The cultural competence approach has grown significantly in the North American human service professions. The reliance of social workers on cultural awareness to block the influence of their own culture in the helping process entails three problematic and conflicting assumptions, namely, the notion of human being as cultural artifact, the use of self as a technique for transcending cultural bias, and the subject-object dichotomy as a defining structure of the worker-client relationship. The authors contend that there are conceptual incoherencies within the cultural competence model's standard notion of self-awareness. The conceptualization of a dialogic self may unsettle the hierarchical worker-client relationship and de-essentialize the concept of culture. Cross-cultural social work thus becomes a site where client and worker negotiate and communicate to cocreate new meanings and relationships.
With cultural diversity increasing in North America, cross-cultural practice has grown significantly in the social work profession. Discussion among social work educators, researchers, and practitioners about training, practice, and theory building in cross-cultural social work abounds in the present literature (Goldberg, 2000). Cross-cultural social work can be generally defined as any working relationship "in which two or more of the participants differ with respect to cultural background, values and lifestyle" (D. W. Sue et al., 1982, p.47). In this article, we examine the major approach in cross-cultural social work, namely, the cultural competence model, which has also received tremendous attention in other human service professions such as counseling, health, and mental health. Although this article purports to provide an alternative insight for the social work profession, the discussion may be useful to other human service professions, members of which often engage cross-culturally with clients.
We contend that the cultural competence model's...
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