Provider Spotlight: Elevating Culturally-Responsive Care

This July the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) is recognizing Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to underscore the importance of improving access to mental health treatment and breaking down barriers to care. We chatted with Amanda Daniel, Cultural Relevance Manager at the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, to learn how providers can adapt services to honor the unique needs of their clients. 

 Amanda Daniel helps colleagues meet the cultural needs of their clients.

As a Cultural Relevance Manager, what does your day-to-day look like? What are some of your key responsibilities? 

When I consider my day to day, no two days are the same. My main responsibilities are to oversee and help move Jefferson Center’s Cultural Relevance Plan forward and manage the Centro Dones program, which is a bilingual Spanish-specific therapy program. Since the Center transitioned to a remote environment in March due to COVID-19, there was an urgent need for translation services. I stepped in to provide Spanish translation for Center forms and communications, a process that normally takes us a week or longer to complete. The return of the Black Lives Matter protests sparked numerous conversations around the Center regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, which meant I had to work quickly to provide our staff and community members with topical resources that address racism and how to talk about it. These resources, which include articles, reading lists, videos, and podcasts, are posted to our internal Cultural Relevance Page for staff to reference.

Why is it important to have culturally responsive treatment and services in behavioral health care settings? 

This is a big question! People need to feel physically and psychologically safe in order to build genuine rapport with service providers. They want to be seen, heard, and accepted for who they are. One way of building this genuine connection and trust is by having those providers be culturally and linguistically aware. It is important for providers to engage with their clients from a holistic perspective, taking the person’s familial, cultural, and socioeconomic background into context, among other considerations. Along with all of this, providers must be aware of the intersectionality of different identities and the areas of relative privilege those identities might hold within the framework of historic marginalization and systemic racism.

Can you share a time when you or a colleague changed your approach to meet the needs of a client? 

Early in my career, I learned that to build rapport with certain people I needed to be more comfortable with self-disclosure. During my counseling training, I was taught to keep personal details to a minimum and to avoid self-disclosure. However, Latinx and particularly Spanish-speaking people wanted to know my story, where I was from, and who my people were.  Most were curious about how a white-presenting person could have learned Spanish so well at home and have an understanding of the culture. Once they saw me in my context as someone who grew up in southern New Mexico with a Spanish speaking Panamanian grandmother, I could feel them relax and be more willing to open up to me about their own experiences.

If clinicians or behavioral health care workers want to improve their cultural competency, where should they start? 

The best piece of advice I can offer is to never make assumptions or think you know a particular person's story based on what you see or where they’re from. Clinicians and other behavioral health care workers can develop their cultural competency by examining themselves -- where do they stand culturally and what they are bringing to the room in terms of privilege and power dynamics that could affect the treatment relationship? There is no one size fits all.  

For Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Month, the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Mental Health is highlighting their free e-learning course “Improving Cultural Competency for Behavioral Health Professionals,” a five and half hour course designed to help people develop knowledge and skills to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate services: https://thinkculturalhealth.hhs.gov/education/behavioral-health 

Amanda M. Daniel, MA, LPC currently serves as Cultural Relevance Manager for Jefferson Center for Mental Health.  She has worked in the mental health field for over 20 years in various settings and positions, always with a bilingual and bicultural lens. Amanda holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and Spanish and a Master of Arts Degree in Counseling and Guidance from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM and is a Licensed Professional Counselor.