Guidelines Regarding the Education and Training of Psychologists for Practice in a Pluralistic Society

Human behavior is an interaction developed in the context of biological, psychological, sociopolitical, and socioeconomic realities. These realities are known as cultures which come together to create a pluralistic society. In order to provide the public with competent psychological services, licensed practitioners should be specifically educated and trained to recognize and incorporate the influence of diversity on human behavior.

All health professionals are expected to be sensitive to individual differences as they practice their professions. Beyond that, it is imperative that psychologists acquire a knowledge base and an understanding of how attitudes, values, and behavior may be affected by cultural differences. This knowledge should be gained during the psychologists' formal educational preparation and should be enhanced as they continue in licensed professional practice. To accomplish this goal, graduate programs will need to develop relevant curricula and role models.

The implicit principle of this statement is that practitioners should possess a functional knowledge of the impact of diversity on human behavior. This principle should apply to the education, training, and examination requirements for licensure. In effect, the public should be served by licensed practitioners who meet these standards.

Education, training, and practice guidelines for psychologists in a pluralistic society

Psychologists should possess a functional knowledge of the breadth and impact of diversity on human behavior in order to provide the public with competent psychological services.

Cultural diversity includes ethnic, cultural, linguistic and socioeconomically based differences, physical disabilities, differences in sexual orientation, and any subgroup of characteristics of people about which valid generalizations can be made. Licensed practitioners should be specifically educated and trained to recognize and incorporate the influence of diversity on human behavior.

Psychological practice requires an understanding of how cultural differences affect attitudes, values, and behavior. This knowledge should be gained during the psychologist's formal educational preparation and should be ongoing.

To accomplish this goal, graduate programs should develop relevant curricula and role models. Licensed psychologists should acquire and maintain competence in this area as they practice.

The following guidelines should apply to the requirements for education, training, and examination for licensure and for practice. Specifically, they should underscore the need for licensed practitioners to keep informed about issues of diversity. In addition, professional training programs should provide access for diverse populations. It is the psychologist's responsibility to provide culturally competent services.

The public should be served by licensed practitioners who meet the following standards:

  • Psychologists, as the instrument of the evaluation, should be culturally sensitive and self-aware.
  • Psychologists should make efforts to insure fair and culturally sensitive diagnoses, intervention services, and practices regardless of the setting where the service is provided.
  • Psychologists should consider the impact of social, economic, linguistic, cultural and environmental factors in the methods used to assess problems and design culturally appropriate interventions. This may include:
    • Considering the patient/client in an historical context
    • Maintaining respect for spiritual, religious, and other cultural beliefs and knowledge of the impact of these beliefs
    • Knowing boundaries of and utility of interventions that are chosen
    • Developing and using appropriate assessment and treatment methods
    • Identifying culturally meaningful alternatives
  • Psychologists make efforts to insure that their clients understand the process of intervention, including, but not limited to, patient rights and the legal limits of confidentiality.
  • Psychologists identify and address the influence of provider/client differences and similarities when rendering services.
  • Language differences and cultural differences are most properly handled by encouraging the growth in numbers of multilingual, multicultural psychologists. Psychologists should make every effort to find multilingual, culturally competent psychologists, while recognizing that appropriate interpreters may be used in emergency situations or when multilingual, culturally competent psychologists cannot be found.
  • Psychologists are aware of community sources to make referrals where appropriate.
Last Updated: June 11, 2009