Developing culturally responsive care: Occupational therapists’ responses to inherent conflict within international cross-cultural practice

Tamera Keiter Humbert, Elizabethtown College


The ethos of culturally responsive care within occupational therapy practice promotes the following ideals: awareness of one’s own sociopolitical-cultural contexts that inform decisions, expansion of one’s own sensitivity and curiosity toward other cultures, and development of skills to further engage other’s lived experiences and contexts and incorporate aspects into practice (Muñoz, 2005). International, cross-cultural work further challenges practitioners to be aware of and attentive to culturally responsive care, as well as, to address the inherent conflict that arises when providing care outside one’s dominant contexts (Humbert, Burket, Deveney, and Kennedy, 2011, 2012). This chapter will highlight the personal experiences of both occupational therapy students and practitioners who engaged in international cross-cultural education and work. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with three cohorts of participants that completed a multi-year phenomenological study. The results highlight the rewards and challenges of such work and the ways culturally responsive care was delivered. Themes indicate a complex pattern of negotiating one’s own culture when other contexts are encountered routinely and inherent conflicts experienced. Particular themes identified through the three studies include: Connectedness, Cultural Tension/Internal Conflict, Embracing the Culture, Accepting the Culture Differences, Collaborating with Others, and Challenging the Contexts.