National Center for Effective Mental Halth Consultation

Skills and Attributes of Culturally Competent Mental Health Consultants

In the "What works?” study (Duran et al, 2009), participants affirmed key skills and attributes for effective early childhood mental health consultants. The California Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health Training Guidelines Workgroup (2009) has expanded the list of specific skills that reflect cultural competencies. Combined, these sources indicate that consultant skills must include the capacity to:

  • Acknowledge personal culture and reflect on impact of values, beliefs, perceptions on the consultant, child, family, and staff relationships
  • Use varied approaches in working with children, families, and staff that engage all parties and their cultural perspectives,
  • Explore and understand cultural influences on family and staff perceptions and practices,
  • Recognize and support cultural beliefs and values of families
  • View behavior through a cultural lens and consider cultural influences on variation in behavior and child development
  • Consider culture and context as well as risk factors in planning assessment and intervention
  • Integrate information from others (providers/caregivers) for a multidimensional assessment inclusive of health, physical, social, emotional, psychological and cultural aspects from a developmental and relational perspective.
  • Provide guidance and information in a manner timed and suited to the parent’s strengths, concerns, priorities, and cultural values as well as in the appropriate language or literacy level.
  • Offer individualized supports and interventions that are culturally relevant
  • Select, demonstrate, and coach families on strategies to nurture a child’s development across all domains, including their strengths, emerging capacities, and cultural values
  • Select strategies/interventions based on parent concerns, priorities and resources, including consideration for culture, language, and education
  • Distinguish between resistance to change and a desire to uphold culturally appropriate behavior.
  • Increase the capacity of families and staff to understand one another’s cultural perspective,
  • Support continuity of care between home and the ECE setting, and
  • Address and negotiate cultural differences.

(California Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health Training Guidelines Workgroup, 2009; Duran et al, 2009)

In addition to these skills, both clinicians and families who participated in the What works? study identified certain personal attributes as being highly connected to effective consultation. These attributes contribute, first and foremost, to the nature of the relationships between and among the consultant and consultees that are key to effective consultation. Many of these attributes also reflect the qualities of genuine interest and openness associated with cultural and linguistic competence.

  • Open-mindedness and non-judgmental approach
  • Curiosity
  • Humility
  • Accepting people for who they are
  • Tolerance for ambiguity
  • Commitment to understanding everyone’s perspective
  • Flexibility

(Duran et al, 2009, Hays, 2001)




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Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development National Center for Effective Mental Health Consultation