Multicultural Theory and Treatment of Abnormal Functioning

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  • 0:07 Abnormal Psychology
  • 1:01 Multicultural Theory
  • 3:01 Multicultural Disorders
  • 5:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

How does culture affect mental health? What types of psychological disorders are seen around the world? What types are seen in just a few places? And, how can psychologists approach patients from many different cultures? In this lesson, we'll look at the multicultural theory of abnormal psychology.

Abnormal Psychology

Miriam is depressed. She feels sad all the time, and she's not interested in the things that she used to be interested in. Sometimes, she doesn't even get out of bed.

Abnormal psychology is the study of abnormal thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. Miriam's depression is an example of abnormal psychology because she is experiencing feelings that are not normal. But, what causes abnormal psychology, and how can we treat it?

There are many different explanations and approaches to abnormal psychology. One is the sociocultural approach, which focuses on the impact of society and culture on psychology. For example, maybe Miriam's depression is being caused by the fact that she works for a company where men get paid much more and are promoted more often. This is a sociocultural factor that could contribute to her depression.

Multicultural Theory

But, if society and culture affect psychology, how do you study it? After all, there are many societies and cultures out there; how do you get a feel for psychology across cultures?

Psychological studies and theories have mostly been based on European and American populations. As a result, there tends to be a bias in psychology towards those cultures. Traditionally, cultures other than European or mainstream American were seen as 'less than,' and some people believed that psychological issues sprang up because people from those cultures wanted to be part of the mainstream, but weren't. However, the modern view of abnormal psychology includes viewing it through a multicultural lens. The multicultural theory of abnormal psychology recognizes that all psychology occurs within the framework of a culture or society. It also recognizes that all cultures have their strengths and weaknesses.

According to multicultural theories of abnormality, psychological problems come from society, not from within an individual. For example, perhaps Miriam's depression is a result of being from a culture that devalues women's place in society. She's been constantly told since childhood that she's not as important as her brothers, and this depresses her. On the other hand, perhaps Miriam is from a society that values women. In fact, maybe she grew up in a place where women were breadwinners for the family and were seen as the more important gender. Perhaps, then, her depression would come from the pressures to live up to society's high expectations.

In either scenario, Miriam's depression is caused by something within society, not something within Miriam herself. But, how do you treat disorders that are caused by society? You can't change society by waving a magic wand. Treatment, then, has to focus on how to navigate the culture you live within. For Miriam, this might mean learning to deal with society's views on women.

Multicultural Disorders

So, culture affects psychological disorders. Do different cultures have different disorders, then? Well, yes and no. There are some disorders that seem to be universal. That is, many different cultures and societies have people that are susceptible to those disorders. For example, depression symptoms are common in most societies, even non-Western ones. Other culture-general disorders include insomnia and anxiety.

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