Cultural Competency and the Importance of Curiosity
Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.
A conversation with Cecil R. Webster Jr., MD, McLean Hospital.
Curiosity in the Clinic
Identities of race, ethnicity, religion, income, geography, sexual orientation, and disability are complex. It can be challenging for clinicians to widen their perception of patients’ identities. However, such expansion is essential.
In his talk, Webster provides a framework for how clinicians can use the concept of intersectionality to understand how patients’ overlapping identities affect their mental health.
Watch now to learn more about:
- How intersectionality is important in understanding patients’ lived experiences
- Why therapists’ self-exploration can be helpful in understanding intersectionality
- How providers can overcome fear about questions related to patients’ identities
Webster begins his talk by unpacking the term “intersectionality,” originally coined by American civil rights advocate, Kimberlé Crenshaw.
He states that intersectionality can be a way of understanding interconnected and overlapping social categories and identities, such as race, class, or sexuality, that might empower or oppress people.
According to Webster, clinicians tend to manage the complexity of intersectionality by overemphasizing the identities they are personally more familiar with.
To better understand patients, it is important for clinicians to examine their own lives and consider which identities they may neglect to explore deeply in patients.
In addition to a lack of awareness about identities less familiar to them, clinicians may hesitate to inquire about aspects of a patient’s identity for fear of being offensive.
Webster offers suggestions to health care professionals about how to overcome such fears and how to phrase questions about topics such as race or gender that may initially feel uncomfortable.
Webster encourages providers to consider ways they can make their clinical environments more welcoming to all patients.
He illustrates that clinicians can display diverse signs, magazines, and books (for instance, on LGBTQ+ or BIPOC themes) and update forms to include various gender identities and family constellations. He cautions clinicians against assuming a patient’s gender identity or sexual orientation based on how the patient looks or sounds.
Webster concludes his talk by describing how, outside the clinical office, therapists can become allies. No matter where therapists are in their careers, they can continue to educate themselves about sexuality, gender, race, and other issues of identity.