Experts Provide Guidance in Developing Culturally-Appropriate Services
March 1, 2006
The foundation convened two expert panels in November to determine what is known about culturally adapting mental health treatments touted as "evidence-based." Dr. Arthur L. Whaley, associate director for Mental Health Services Research and long-time cultural competence researcher, facilitated the expert panel discussions designed to assist the foundation in developing its initiative on Cultural Adaptation: Providing Evidence-Based Practices to People of Color.
Participants in the two meetings came from around the country, representing diverse experience and perspectives on cultural competence and evidence-based practices. Distinguished advocates like Ms. Holly Echo- Hawk, mental health consultant and secretary of the First Nations Behavioral Health Association, and influential researchers like Dr. Guillermo Bernal, professor of psychology at the University of Puerto Rico, provided thought-provoking insights into the interface of these complex issues.
The first expert panel grappled with defining elusive key concepts such as culturally competent care, evidence, and mental health, contrasting the perspectives of traditional researchers with those of community advocates. Discussants challenged the assumption of many mental health services researchers that widely researched psychological treatments are appropriate for people of color, regardless of whether those populations have been adequately represented in the research.
The second panel picked up the first group's discussion threads, providing a critique of the various approaches to adapting mental health services for populations of color and evaluating the outcomes of adapted models. An important context for the discussion was a frank assessment of the existing research literature on using treatments that are considered evidence-based (e.g., cognitive- behavioral therapy) with people of color.
A central theme of both panel discussions was the importance of involving the target community at all stages when developing and evaluating a treatment program for people of color. Without the community's input, discussants asserted, attempts to develop culturally appropriate services will not be valid and will ultimately fail.
Findings from the expert panel have been used to guide the development of the foundation's request for proposals on Cultural Adaptation: Providing Evidence- Based Practices to People of Color. The foundation will continue drawing upon the expertise of expert panel participants as it selects grantees and launches the grant program.