Since Freud’s psychoanalysis in the early 1890s, the world of psychological or talking therapies has changed quite dramatically. Counselling and psychotherapy centres have emerged significantly and become a beacon for various types of therapies.Whether you are looking for family, individual or group therapy, it’s now all within easy reach. Each type of therapy is further based on a theoretical orientation, the most common being Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Humanistic, Existential or Psychodynamic Therapy. However, within each orientation, we often find further specialisations which are steadily growing each year. One such specialisation is Intercultural Psychotherapy.

Jafar Kareem developed Intercultural Psychotherapy in the early 1990s. Aimed at culturally diverse people, race, culture, religion, values, beliefs and language are seen as essential givens in a client’s life in intercultural therapy.

Intercultural Psychotherapy also recognises the differences and similarities of various aspects of culture between the client and therapist. Culturally diverse clients often seek to connect with their therapist on a cultural level to enable a deeper level of communication and understanding. It can allow a more effective therapeutic experience for culturally diverse individuals.

A prominent scholar on the topic of ‘culture’ is Geert Hostefe (1991). His definition of culture is: “Culture is the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another. Culture, in this sense, is a system of collectively held values.”

People from all cultures experience anxiety, depression and worries but how these are perceived and dealt with can vary from culture to culture. It also means the type of help an individual needs can differ from culture to culture where Intercultural Therapy can be beneficial.

In collectivist cultures (Geert Hofstede, 1991) such as China, India and the Middle East, people will typically share their emotional issues, including their extended family members. Most of their decisions are shared with the family, so too their emotional support. In individualistic cultures (Geert Hofstede) such as in Western Europe and the US, people will typically deal very privately or individually with their mental or emotional health and day-to-day decisions.


Clients will typically discuss the same issues in both types of therapies (mainstream and intercultural). However, culturally diverse clients often also discuss some additional issues concerning their race, cultural heritage, identity or language usage in Intercultural Psychotherapy.


Culturally diverse clients can often discuss the following issues in sessions – anxieties, depression, worries, abuse, family issues, intimacy, arranged marriage, family pressures, family honour, honour killings, cultural identity, identity crisis, the effects of multicultural and multilingual upbringing, coping with bi-racial identity, loss of mother tongue and mother tongue biases, belonging, language usage, racism, race and ethnicity, mixed-race upbringing, hybrid identity, isolation, acculturation, cultural values, cross-cultural parenting and more.

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