Multicultural Counseling and Integrative Medicine

Medicine and Cultural competency

The word medicine comes from the Sanskrit word MA meaning “to measure.” Medicine in its original meaning attempts to measure or to bring balance to the person, family, and community. Since its first use in 13th century English the word has meant the art of healing, cure, treatment, remedy, medical art, a potion, or plaster.

Our attitudes about medicine and both receiving and delivering treatment, are informed by our cultural, familial, and religious beliefs and experiences. We vary widely in our attitudes about the use of medications. While generalizations can be made about cultural attitudes, evaluation should always proceed from the specific individual and family. Thus when a client or family expresses their attitudes it may be understood in the context of their cultural milieu.

To bridge cultural differences in clinical practice, it is helpful to collect the following information from the client or patient when discussing attitudes and practices of taking medication:

  • List of medications from physicians and non-physicians
  • Self-care strategies including herbal medicines, other healers
  • Dietary habits (use of nutritional interactions with alternative treatments)
  • Individual’s/family concept of the illness
  • The meaning of the illness in the context of culture
  • Medication characteristics such as side effects or psychotropic effects which may be important to the patient
  • Symbolic power and value of the medication to the client
  • Client expectations for medication benefits or risks

You can find more exercises in my Multicultural counseling workbook.

Interested in my self paced, 7 hr. CE course on cultural competency?

Watch some of the clips about my Multicultural Awareness & Diversity talk.

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