You can’t understand me because you don’t know where I am coming from

Posted by: Priya Senroy on September 29, 2015 9:54 am


As part of annual refresher training courses, I had the opportunity to attend a cultural competency based workshop and the main takeaway was that you don’t need to understand every cultural and ethnic background; you need an open mind and understanding of the impacts of social determinants of health and cultural/ethnic/religious aspects that influence clients’ access to services. This attitude encourages clients to self-identify issues and concerns and determine what types of supports are needed.

While this is true for counsellors, I have often found that it’s not as easy for clients, who might not have that open mind or understand where we as counsellors are coming from. They tend to gravitate to counsellors who look like them, speak like them and come from their background. So as frontline counsellors, I think it’s equally important to educate and bring awareness to our clients, informing them about the counselling service, the frameworks and the professional competencies of the counsellors irrespective of the cultural background. While it’s understandable that language might be a barrier but that can be overcome by using interpretation services. I think it’s important that before we make culture and linguistic specific counsellor referrals, attempts should be made to debunk the misconceptions of ‘you can’t understand me because you don’t know where I am coming from’ perceptions of clients.

I am wondering if anybody else has any thoughts around this-of trying to convince clients that no matter how we look like, what we speak…as counsellors we listen to and speak the same language when it comes to delivering competent service.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA