Interviewing Clients across Cultures: A Practitioner's Guide

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Packed With Practical Pointers and Examples, this Indispensable, Straight-Talking Guide helps professionals conduct productive interviews while building strong working relationships with culturally and linguistically diverse clients. Chapters cover verbal and nonverbal ways to build rapport and convey respect; how to overcome language barriers, including effective use of interpreters; culturally competent interviews with children and adolescents; and key issues in working with immigrants and refugees. Strategies for avoiding common cross-cultural misunderstandings and producing fair, accurate reports are presented. Every chapter concludes with thought-provoking discussion questions and resources for further reading.

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Editorial Reviews

The Independent Practitioner

"This accessible practitioner''s guide tells it like it is....Fontes brings to the fore our focus on the need to be more ethically and universally minded, cultural challenges that are pre-requisites if we, as therapists, wish to develop a more purposeful relationship with our clients, whether they are children or adults, from the diverse cultures of the globe....Documents each strategy in navigating the best route for intercultural working. Be you student or established therapist, this book will open your eyes. Essential reading!"--The Independent Practitioner

Journal of Clinical Psychiatry

"Provides specific guidelines for dealing with language competence issues as well as other relevant topics....The author advises readers well....The author also offers advice on diverse issues that are relevant during and after the interview....Taboo topics are well presented and include substance abuse and child abuse....At the end of each chapter is a list of questions and recommended readings. These may also be useful for teaching purposes in academic settings."--Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
Journal of Family Therapy

"Lisa Aronson Fontes has a wealth of knowledge, experience, and skills in working with, writing about, and researching cross-cultural issues in different contexts....I was able to align ideas in the book with systematic concepts such as the self of the therapist, multiple perspectives, the importance of context, social constructionist approaches (including the importance of language and meaning, both spoken and unspoken) and the therapeutic alliance."--Journal of Family Therapy
The Family Journal

"A practitioner's intervention guide for gathering information and building healthy relationships with new clients....The text is well organized and would be a very effective resource for graduate counseling students, novice counselors, as well as seasoned professionals who truly want to understand the dynamics of working with culturally diverse populations. She provides a clear examination of ideals appropriate for interviewing in the context of health, demographics, and socioeconomic status that must be addressed from a multicultural perspective. With the country becoming more and more diverse, Dr. Fontes' book is promising and timely."--The Family Journal
The Independent Practitioner

"This accessible practitioner's guide tells it like it is....Fontes brings to the fore our focus on the need to be more ethically and universally minded, cultural challenges that are pre-requisites if we, as therapists, wish to develop a more purposeful relationship with our clients, whether they are children or adults, from the diverse cultures of the globe....Documents each strategy in navigating the best route for intercultural working. Be you student or established therapist, this book will open your eyes. Essential reading!"--The Independent Practitioner
From the Publisher

"This book is a 'must read' for anyone training to be, or already serving, in a professional role in today's multicultural society. It is important, accessible, and filled with lively case examples. I recommend this book as required reading for graduate and undergraduate courses and for professionals who work with clients or carry out research in any mental health or human service setting."--Sandra A. Graham-Bermann, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan

"This work is an essential addition to the library of professionals who conduct nearly any kind of interview. Its careful strategies for respecting and negotiating so many different aspects of cross-cultural interactions are invaluable. Fontes's reputation in the field is top-notch, and with this book she provides the best, most current interviewing guide I have seen."--Sharon W. Cooper, MD, FAAP, Department of Pediatrics, University of North Carolina School of Medicine

"Interviewing is often taken for granted in professional training programs, and as a result many of us are not exposed to ways of negotiating cultural differences which can make the difference between success and failure in this important relationship-building activity. No matter what your professional training and background, you will benefit enormously from the rich material and interesting examples in this book. I highly recommend it as a course text for teaching students to conduct a sensitive, effective, and culturally informed interview with clients from all walks of life who are seeking our help."--David A. Wolfe, PhD, RBC Chair in Children's Mental Health, and Director, Centre for Prevention Science at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto

"Today, helping professionals must think globally; we need tools to interview and assess racially, ethnically, culturally, and economically diverse clients. Fontes’s book is timely and informative. Drawing on the research and practice literature, her personal experience, and that of other professionals who provide culturally sensitive services, she offers much-needed, practical advice about how to avoid pitfalls and conduct successful interviews that span the cultural divide between professional and client."--Kathleen Coulborn Faller, PhD, ACSW, Marion Elizabeth Blue Professor of Children and Families; Director, Family Assessment Clinic, School of Social Work, University of Michigan

"This extremely helpful and instructive book has amazing breadth and depth in analyzing the interview process from beginning to end. Fontes provides guidance on all aspects of preparing for, conducting, and documenting interviews, interweaving cultural issues throughout. She shows tremendous sensitivity and good sense in helping readers handle cultural differences and dilemmas. Highly readable, the book is suitable for everyone from students to practicing professionals."--Stanley Sue, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Asian American Studies, University of California, Davis

Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic

"Deftly blends general principles, clinical anecdotes, and information about specific cultures. It strikes the right balance between practitioners' desire to know specific facts about the culture in which they most frequently interact and the need to provide general principles that will help practitioners to become aware of their own cultural biases and to work with clients from any culture....Throughout her book, Fontes maintains a broad focus and includes material of relevance to varied disciplines....Even more impressive is Fontes' ability to discuss sensitive matters of race, ethnicity, class, and language in an honest, informative manner. The reader feels welcomed, whatever his or her degree of comfort and knowledge, and is gently yet firmly taught how to work more effectively with clients from different backgrounds. Readers with little experience interviewing clients from other cultures will be given a framework in which to get started: knowledge about degrees of acculturation, things to think about when preparing for an interview, and how to build rapport....Each chapter includes questions for further thought and discussion, which could be used in teaching and supervision. I recommend this book highly to practitioners of any discipline."--Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781606234051
  • Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/1/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 334
  • Sales rank: 939,802
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Aronson Fontes, PhD, is a Core Faculty Member in the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Union Institute & University in Brattleboro, Vermont. She has dedicated almost two decades to making the social service, mental health, criminal justice, and medical systems more responsive to culturally diverse people. Dr. Fontes edited Sexual Abuse in Nine North American Cultures: Treatment and Prevention, authored Child Abuse and Culture: Working with Diverse Families, and has written numerous journal articles and book chapters on cultural issues in child maltreatment and violence against women, cross-cultural research, and ethics. She has worked as a family, individual, and group psychotherapist, and has conducted research in Santiago, Chile, and with Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and European Americans in the United States. In 2007 Dr. Fontes was awarded a Fulbright Foundation Fellowship, which she completed in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, she is a popular conference speaker and workshop facilitator.

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Table of Contents

1 A Guide to Interviewing across Cultures 1

A Multicultural Framework 3

How Interviews Differ from Other Kinds of Conversations 4

Orientation to This Book 5

Cultural Competence Is an Ethical Issue 7

Case Examples: Cross-Cultural Interviews That Crashed 7

Concluding Observations 12

2 Preparing for the Interview 14

Prior Information 14

What Else Do We Need to Prepare? 16

Handling Initial Paperwork 17

Deciding Whom to Interview 18

Setting for the Interview 19

Respecting Values, Negotiating Meanings, and Avoiding Professional Ethnocentrism 24

Who Is Coming to See Me?: Background Cultural Information 28

Assessing Culture and Acculturation 30

Text Box: Inquiring about Culture and Acculturation 31

Concluding Observations 37

3 Biases and Boundary Issues 39

Biases 39

Unbiased Observing 40

Text Box: Observational and Cognitive Biases That Can Affect Interviewing, Taking Notes, and Writing Reports 41

Special Connections and Boundary Issues 43

Ethnic Matching 44

Working with Someone from the "Same" Culture 46

Self-Disclosure 48

Bribes and Gifts 50

Text Box: What Might a Gift Mean in the Context of an Interview? 52

Maintaining Boundaries in Crisis Situations 52

Concluding Observations 54

4 Setting the Right Tone: Building Rapport and Conveying Respect 56

Demeanor 56

Giving Full Attention and Taking Notes 57

Conveying Respect 58

Counteracting Shame 60

Voice Quality, Tone, Speed, and Volume 62

Pace and Time 65

Joining with All Members of the Family 66

What's in a Name?: Addressing People Appropriately 67

Professional Titles 69

Saving and Losing Face 70

Questions Also Set the Tone 72

TextBox: Types of Questions 74

Concluding Observations 78

5 Beyond Words: Nonverbal Communication in Interviews 80

The Nonverbal World 81

Gestures 83

Greeting and Leave Taking 86

Showing Attentiveness 88

Posture 89

Gait 91

Communicating with the Eyes 91

Expressing Emotions 93

Expressing Pain and Distress 96

Touch 98

Personal Space 101

Smiling and Laughing 103

Communicating about Communicating 104

Nonverbal Signs of Disagreement and Agreement 105

Clothing 106

Tattoos, Piercings, and Other Forms of Body Modification 108

Concluding Observations 108

6 Language Competence: Building Bridges with People Who Have a Different Native Language 111

Attitude of Humility and Support 112

Text Box: Interviewing People with Limited English Language Proficiency 113

Trying to Remember 115

Language and Memory in People Who Are Bilingual 117

Language and Personality 120

Language and Abstractions 123

Language and Emotion 123

Operationalizing Language Competence: U.S. Guidelines and Requirements 127

Text Box: How Organizations Must Provide Language Access 127

Text Box: Making Documents More Accessible to People with Limited Language Proficiency 130

Documents in Diverse Languages 130

Language Preference 132

Choosing a Language for the Interview 132

Alternative Forms of English 136

Concluding Observations 138

7 The Interpreted Interview 140

The Interpreter's Power 140

When to Use an Interpreter 142

Finding an Interpreter 143

Text Box: Selecting an Interpreter 147

Informal Interpreters 147

Preparing Interpreters 151

Text Box: Preparing the Interpreter for Your Interview 152

Cultural Asides and Other Reasons to Pause an Interview 154

The Interpreter's Role 156

The Interpreted Conversation 158

Interpreter Vulnerabilities 162

Text Box: Conducting Interviews Using Interpreters 164

Concluding Observations 165

8 Understanding and Addressing Reluctance to Divulge Information 167

Attitudes toward Speaking Out 168

Silence 169

Who Owns Information? 173

Airing Secrets and Conflicts 174

Taboo Topics 175

Substance Abuse 178

Child Abuse and Neglect 183

Intimate Partner Violence 186

Sexual Assault 188

Interviewer Strategies for Addressing Reluctance and Silence 189

Improving Our Own Comfort with Difficult Topics 193

Concluding Observations 195

9 Interviewing Culturally Diverse Children and Adolescents 198

Special Issues in Interviewing Children 199

Living in Two Worlds 200

Text Box: Planning Cross-Cultural Interviews with Children 201

Behavioral Observations with Cultural Minority Children 204

Text Box: Correctly Interpreting the Behavior of Children from Minority Cultural Groups 205

Using Assessment Instruments with Cultural Minority Youth and Families 211

Assessing Development in Children 214

Text Box: Conducting Developmental Assessments and Interviews with Children and Their Families from Diverse Cultures 216

Special Issues in Interviewing Adolescents 220

Concluding Observations 226

10 Interview Reports and Documents 228

Recording Behavioral Observations or Presentation 229

Reporting the Interviewee's Attitude, Demeanor, and Affect 230

Text Box: Correctly Interpreting and Writing about Interviewees' Presentation 231

Taking Notes 236

The Audience for Your Report 237

Notational Bias 238

Word Choice 239

Referring to Race, Ethnicity, and Other Identity Groups 240

Giving Your Opinion 243

Your Voice and Choices around It 244

Cultural Formulation 245

Contributing Factors 246

Recommendations and Prognoses 247

Making Oral Reports 249

Text Box: Reviewing Your Completed Report 250

Concluding Observations 251

11 Authority and Trust Issues for Specific Professions 254

Social Work 254

Text Box: Tips for Conducting Cross-Cultural Interviews in Social Work Settings 256

Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Professions 256

Text Box: Tips for Conducting Cross-Cultural Interviews in Health Care Settings 261

Mental Health Clinicians 262

Text Box: Tips for Conducting Cross-Cultural Interviews in Mental Health Settings 264

Law Enforcement 265

Text Box: Tips for Conducting Cross-Cultural Interviews in Law Enforcement Settings 267

Educators 267

Text Box: Tips for Conducting Cross-Cultural Interviews in Educational Settings 270

Attorneys 271

Text Box: Tips for Conducting Cross-Cultural Interviews in Legal Settings 272

Researchers 272

Text Box: Tips for Researchers Conducting Cross-Cultural Interviews 274

Potential Employers in the Helping Professions 275

Women's Crisis Workers 278

Concluding Observations 278

12 Common Dilemmas and Misunderstandings in Cross-Cultural Interviews 280

Text Box: Common Mistakes in Cross-Cultural Interviews 281

Gathering Basic Demographic Information 282

Truth, Lies, and Immigration 287

Promptness and Alternatives 290

Asking People Directly about Their Backgrounds 292

When Your Competence or Appropriateness Is Questioned 293

Crossing the Class Divide 295

The Multiple Meanings of "Yes" 298

Magical Thinking 299

The Meaning of Dreams 301

Concluding Observations 301

Afterword: Your Self as a Resource 303

Text Box: Cross-Cultural Interviewing Practices 304

The Limits of Our Knowledge 305

Cultural Competence and Social Justice 305

Stepping Forward toward Cultural Competence 306

References 307

Index 317

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