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Definition of Multicultural Psychology

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As modern psychologists have had to undertake systematic studies of culture, multicultural psychology has emerged but not without some disagreement concerning how psychologists should understand and use cultural constructs. "Multicultural psychologists are interested in how culture influences behavior and how researchers integrate key culture variables into their work" (Keith, 2011, p. 5). Individuals become acculturated in the environments in which they are born and raised in. This process results a predictable tendency to view other cultures from the perspective of one's own. Such ethnocentric tendencies can result in psychological barriers among cultures resulting in viewing different cultures from one's own as threatening or less desirable. Thus, multicultural research helps to understand ethnocentrism and attempts to reduce its affects. In this paper, the subjects to examine and define are multicultural psychology and provide a brief history and rationale for the establishment of multicultural psychology.

Definition of Multicultural psychology

Psychology is a systematic study of behavior, cognition, and effect. Consequently, psychologists are interested in understanding how people think and respond and what factors influence those human processes. In relation, in some aspects, multicultural psychology does examine the effect of culture in the way people may act, think, or feel. Although culture is an external factor because of its influence on the events and interactions with people, it is also an internal process because it interprets the environment the person is accustomed to living. According to Hall, "Multicultural psychology is the study of influences of multiple cultures in a single social context on human behaviors" (Hall, 2011, p. 2). Additionally, multicultural psychology is considered a "fourth force" in the study of psychology, which is used to explore differences in communication, cultural identity development, stereotyping, and acculturation processes. The study also focuses on the cultural differences and similarities. Multicultural psychology research focuses mainly on the uniqueness within each culture, which allows professionals to have a better understanding of empathizing and socializing with individuals from different backgrounds.

History of multicultural psychology

For many years, the theory of research in psychology was assumed all universal concepts, or a "one size fits all" perspective. Most psychological research and theory development took place in the West, concentrating mainly in the United States. Historically more demographic changes have occurred in the United States resulting in the obvious outcomes that patient and clients cannot be treated alike. Thus, "psychotherapists, social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists began to notice that lack of response in treatment and the high dropout rate of their diverse ethnic clients" (Martines, 2008, p. 8). As a result, the establishment of the APA Division 12 Task Force (Promotion and Decimation of Psychological Procedures) authorized the investigation of Empirically Supported Treatments (ESTs). ESTs are interventions that have been discovered to be effective for psychological conditions such as panic disorder, major depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Prior to the 1990s no specific guidelines for professionals or mental health consumers existed causing the psychotherapy field to be plagued by serious issues with quality control.

However, by the late 1990s, a succession of reports had begun to emerge, and was left with much criticism. The realization that understanding culture and implement this understanding was not going to be a simple task. The increasing demand for psychotherapists among minority populations continued to develop resulting in Culturally Sensitive Therapies (CST). CST was developed as a conceptual approach alongside the ESTs to represent two different orientations to therapy. "While CST advocates have been driven by the need to provide culturally diverse populations with services that are consistent with their culture characteristics, practioners

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