about their perceptions of communication with CALD clients. Guided questions were used. All focus groups were audio-taped and transcribed. Two distinct themes emerged. They were 'respect' and 'cultural understanding'. The clinicians recognized that showing and maintaining respect for the CALD client, and their families significantly impacted on the development of a therapeutic relationship. Showing cultural understanding and acceptance for difference also enhanced communication.

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