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Cultural Sensitivity: Making Trauma Assessment and Treatment Plans Culturally Relevant

Richard A. Bryant, PhD, and Frank G. Njenga, FRCPsych

Published: February 15, 2006

Article Abstract

The Asian tsunami on December 26, 2004, has had a profound impact on the mental health of largenumbers of people in several South Asian nations. Many psychological interventions with relevanceto this disaster have been shown to be effective in a Western context. For these psychological interventionsto prove effective in the tsunami-affected regions, they must be understood and accepted byhealth-care practitioners and patients in their individual cultural settings and must be adapted to thesesettings on the basis of careful dialogue between health-care professionals, community and religiousleaders, and patients. Religious, socioeconomic, and other cultural influences all affect the acceptabilityand success of various psychological assessment and treatment tools. The cultural specificityof these tools needs careful validation in the tsunami-affected countries. The challenge in each localsituation is to find the optimal means of adapting tools such as cognitive-behavioral therapy into appropriatestrategies for local communities. We advocate a culturally sensitive approach to ensure thatthe impact of interventions is optimized to benefit the communities recovering from such a traumaticdisaster.

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