Cultural Competence

in Disaster Mental Health


A continuing education course for 3 ces

consisting of reading and taking a post-test on

Developing Cultural Competence in Disaster Mental Health Programs:
Guiding Principles and Recommendations

The document was written by Jean Athey, Ph.D., and Jean Moody-Williams, Ph.D., under Contract No. 99M00619401D with the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Portland Ridley was a contributing author and also served as the Government Project Officer. Susan R. Farrer, M.A., was the content editor of the guide. The SAMHSA Disaster Technical Assistance Center operated by ESI, under contract with the Emergency Mental Health and Traumatic Stress Services Branch (EMHTSSB)/CMHS, edited the document and designed the cover and layout for the publication. Numerous people contributed to the development of this document.

is approved by the:

CA BBS - California Board of Behavioral Science accepts our CE Provider Approvals through APA, NASW, and NBCC. Course meets the qualifications for hours of continuing education credit for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, and/or LEPs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Science
Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, Mental Health Counseling (BAP 753 )
NAADAC - The Association for Addiction Professionals (#575)
NBCC - National Board for Certified Counselors - has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6055. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs. (ACEP #6055)
Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors (#1761)
The Texas Board of Social Work Examiners (#6246)
maintains responsibility for the program.


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Cultural Competence in Disaster Mental Health

Learning Objectives

The Clinician will be able to:

1. Describe the concept of cultural competence.

2. Explain the Cultural Competence Continuum.

3. Apply cultural considerations in a mental health disaster response.

4. Assess the nine guiding principles for culturally competent disaster mental health services.

5. Complete a Cultural Competence Checklist for Disaster Crisis Counseling Programs.


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Developing Cultural Competence in Disaster Mental Health Programs:
Guiding Principles and Recommendations


Houston, TX., September 2, 2005 -- A volunteer comforts a survivor from hurricane Katrina in the Houston Astrodome. Approximately 18,000 people are temporarily housed in the shelter at the Astrodome and Reliant center. The City of New Orleans is being evacuated following hurricane Katrina and rising flood waters. FEMA photo/Andrea Booher

Table of Contents


This guide includes two sections and six appendices.

SECTION ONE explores the nature of culture and disaster. It begins by defining culturally related terms, discussing diversity within racial and ethnic minority groups, and describing cultural competence. It then discusses cultural competence in the context of disaster mental health services. Section One also presents the Cultural Competence Continuum and a list of questions to address in a disaster mental health plan. Readers seeking more detail about crisis counseling or disaster response and recovery may refer to other CMHS/FEMA publications. For example, the Training Manual for Mental Health and Human Service Workers in Major Disasters (DHHS, 2000e) provides a comprehensive overview of and essential information on training concepts on crisis counseling, including a training curriculum. Disaster Response and Recovery: A Strategic Guide (DHHS, Rev. ed., in press) also is a useful resource.

SECTION TWO sets forth nine guiding principles for culturally competent disaster mental health services and related recommendations for developing these services. It also presents the key concepts of disaster mental health; important considerations when working with people of other cultures; staff attributes, knowledge, and skills essential to the development of cultural competence; and a cultural competence self-assessment for disaster crisis counseling programs. In addition, Section Two provides suggestions for working with refugees and guidelines for using interpreters.

The appendices provide additional information that may be useful in developing cultural competence in disaster mental health.

APPENDIX A is an annotated bibliography of cultural competence resources and tools. Many of these resources provide detailed information about individual populations’ histories, immigration patterns, and experiences with stress and trauma.

APPENDIX B lists disaster mental health technical assistance resources and publications available through CMHS. Some of these materials discuss the needs and provision of services for special populations.

APPENDIX C lists online resources that provide community-specific demographic and statistical information.

APPENDIX D lists Federal, private-sector, professional, and other organizations with cultural competence expertise.

APPENDIX E is a glossary of terms associated with disaster mental health and cultural competence.

APPENDIX F is a Cultural Competence Checklist for Disaster Crisis Counseling Programs. Based on concepts discussed throughout this guide, the checklist covers essential principles for ensuring a culturally competent disaster mental health program.




All material appearing in this volume except that taken directly from copyrighted sources is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) or the authors. Citation of the source is appreciated.


All material included in this course is either in the public domain, or used with express permission.

APA Ethics

We do adhere to the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists. Our courses are carefully screened by the Planning Committee to adhere to APA standards. We also require authors who compose Internet courses specifically for us follow APA ethical standards.

Many of our courses contain case material, and may use the methods of qualitative research and analysis, in-depth interviews and ethnographic studies. The psychotherapeutic techniques depicted may include play therapy, sandplay therapy, dream analysis, drawing analysis, client and therapist self-report, etc. The materials presented may be considered non-traditional and may be controversial, and may not have widespread endorsement within the profession. maintains responsibility for the program and its content.

Cost of the 3 unit course is $66

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