Culture can be understood at the level of praxis, or systems of human interaction. Because some cultural tradi- tions condone and even encourage contact between people, a culturally responsive psychotherapist might engage in that ges- ture as a way of helping the client to feel more welcome and comfortable. In this instance, the prohibitions that typically exist against client–psychotherapist hugs or embraces in tradi- tional ethics codes may not be as relevant, principally because there is no intent of exploitation, sexual or otherwise, as is implicitly assumed in some ethical standards. Thus, a more important question practitioners need to ask may have less to do with clinical versus cultural responsiveness and more to do with the most appropriate ethical standard that one should use in serving clients who are culturally different from those popula- tions on which the ethics codes were first based.
In that regard, it is also interesting that Gallardo makes a strong point of noting how cultural responsiveness is treated with less priority than is counseling and clinical responsiveness. Presumably, clinicians and other professionals prioritize these factors on the basis of adherence to the American Psychological Association’s or the American Counseling Association’s ethical standard, which are implicated as one source of the problem. Yet there is no mention of other stan- dards of professional conduct or ethics codes that are culturally specific that might render a more satisfactory outcome to the cultural versus clinical responsiveness dilemma. For example, the Association of Black Psychologists developed a document as early as 1983 detailing ethical standards for Black psychol- ogists. Those have since been revised and reprinted with the Association of Black Psycholo- gist’s Licensure, Certification, and Proficiency in Black Psychology initiative. These standards are organized into eight categories, which include responsibility, restraint, respect, rec- iprocity, commitment, cooperativeness, courage, and account- ability. They begin with a preamble anchored in the ontological principle of consubstantiation, which is defined as a belief that elements of the universe are of the same substance. These standards appear to answer the question of cultural versus clinical responsiveness, because rather than treat the two vari- ables as distinct, they are assumed to be synthesized into the same intervention. Essentially, you cannot have clinical respon- siveness without taking into account the cultural aspects of that particular situation or circumstance. In the circumstance listed above, for example, in which the psychotherapist might hug a client, an ethics code that is anchored in a more African-, Asian-, Indian-, or Latino- centered ideology may not provide the level of restriction that a more Eurocentrically oriented American Psychological Association ethics code does. What I want to suggest here is that the possibility to develop the flexibility Gallardo seeks in managing both culturally and clin- ically responsive interventions may rest with either a revision of the traditional ethical standards that psychotherapists now use or the imposition of an entirely different set of ethical standards that are centered in the cultural traditions of the people a psychotherapist is trying to treat, teach, or serve.