OT Cultural Competency: A Resources Guide

This resource was originally designed by two students who graduated in 2009, Kelly Bjoralt and Kristy Henson. Their focus was on providing information and resources for healthcare providers on the primary cultural groups in the Midwest. The mission of this site is to help facilitate cultural knowledge, understanding and skills that are vital in becoming a culturally competent occupational therapist because we believe this is essential to being a quality and competent healthcare provider.


The definition of culture and cultural competency varies throughout current literature. For purposes of this site, the definition by Bucher, 2010 will be used. "Cultural Competence refers to a set of attitudes and skills that make it possible for organizations and staff not only to acknowledge cultural differences but also incorporate these differences in working with people from various cultures. In the process of learning to be diversity conscious, healthcare providers undergo profound personal change" (pg. 67).

Bucher, R.D. (2010). Diversity consciousness. Opening our minds to people, cultures and opportunities (3rd ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson


One's culture ultimately affects views on health care and the decision-making process, which in turn influences the quality of care and recovery time of the patient. Medical professionals are increasingly being called upon to demonstrate clinical understanding of culture while treating clients. According to the United States Census Bureau, "Ethnic minorities now comprise about 30% of the population, and demographic trends show that they will become the majority by the year 2050." Occupational therapists and healthcare providers in general, must develop cultural competency in order to deliver quality, client-centered care to all clients.


Barriers to Gaining Competency

Bucher (2010) states that, "before we can overcome barriers, we have to acknowledge them, in ourselves, others, and in our communities (pg. 106)." The following table contains just a few barriers that can prevent becoming one from becoming culturally competent.

Cultural bias (making unwarranted assumptions about someone else) e.g. "you talk funny"

Lack of awareness of cultural differences

Lack of awareness of cultural differences

Ethnocentric: thinking your way is the only way or only right way

Inactive listening

Close minded: unwilling to think of others ideas or values

Saying "them" versus "us"

Isolate self from cultural events or those I consider different

Blame a whole cultural group for something someone may have done to you or someone you know who is from a different cultural group

Making judgments

Believing I am better than someone else just because of how they look or believe

Afraid of another group

Ignoring differences

Ignoring similarities

Expect those who I feel are different than me to act a certain way just because they are from a certain group.

Difficulty acknowledging that not everyone in a 'group' is the same

I see no reason to examine who I am, I know who I am, that's stupid.

When someone from another culture group does something, I may use it to support a bias, stereotype or prejudice I have.

Unwilling to learn

Unwilling to extend grace

Unwilling to see my own faults

Choosing Credible Websites/Sources

It is important to learn how to choose credible sites for your information. Most people don't know that there is no one who has to judge the quality or accuracy of the information found on the Internet before you use it. Some sites are created by experts, but the majority are designed and authored by non-experts. 

Medical Interpretation Services

Health Care Disparities

OT Journal Articles

AOTA's societal statement on health disparities

Bass-Haugen, J.D. (2009). Health disparities: Examination of evidence relevant for occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63, 24–34.

Braveman, B., & Bass-Haugen, J. D. (2009). From the Desks of the Guest Editors—Social justice and health disparities: An evolving discourse in occupational therapy research and intervention. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63, 7–12.

Ford, K, Waring, L, & Boggis, T. (2007). Living on the edge. The hidden voices of health disparities. OT Practice, 12(5), 17–22.

Cultural Groups

This OT Cultural Competence Resource Guide was created with one main goal: to provide a condensed list of resources that clinicians and students can use to facilitate individual development of multicultural competency. The OT Cultural Competence website provides a collaboration of resources that will offer educational information on cultural issues and links to access additional materials in the Midwest. Because of the magnitude a project such as this could result in, the decision to begin with the Midwest was made. In addition, the cultural groups included in this initial endeavor are the ones with the highest numbers in the Midwest.

The website offers information on how cultural practices may impact therapy, methods to obtain additional resources and suggestions of how to guide the therapeutic process. The resources provided are not all-inclusive, but aim to supplement knowledge gained through education and experience. Our aim is to provide material in which one can direct his or her own learning and further develop a level of cultural competence required in the delivery of quality and client-centered care. As a result, it is our hope that clients and clinicians will experience greater satisfaction throughout the therapeutic process.

Cultural Competency Toolkit