By Lynna Si
The neon tail of highlighter makes another streak across the paper, spotlighting the key words. With a swish, the paper flips to the next page. And I stopped in my tracks as something caught my eyes while the pen froze in the air.
I was reading a book on the different treatments, including therapies, for psychology disorders. That’s when I crossed a word: eurocentrism. Although I’ve encountered it before a few times, I never imagined it to be related to therapy. So I decided to abandon the book for a while and do some additional research.
In simple terms, eurocentrism is judging people of non-European descent with European values and culture such as competitiveness, individualism, patriarchy… This can lead to negative implications such as prejudice, seeing European culture as “superior” than other cultures around the world, or expecting others to behave according to the Western values regardless of their cultural background. Other than being highly related to marginalization, discrimination, and exclusion of minority groups, Eurocentrism has far-reaching impacts in mental health too. In fact, eurocentrism is a foundation of modern counseling methods, which was developed by counselors and therapists of European descent and worked only with White clients. So even though the techniques were supported scientifically with research, the data are mostly on the effectiveness the treatment had on people of European descent rather than on people from all ethnicities.
The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has been used to diagnose mental disorders for many years, but it’s also influenced by eurocentrism. For example, there’s an unusually high number of African-American boys diagnosed with ADHD with the DSM. A reasoning for this was that psychologists used an eurocentric standard to judge the behaviour of the children. Modern therapy and counseling revolves around the concept of eurocentrism, despite the fact that many non-European cultures exist, which can be detrimental to non-Europeans seeking mental health or therapy treatment.
A way to address eurocentrism is for counselors or therapists to use a culturally responsive evaluation when diagnosing or treating their patients. In a culturally responsive evaluation, the counselor must understand the cultural and social factors in a patient’s condition and offer a customized treatment accordingly, staying away from stereotypes and the idea of a “one-size-fits-all” option. It also involves finding out the cultural concerns the patient might have while providing a treatment to make sure they’re comfortable and help it be more effective.
The world is not made up of one culture, but rather of many vibrant and unique ones. That is why it’s important to address these cultural differences when offering therapy options to ensure an effective treatment for the person seeking it, no matter which culture they come from.
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). (1970, January 1). Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Treatment Planning. Improving Cultural Competence. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK248423/