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Cultural pragmatism: in search of alternative thinking about cultural competence in mental health

Yahalom J, Hamilton AB. Cultural pragmatism: in search of alternative thinking about cultural competence in mental health. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology. 2023 Jun 11;

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Researchers have tended to approach cultural competence through two primary models: acquisition of culturally tailored skills and orientation to cultural process. While each model plays an important, complementary role in cultural competence, both can be limited in conceptualizing and responding to cultural variations of distress. This article draws on research in multicultural psychology, psychological anthropology, and pragmatic philosophy to introduce cultural pragmatism, an alternative orientation to cultural competence that reconceptualizes what it means to hold something to be true in the mental health fields. This article first draws on research in multicultural psychology and psychological anthropology to identify an important limitation regarding how truth is understood in contemporary cultural competence models, and how this limitation can impact culturally competent care. Following this, the article considers philosophical pragmatism as an alternative and introduces a preliminary model for practicing cultural pragmatism in clinical settings. As a whole, this article makes two interrelated arguments: first, that a better articulated theory of truth is needed to achieve the goals of cultural competence, and second, that cultural pragmatism can help resolve the limitation that cultural competence approaches currently exhibit.

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