Cultural Competency in Trauma Counseling


Cultural competency is essential in mental health service because it requires counselors to apply their expertise to help clients with psychological problems and demands them to immerse themselves in a different culture. The latter is critical for successful therapy outcomes because assuming that a person with different cultural backgrounds has the same perceptions and values is often erroneous and may interfere with counseling (Wilson, 2020). The importance of cultural competency in mental health services is gaining popularity, and more credible information can now be found online. Thus, this paper aims to discuss seven media sources that present various aspects of cultural competency in working with clients, particularly those with psychological trauma. The sources include publications from governmental agencies, training videos, blog posts, and articles on professional websites.

The Seven Media Sources

The first source is the post by Sebastian Martinez, a Latinx mental health therapist, about his personal psychiatric issues. It was published on the National Alliance of Mental Illness website. Martinez discusses the existing challenge of finding culturally competent counselors in the United States since there is a lack of non-Caucasian professionals in this field in America (Martinez, 2020). Being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) in his early twenties, the author could not heal his traumas because most counselors did not address culturally sensitive topics (Martinez, 2020). Therefore, according to his experience, Martinez (2020) proposed recommendations to improve cultural competency in mental health services. He suggested addressing the race issue during counseling, eliminating stigmatization, stopping relying on interpreters, and adjusting therapies to a client’s cultural needs (Martinez, 2020). Overall, this media source helps understand problems and offers solutions to culturally-related challenges of counseling.

Secondly, the post on the website of Fountain House, a non-profit organization striving to improve mental health services for ethnic and cultural minorities. It suggests that the high prevalence of psychological problems among people of color stems from structural racism in the U.S. (“Why is cultural competence important in mental health care,” 2022). Furthermore, many of these patients lack access to adequate mental health services (“Why is cultural competence important in mental health care,” 2022). This source shows that the presence of bias and absence of cultural competence in counseling creates barriers to client-counselor communication and connection, worsening mental health outcomes.

The third source is the article written by Macy Wilson, Ph.D. of Psychology, for Time2Track, titled “Cultural competence in therapy: Why we must see color?” The author raises concerns about the inadequacy of cultural competency among American counselors, leading to poor mental health outcomes among clients from minority cultures (Wilson, 2020). She states that the fact that some counselors misunderstand patients of color and have racial bias exacerbates the clients’ trauma of structural discrimination that they may have experienced (Wilson, 2020). Hence, Wilson (2020) recommends three relatively simple steps for counselors to follow to adequately address trauma in clients with a different cultural background than theirs. Firstly, she suggests mental health workers perform research on the customs and traditions of the client’s culture. Secondly, the author claims that counselors should engage in activities that allow exploring various cultures so that they understand these patients better. Thirdly, it is critical to control what language is used during counseling sessions because some words or actions may be normal for one but unacceptable for another culture. Following these steps may help improve cultural competency and raise patient satisfaction with the service.

Fourthly, the plan to improve cultural competency in counseling services in Los Angeles county was prepared by the region’s Department of Mental Health, directed by Johnathan Sherin. This governmental agency’s report provides statistical information on the number of people of color living in the county as well as other demographic data (Sherin, 2020). Furthermore, it presents a plan to reduce cultural disparities in accessing mental health services (Sherin, 2020). The primary idea of this initiative is to focus on community and family-centered care in psychological counseling.

The fifth source is the handbook on cultural competence provided by San Diego Behavioral Health Services. It offers various tools to improve cultural competency in counseling. Specifically, the guide contains information on language services available in the County of San Diego (County of San Diego Behavioral Health Services [CSDBHS], 2020). Additionally, there are surveys for clients to check the quality of the provided counseling (CSDBHS, 2020). This report emphasizes the importance of addressing cultural differences and learning about ethnic disparities because people often experience emotional trauma from being discriminated against or stigmatized. These types of trauma can significantly affect their psychological well-being. This source has two main ethical implications for social workers who strive to be advocates for their clients. Firstly, it emphasizes justice by offering strategies to ensure equal access to mental health services. Secondly, the plan teaches counselors to respect any person’s worth and dignity by providing steps for developing cultural competency.

The sixth source is a blog post written by two licensed psychologists about the need to focus on a multicultural approach in trauma counseling. The authors state that reaction to trauma is frequently defined by an individual’s cultural background, perceptions, and values (Moore & Ruglass, 2018). Therefore, understanding different cultures and using a multicultural framework in trauma mental health services will help understand the etiology of a specific problem and how to resolve it (Moore & Ruglass, 2018). Indeed, it is believed that unique features of various cultures influence how a person will cope with stress and respond to traumatic events (Moore & Ruglass, 2018). The authors suggest that all clinicians working with PTSD patients should explore the peculiarities of their clients’ cultures and strive to eliminate their own ethnic and racial biases (Moore & Ruglass, 2018). By expanding one’s cultural competency, counselors can improve outcomes in patients with diverse backgrounds.

The seventh source is video training about cultural competency delivered by Dr. Deleana Strohl. During this webinar, Dr. Strohl provides an in-depth description of the concepts of culture, trauma, the psychological response, diagnosis and management of PTSD, and cultural competence (WisTech ATCouncil, 2020). Counselors must realize that people’s worldviews and emotional reactions vary with their cultural backgrounds (WisTech ATCouncil, 2020). Furthermore, the lecturer highlights the need to check if diversity is appropriately recognized, addressed, and honored (WisTech ATCouncil, 2020). Moreover, it is emphasized that cultural competence is vital to master for psychologists to prevent re-traumatization of already emotionally traumatized clients with a lack of empathy and respect (WisTech ATCouncil, 2020). Counselors should be able to identify if a person is a victim of an individual or collective trauma. The latter is often caused by systemic racism and historical trauma; hence, any mental health professional should avoid exacerbating a client’s situation by cultural incompetency and microaggressions.


In summary, cultural competency is a critical skill in trauma-related psychological counseling. The seven media sources discussed in this essay present helpful information about how ethnic bias can impede attaining counseling goals, highlighting the need for developing cultural competency for counselors. Overall, the knowledge about cultural differences in worldview and responses to adverse events is instrumental to helping clients overcome their mental health issues related to collective or individual trauma.


County of San Diego Behavioral Health Services. (2020). Cultural competence handbook. Web.

Moore, S. J., & Ruglass, L. M. (2018). Utilizing a multicultural framework in trauma psychology: Highlight of division resources. Trauma Psychology News. Web.

Martinez, S. (2020). Why we need more culturally competent therapists. NAMI. Web.

Sherin, J. E. (2020). Cultural competence plan update. Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Web.

Wilson, M. (2020). Cultural competence in therapy: Why we must see color. Time2Track. Web.

WisTech ATCouncil. (2020). Cultural competence and trauma-informed care August 2020 [Video]. YouTube. Web.

Why is cultural competence important in mental health care? (2022). Fountain House. Web.

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1. PsychologyWriting. "Cultural Competency in Trauma Counseling." November 21, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Cultural Competency in Trauma Counseling." November 21, 2023.