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Rethinking social work practice with multicultural communities

Posted: December 15 2022

Social Work student & staff projects, Social Work
Social Work student & staff projects, Social Work

Interested in Social Work and want to learn more about the subject? The book reviews written by our Social Work students and staff help you identify the best literature to advance your learning.

This week:

  • Title: Rethinking social work practice with multicultural communities
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • ISBN: 9781032089355
  • Author/s: Yolanda Padilla, Ruth McRoy and Rocio Calvo
  • Originally published in 2021
  • Reviewer/s: Natalia Phillips, MSc Social Work
  • Published online first in the Journal of social work
book cover of Rethinking social work practice

This book is a compendium of knowledge about active multicultural social work in diverse communities in North America. The authors offer a rigorous introduction to qualitative, experimental, and community-based studies to illustrate the need for greater diversity, collaboration, and creativity in work with Latinx, African American, First Nations and South Asian communities in the United States and Canada.

The book is divided into seven chapters, each offering a separate introduction to interesting and complex research in the world of multicultural diversity and challenges this work faces. All chapters also provide insight into the challenges various communities face, and what social work responses there are to support them.

The first chapter's focus is on continuing marginalization of certain minority groups and the growing lack of satisfaction with social work services. In this scoping review, the author, Katarzyna Olcon, highlights that reviewed studies reveal the multitude of barriers faced when accessing services—migrants feel inferior in the American environment—clients are often accused of hypersensitivity regarding their ethnicity and racial issues. The study's focus on the data regarding clients’ dissatisfaction with the services is clearly presented. The study's methodological approach, analysis of the gathered data and discussion allow the reader to engage with the findings and reflect on the meaning behind them.

The second chapter investigates a study of Latinx’ parents’ involvement in their community's education on autism and bringing support to parents of children with autistic spectrum disorder. The authors discuss PTA—“Parents Taking Action”—a culturally tailored psychoeducation program facilitated by promotoras de salud, who are mothers from the community who support families with training, and designed interventions that support both the families’ educational and cultural needs.

The third chapter introduces a systematic review of a variety of cultural education program supporting couples from Afro-American backgrounds. As the divorce rate is much higher amongst non-white and Hispanic families, attention is drawn to the correlation between historical, sociocultural, and economic factors that contribute to the marriage stability of Afro-American couples. The clearly presented findings of the review indicate that Afro-American couples would benefit from culturally adapted interventions that inform contextual social work practice. The authors stress the need for continuous, rigorous research in this area, including raising awareness of the legacy of slavery in social work education.

In chapter four, the authors discuss the need for cultural adaptations in psychosocial interventions for post-traumatic stress disorder among refugees. According to the available data, approximately 2.2 million individuals were refugees in 2016, and PTSD is one of the most prevalent issues amongst them. The authors review diverse PTSD interventions, including narrative and exposure therapy (NET) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) that can be used to support the refugees process their traumatic experiences. However, the authors stress the need for a further consideration of multiculturally-friendly adaptations to interventions, and further research in this area.

The fifth chapter is an insightful introduction to the experiences of Afro-American men with serious mental health illness (SMI), and the importance of kinship networks. The Network Episode Model (NEM) was used as a framework for this study based in eight rural and midsize communities. The authors stress that for the patients the impact of kin is greater than for any other ethnic group. The research also found that few participants had meaningful contact with a communal mental health agency (CMHA), as the CMHA's approaches do not offer much openness and fail to fight against stigma and inequality.

The sixth chapter introduces Indigenous ways of working with the Cowichan Tribes, in Canada. The authors offer insight into a biopsychosocial assessment designed by this group that, when used appropriately, provides a great way of truly understanding the mental health histories of the Cowichan youth. This chapter emphasizes the different perceptions of mental health among the Cowichan, and the collective orientation of this group. What is particularly interesting in this study is the fact that a Cowichan woman—the author of the study—fulfilled both the role of care provider and researcher at once.

The final chapter's focus is on a South Asian women's organization formed for women impacted by domestic violence. It offers an excellent overview of the lived experiences of domestic violence among South Asian women, and how normalized the violence is in such circles. The powerful message behind the study is the opportunity to disturb the status quo and question the assumptions of identity. It also holds great significance to the stakeholders, as the support is given to those affected by domestic violence by women who also experienced it.

The presentation of the studies is well structured, with clear sections explaining the step-by-step methodology of the research, data collection, its analysis and discussion around it. However, a huge number of abbreviations and a complex presentation of study results (in tables and columns) within the text are difficult to follow. Perhaps an attachment in an appendix would be more accessible to the reader.

In conclusion, Rethinking Social Work with Multicultural Communities is a compilation of diverse knowledge collected through several rigorous studies. The researchers question the lack of available data, and resources that delay support for those most in need. They question common assumptions about minorities that all play such a significant role in American societies. They emphasize the need for further engagement in research with various communities to build evidence for effective social work with them, focusing on hearing their needs and wishes rather than making westernized assumptions about what they might need. Most importantly, all authors highlight the greatest resource and source of knowledge—the members of the communities themselves. Listening to their voices is core to conducting effective studies that will inform research and practice. The authors acknowledge the weaknesses and limitations to their work. By showing honesty and transparency in the way they do, they invite the reader to reflect on the role of researchers as advocates for communities and as ambassadors for social work practice.