Training to Think Culturally: A Multidimensional Comparative Framework



    1. Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California at San Diego. Send reprint requests to private practice, 3551 Front Street, San Diego CA 92103.
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  • Based in part on a plenary presentation at the annual meeting of the American Family Therapy Academy, Baltimore MD, June, 1993.


A multidimensional, comparative training framework is designed to integrate culture with all aspects of family therapy. Culture is viewed as occurring in multiple contexts that create common “cultural borderlands” as well as diversity; unpredictability and possibility, as well as regularity and constraint. The framework proposes a search for basic parameters to help therapists think comparatively and pluralistically about families’ cultural configurations and meanings. Further, the parameters chosen — ecological context, migration/acculturation, organization, and life cycle — are used to heighten therapists’ awareness about the “situated knowledge” of their own professional and personal culture. This approach recognizes the potential complexity of both the family's and the therapist's cultural location or ecological niche, and encourages curiosity in the therapeutic conversation rather than reliance on potentially stereotyping, ethnic-focused information.