Background: Great cultural diversity among clients poses considerable challenges to mental health service providers. Therefore, staff in the mental health sector needs to be adequately trained. To date, however, there is little empirical evidence regarding such training. The present pilot study evaluates the effect of a standardised training programme to improve the intercultural competence of therapists.
Method: Intercultural competence and therapeutic relationship were measured three times (pre, post and follow-up) in N = 29 psychotherapists. A control group of N = 48 therapists was included at pre-test to control for covariables.
Results: The data show a significant increase in intercultural competence as well as an improvement in the therapeutic relationship. Interestingly, this positive outcome extends to non-immigrant clients.
Conclusion: The results confirm the assumption that culture is not limited to ethnic or national background but includes other dimensions such as age, gender and socioeconomic status which shape illness beliefs and expectations in the psychotherapeutic context. Therefore, intercultural competence can be considered a general therapeutic skill that can be taught in short interventions like the one developed in this study.