Applied Psychology OPUS

Multicultural Competence among Mental Health Professionals

Savanna Keator

The proposed study seeks to investigate mental health professionals’ multicultural competence as it relates to clients’ perceptions of the therapeutic alliance. The growth in culturally diverse clients in the United States poses a challenge for the psychology field that is dominated by American professionals. The proposed study addresses major gaps in research concerning mental health professionals and their ability to successfully treat clients of a different culture. What is the relationship between mental health professionals’ multicultural competence and their clients’ perceptions of the therapeutic alliance?

Participants will be 150 mental health professionals and 600 clients recruited from 15 hospitals across the New York Metropolitan area. Ten professionals per hospital will be surveyed, and each professional will have 2 male and 2 female clients each to control for gender. Both clients and professionals will be asked to fill out a demographic questionnaire that addresses cultural values, as well as factors such as reasons for seeking mental health treatment (for clients), and therapeutic experience (for professionals). Professionals will be asked to complete the Multicultural Counseling Knowledge and Awareness Scale (MCKAS) (Ponterotto & Potere, 2003) to assess multicultural competence. Consenting clients of the professionals will be asked to complete the Working Alliance Inventory (WAI) (Horvath & Greenberg, 1989) to assess the therapeutic alliance. Higher professional multicultural competence is expected to be associated with higher client perception of the therapeutic alliance. The proposed study has the possibility to inform both policy and practice in the creation of more rigid guidelines concerning multicultural competence, as well as the development of successful treatments for culturally diverse clients.