Beginning the Journey of Multicultural Awareness

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“There are no recipes.”  This was one of the take away messages from Dr. Steven Byers who presented, “Multicultural & Diversity in Mental Health:  Pragmatics & Recent Findings,” at Brookhaven Hospital’s Professional Seminar Series on May 1, 2013.  There are no recipes to be applied when it comes to addressing issues of multicultural and diversity in mental health.  Dr. Byers warned against a singular multicultural training for an organization stating that instead it ought to be an ongoing process.  His stated goal for the presentation was an attempt to get practitioners to reflect upon the importance of these multicultural issues, and “to seek, outside of traditional mental health practice, how and what matters in the lives of our clients and how we can assist them with it in a multiculturally proficient manner.”  Dr. Byers accomplished this goal in three meaningful ways.  He first asked participants to do an exercise that involved rotating from one person to the next, and each time participants delved a bit deeper in their discussion of multicultural issues.  This activity showed the level of discomfort some of us experience when talking about things like the last time we felt different and a time when we witnessed a discriminatory event.  A case study was discussed that illustrated the way in which one’s culture cannot be ignored and must be considered in context with any mental health diagnosis.  Dr. Byers also took participants through a powerful visualization exercise that prompted reflection and empathy.  We look forward to having Dr. Byers return in the future to guide us further along our journey of multicultural awareness.

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