Finding Mental Health Care that Fits Your Cultural Background | NAMI

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What Is Cultural Background?

Culture is a particular group’s beliefs, customs, values and way of thinking, behaving and communicating. Cultural background affects how someone:

  • Views mental health conditions
  • Describes symptoms
  • Communicates with health care providers such as doctors and mental health professionals
  • Receives and responds to treatment

What Is Cultural Competence?

Cultural competence is the behaviors, attitudes and skills that allow a health care provider to work effectively with different cultural groups. Finding culturally competent providers is important because they understand the essential role that culture plays in life and health. A culturally competent provider includes cultural beliefs, values, practices and attitudes in your care to meet your unique needs.

Tips For Finding A Culturally Competent Provider

Research Providers

  • Contact providers or agencies from your same cultural background or look for providers and agencies that have worked with people who have a similar cultural background.
  • Ask trusted friends and family for recommendations.
  • Look online or ask for referrals from cultural organizations in your community.
  • If you have health insurance, ask the health plan for providers that fit your cultural background.

Ask Providers These Questions

  • Are you familiar with my community’s beliefs, values and attitudes toward mental health? If not, are you willing to learn about my cultural background and respect my perspective?
  • Do you have experience treating people from my cultural background?
  • Have you had cultural competence training?
  • Are you or members of your staff bilingual?
  • How would you include aspects of my cultural identity, such as age, faith, gender identity or sexual orientation, in my care?

Other Things You Can Do

  • Tell the provider about traditions, values and beliefs that are important to you.
  • Tell the provider what role you want your family to play in your treatment.
  • Learn about your condition, particularly how it affects people from your culture or community.
  • Look around the provider’s office for signs of inclusion. Who works there? Does the waiting room have magazines, signs and pamphlets for you and your community?

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).