Child Psychiatry Consult

New Americans: Considerations for culturally collaborative care


The following are tips to consider in the life-long process of becoming more culturally aware:

  • Be willing to learn with your patients and be thoughtful about your own feelings/thoughts/behaviors that may be positively or negatively impacting those interactions.
  • Be aware of your own identity and what that may contribute to the clinical space.
  • Recognize that you are not meant to know everything, but being open to the journey and learning process will go a long way.
  • Try to shift the focus from paternalistic medicine to collaborative and patient-centered approaches.

The case at hand

In returning to our case and applying the LEARN model and cultural humility, we may be able to uncover more of the story. Adam is seen at a subsequent appointment, and you determine it best to obtain an in-person interpreter for this appointment. As you listen to the story, you learn that his father was killed early in Adam’s life, his mother has suffered from depression, and they moved here 3 years ago from a refugee camp, where most of their family continues to reside. He notes that at times he feels that he is back in that space and that he also feels frustrated. He is accustomed to doing well academically, but English has been difficult to learn.

Dr. Yasmeen Abdul-Karim, University of Vermont, Burlington

Dr. Yasmeen Abdul-Karim

You explain your understanding and acknowledge concerns for his past experiences playing a role, the importance of having community supports, and that learning a new language is challenging. You recommend that the school offer culturally appropriate interventions, trauma-informed assessments, and English-language opportunities. Adam and his mother note willingness to engage in this plan but would like to speak to their local religious leader as well.

Collaborating in a manner similar to this will likely build a therapeutic alliance between the patient, their family, and caretakers, thus leading to improved outcomes.

For further reading, consider AACAP Finding Mental Healthcare for Children of Immigrants and the American Academy of Pediatrics Providing Culturally Effective Care Toolkit.

Dr. Abdul-Karim, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, is assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, Burlington. She said she had no relevant financial disclosures. Email her at [email protected].


1. “Key findings about U.S. immigrants.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (2020)

2. “Key facts about refugees to the U.S.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (2019)

3. “Immigrant Children.” Child Trends, Bethesda, MD (2018).

4. Kaplan & Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry, 11th ed. (Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2015, pp. 139-45).

5. Lewis’sChild and Adolescent Psychiatry: A Comprehensive Textbook, 5th ed. (Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2017, pp. 111-22).

6. Berlin EA, Fowkes WA Jr.A teaching framework for cross-cultural health care. Application in family practice. West J Med 1983;139(6):934-8.

7. Paediatr Child Health. 2018 Feb;23(1):66-9.


Next Article: