"Counselors who are aware of their own cultural backgrounds are more likely to acknowledge and explore how culture affects their client– counselor relationships. Without cultural awareness, counselors may provide counseling that ignores or does not address obvious issues that specifically relate to race, ethnic heritage, and culture. Lack of awareness can discount the importance of how counselors’ cultural backgrounds—including beliefs, values, and attitudes—influence their initial and diagnostic impressions of clients. Without cultural awareness, counselors can unwittingly use their own cultural experiences as a template to prejudge and assess client experiences and clinical presentations. They may struggle to see the cultural uniqueness of each client, assuming that they understand the client’s life experiences and background better than they really do. With cultural awareness, counselors examine how their own beliefs, experiences, and biases affect their definitions of normal and abnormal behavior. By valuing this awareness, counselors are more likely to take the time to understand the client’s cultural groups and their role in the therapeutic process, the client’s relationships, and his or her substance-related and other presenting clinical problems. Cultural awareness is the first step toward becoming a culturally competent counselor."
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Improving Cultural Competence. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series No. 59. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4849. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.