For Professionals – Culturally Sensitive Options Counseling – Part 3

Healthcare and helping professionals need to be culturally competent if they want to provide effective pregnancy options counseling in our multi-cultural society.
For several years, Adoption STAR worked cooperatively with Spaulding for Children to deliver U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-funded Infant Adoption Awareness Training Project (IAATP) trainings across New York State.

An excellent tool included as part of the training focused on the idea of cultural responsiveness in providing options counseling. Spaulding for Children’s Natalie Lyons wrote very eloquently about this concept, and we’d like to share some of her insights in a three-part blog series. Here’s the third and final installment.

“During the assessment process, open-ended questions can be useful in the avoidance of cultural stereotyping, and providing individualized treatment. The patient/client needs to be allowed to ‘tell his/her story in his/her own words’ while the health practitioner is respectful and supportive of the emotional feelings the situation might illicit. Open-ended questions also provide answers to a woman’s beliefs and values, health related behaviors, and cultural rituals and practices. Patient/clients need to be encouraged to ask questions, while the health professional continuously checks to insure the information that is being disseminated is understood. The health practitioner needs to be open to including a patient/client’s family members, close friends, and/or members of their ‘community’ in the decision making process as per the patient/client’s wishes.

Due to the history and current existence of racism and discrimination, health care providers must be aware that there could be perceived power differentials that exist between them and their patient/clients. Patient/clients from non-dominant cultural groups may be mistrusting and not fully engaged in options counseling. Culturally responsive health care providers, however, can engage a mistrusting patient/client by shifting perceived power through what J. Jordan calls the ‘ultimate connection,’ which ‘must be the need we find between us…it is not only who you are, but what we can do for each other.’

Becoming a culturally competent health care professional is a lifelong process. All humans struggle with the pitfalls of stereotyping, cross-cultural misunderstanding, and language barriers. However, when a commitment is made to provide culturally responsive services, patient/clients can receive high quality health care services that are nonjudgmental and facilitate informed decision-making.”