Cultural Competence

A set of behaviors, attitudes and policies that come together in a system, agency, or program or among individuals, enabling them to function effectively in diverse cultural interactions and similarities within, among, and between groups.
Seal of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ​


Cultural competence is at the center of addressing health disparities within the community. The provision of services that meet the needs of the whole individual is an ongoing  


How to become more culturally competent

  • Think beyond race and ethnicity.  A person’s culture is shaped by more than the color of their skin or the way that they dress. It’s shaped by the person’s life experiences and traditions, which may be seen or unseen to the naked eye. 
  • Learn by asking.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions. People feel respected and appreciated when others take a genuine interest in who they are, so ask open-ended questions about their culture to learn more. 
  • Make local connections.  Find local organizations or venues that work with a cultural group you’re interested in and stop by. Organizations like advocacy groups, religious institutions, colleges, and social clubs are a great place to learn more and make connections. 
  • Pay attention to non-verbal behaviors.  The meaning behind body language can sometimes differ based on cultural norms. Pay attention to how your body language is being perceived by those around you. 
  • Exchange stories.  Storytelling is a great way to share experiences that go beyond culture. Initiate an open conversation by sharing a personal story or experience. 

Cultural Competence Resources


More resources will be added soon, please check back.

Tools & Resources

A guide from the American Psychological Society with information for practicing psychologists on opioids, their use, and effective treatments.

This guide helps professional care providers and administrators understand the role of culture in the delivery of mental health and substance use services. It describes cultural competence and discusses racial, ethnic, and cultural considerations.

Recommendations for clinicians on cultural competency in assessing and treating opioid use disorder.

This toolkit is designed to help guide partnerships, collaboratives, agencies, and community initiatives seeking to center racial equity while using, sharing, and integrating administrative data.


Givler, A., Bhatt, H., & Maani-Fogelman, P. A. (2024). The importance of cultural competence in pain and palliative care. StatPearls. Retrieved from

Nair, L., & Adetayo, O. A. (2019). Cultural competence and ethnic diversity in healthcare. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open, 7(5), e2219.

Hays, P. A. (2022). Addressing Cultural Complexities in Counseling and Clinical Practice: An Intersectional Approach (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Posters & Infographics

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Webinars & Online Learning

CASAT Learning offers continuing education and professional development opportunities for behavioral health professionals. View their catalog of courses on the topic of cultural competency.

AISP’s Equity in Practice Learning Community is designed to help data sharing efforts implement and build on the promising practices identified in the Toolkit for Centering Racial Equity in Data Integration

Current News & Research

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