Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


The objective of this study was to explore how clinicians conceptualize and practice cultural competency with Latino clients. This study is qualitative and exploratory in design, and based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 12 licensed clinicians in the Los Angeles area; experience in the field while licensed ranged from 1.5 years to 27 years. The study also investigated how clinicians perceived their own cultural identities influencing clinical work, and the relationship between culturally-specific knowledge and cultural competency. The literature review outlines a social constructionist concept of culture as appropriate for culturally competent practice, and investigates the usefulness of traditional concepts of competency as mastery when applied to cultural competency. Insights from racial identity development models, cultural countertransference and the reflexive self are also presented. Selected Latino cultural trends are then presented. Several findings emerged from this study which supported literature on social constructionist concepts of culture and the importance of the reflexive self in therapy. Findings include: a) perceptions of cultural competency as a lifelong process, which includes awareness of racial power dynamics, critical self-reflection, measured self-disclosure, and humility and openness to new learning; b) specific cultural knowledge is important in cultural competency when "held lightly" and used as a tool for structuring curiosity toward specific clients.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iii, 109 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 99-101)