A final comment is reserved for the notion that ethics codes may be used as a source of protection for clinicians rather than as guides of how to be more culturally responsive. I think that this is an important observation. I agree that self-protection may be a motive in explaining how well-intentioned clinicians can be so culturally incompetent. After all, no one wishes to be outside of compliance with any ethical mandate. Yet strict adherence to ethical standards that are plagued by extreme levels of cultural sterility presents the clinician with a prover- bial catch-22, with no way to really win or avoid critique from one position of intervention or the other.
As psychotherapists and counselors decide on choices be- tween meeting the minimal standards to comply with ethical standards versus attending more to client demands, Gallardo asks the central question, of how one decides “which interpretation supersedes the other in a potentially unclear ther- apeutic encounter.” His answer to resolve the dilemma seems to propose shifting to a model that places the desire to be more culturally competent and responsive as primary rather than secondary. However, I question whether that really resolves the challenge most clinicians face in balancing two competing priorities. While this may work for some whose abasement about abandoning ethical standards in favor of culturally re- sponsive treatments may be low, others may find the choice as difficult as prior decisions that place clinical and ethical com- pliance above cultural responsiveness. In reality, the resolution will come only when the profession finds a way either to revise current codes by synthesizing cultural responsiveness into ex- isting ethical principles and standards or to conclude that a more culturally specific model of ethical and professional stan- dards must be used. For my preference, the latter appears to be a more relevant choice, essentially because it abandons cultur- ally restrictive models and embraces codes of professional conduct that are anchored in the worldview analysis of the cultural traditions of the people whom we are committed to liberating with our healing interventions.
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