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New mental health curriculum put to test

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Michelle Loggia
Staff Writer

In August mental health professionals received training of a new curriculum which will help mental health professionals treat people in multicultural communities. The new curriculum is based on research developed by psychological professionals.

From the University of La Verne, Professor of Psychology Glenn Gamst, Associate Professor of Psychology Leticia Arrellano-Morales and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Aghop Der-Karabetian conducted research for the new curriculum.

The research was used to develop the California Brief Multicultural Competence Scale. This scale is used to assess the cultural training needs of mental health workers.

“We’ve done several innovative things. We created a new scale that measures staff cultural competence,” Gamst said. “From that scale flows a 32 hour multicultural training program.”

The 197-item questionnaire that makes up the CBMCS was developed using four out of five existing multicultural counseling competency scales. The four areas question multicultural knowledge, awareness of cultural barriers, sensitivity to consumers’ cultural backgrounds and non-ethnic ability, more specifically issues of gender, sexuality, social class, disability and more.

The CBMCS was sent to 1,244 mental care providers throughout California.

“We’ve helped train multicultural experts and received feedback on the training program,” Gamst said. “Our new purpose is to incorporate that feedback into the training program.”

Results of the CBMCS were published in the October 2004 issue of “Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development.”

The research has affected the University positively.

“ULV has become the focal point of cutting edge culturally competent mental health research,” Gamst said. “Nationwide, people are beginning to look to us for leadership in this area.”

The research was prompted by the multicultural training needs of the community as well as the team’s personal involvement in the field of multi-cultural counseling.

For Arrellano-Morales it was “lack of understanding and inappropriate comments” of professionals working with at risk Hispanic youth and their families, which made her realize a need for more multi-culturally sensitive training.

“It’s not about special treatment, it’s about providing the best possible treatment to everyone. That’s everybody’s right,” Arrellano-Morales said.

The curriculum offers a new kind of training for mental health care providers.

“This is a marked departure from traditional ways of developing training programs,” Gamst said. “Historically, many University masters and psychology programs have been negligent in training students in these domains.”

Mariam Aragon and Luann Martenson of Tri-City Mental Health Center, Robin Huff of Musgrove Patent State Hospital, Gloria Morrow in private practice and Richard Dana of Portland State University, were also part of the research team.

Michelle Loggia can be reached at msloggia@aol.com.

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