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Culturally Centered Care

What is culturally centered care? Learn more about what it is and its impact on employee mental health.

As the world becomes more diverse and modern technology allows businesses to become more connected, diverse and global workforces are commonplace. Yet, as an employer, you may have concerns about meeting the needs of your international workforce. 

Recent events and current concerns have thrust the importance of mental health benefits into the spotlight. However, traditional solutions (like EAPs) often fail to meet expectations. 

The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to mental health care. An employee's culture is a complex blend of behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that impact who we are, our sense of identity, and how we make sense of the world.

Culture and social identity impacts employees’ experiences in the workplace as well as how they show up in the workplace, respond to challenges, and impacts their beliefs regarding mental health care.  To successfully maintain a healthy, diverse workforce, employers must understand how culture impacts mental health and how to choose corresponding benefits that incorporate and preserve culturally centered care into employer-sponsored mental health benefits.

How Does Culture Impact Mental Health? 

Culture influences employees' beliefs, values, and other ways of experiencing the world. It has a distinct impact on how an individual views certain ideas or behaviors. 

As a result, it can significantly influence someone’s comfort level in seeking help, what type of help they seek, and how culture can impact our understanding of mental health. These are some of the ways culture affects mental health. 


Culture, beliefs, sexual orientation , social identity, values, race, and language affect how we perceive and experience mental health. It can influence how an employee interprets mental health symptoms and which ones they report. 

It can also influence coping mechanisms. For example, some people may prefer expressing their emotions to others whereas others may prefer engaging in physical activity as ways to cope. In many cultures, seeking mental health care is considered a weakness, and symptoms are rarely discussed. As a result, early symptoms often go overlooked.


. While there are similarities across mental health experiences and how employees prefer to receive care, different cultures can influence the way employees approach mental health and seeking care.

Historical experiences of oppression and trauma contribute to mistrust in mental healthcare systems. Language barriers and overall lack of access to care contribute to difficulties seeking mental health care.

Mental health stigma can lead to hesitation about seeking care. They can also affect how employees present their symptoms to physicians or mental health care professionals. For example, Asian individuals are more likely to report related physical symptoms like dizziness than emotional ones.

Family and Community 

Due to stigma, employees may be reluctant to seek support in managing mental health symptoms and efforts to find treatment. This lack of support leads to further isolation and difficulty in finding appropriate resources.

Physical Health

Due to gaps in health care access, housing insecurity, exposure to environmental hazards, and other disparities, BIPOC communities in the U.S. have higher rates of poor health outcomes and chronic disease. Across the country, racial and ethnic minority populations experience higher rates of poor health and various health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, and heart disease. Living with and managing these conditions can significantly impact mental health outcomes.

Access to Resources 

Effective mental health care hinges on working with a provider who understands an individual's specific experiences and concerns. Yet, providers don't always reflect the communities they serve. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a report from the American Psychological Association, 86% of U.S. psychologists in 2015 were white. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that nearly 70% of U.S. social workers and 88% of mental health counselors were white. 

Furthermore, BIPOC employees are less likely to afford unpaid leave than white workers. Due to long-term systemic oppression, Black Americans are 80% less likely to have the option of taking time off when necessary. Some of the same workplace barriers that limit time off lead to limited mental health benefits, where most providers are out-of-network, making cost an added concern.

What Is Culturally Centered Care?

Culturally centered care (sometimes called culturally responsible or culturally competent care) describes services that respect and respond to the individual's cultural, linguistic, and other social and environmental needs. In mental health care, culturally centered care prioritizes the intersection of mental health and culture and integrates cultural knowledge, awareness, and understanding into service delivery. 

Culturally centered care includes these essential components:

  • Cultural Awareness: An understanding of cultural biases and influences and how they impact your decisions, along with the understanding of differences between yourself and people from other backgrounds
  • Cultural Knowledge or Competence: The integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices, and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services
  • Cultural Humility: The willingness to admit that you don't understand everything about another culture and the commitment to engage in ongoing learning about new cultures and the ways you can use increased knowledge to improve the quality of care
  • Cross-Cultural Skills: The act of putting learning into action with the ability to adapt clinical interventions to provide person-centered care that considers the individual’s whole identity

Fostering culturally centered care is vital to reduce mental health disparities and promoting equity in care among diverse global populations. 

Modern Health addresses the need for culturally centered care with a global network of providers that offers employees mental health services that are easily accessible and culturally centered. Additionally, through Modern Health's vision for DEIB, it has its own Global Inclusion Council, a collection of licensed therapists and certified coaches from different countries to share knowledge and insights to ensure that mental health care is centered on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging for the workplace.

Challenges Culturally Centered Care Presents for Providers

Health care providers face many challenges when trying to provide care centered around different cultures. A big hurdle for most providers is ensuring they are humble and willing to learn about the culture they serve and how different cultures present barriers to care. 

In addition to understanding the culture, providers must also find ways to provide the same high-quality care to everyone despite how different cultures affect behavior and respond to various types of care. Modern Health has a network of providers dedicated to providing culturally centered care by prioritizing community, education, and accountability. 

Our team participates in regular training with DEIB leaders on topics such as allyship, anti-racism, and unconscious bias. These efforts allow us to offer a suite of benefits aimed at supporting diverse talent.

Benefits for Employees, Employers, and Providers

The primary goal of culturally centered care is to reduce mental health disparities and promote equity in care among diverse populations. This can leave employers wondering how this responsibility connects to the workplace. 

Culturally centered care offers a way to eliminate many of the barriers to high-quality, equitable mental health care. As a result, culturally centered care benefits employees, employers, and health care providers. 

Employees who receive culturally centered care feel understood and respected, which can improve communication and promote better outcomes. Healthcare providers who use a culturally centered approach are more likely to understand their patients' worldviews and be sensitive to their needs. 

Introducing cultural awareness and cultural competence empowers mental health professionals to learn more about their patients and provide improved instruction and care. This respectful communication enhances the flow of information, leading to better clinical outcomes and, ultimately, a more successful practice. 

The effectiveness of high-quality culturally centered care can create a landslide of benefits in the workplace. When employers invest in their employees' well-being with relevant benefits most likely to be used, employees gain access to care, leading to improved mental well-being. 

As a result, absences are reduced, and performance and production are likely to improve.  Furthermore, companies build a sense of belonging by offering benefits highlighting the importance of culturally centered care, increasing employee engagement. 

Seventy-one percent of employers believe that offering mental health benefits is too costly. This concern can be attributed to the low adoption rates of traditional solutions like EAPs. Since culturally centered care provides options more likely to be relevant to modern, diverse, and global workforces, adoption rates are improved, and employers see improved ROIs.

Seventy-four percent of employees want their employer to care about their mental health, but only half (53%) of employees feel they actually do. The future of mental health care depends on an organization's ability to apply a multifaceted approach to its mental health benefits programs that can fully support and protect the mental well-being of its workforce. 

Culturally centered care achieves these goals and supports your efforts to advance DEIB in the workplace. Limited accessibility to high-quality mental health care affects how employees address challenges in their personal lives and the workplace. 

By providing your employees with options that highlight culturally centered care, you can more effectively meet their needs and see the ROI of mental health benefits with improved performance and company culture. Finding effective, high-quality mental health benefits for your employees can be challenging. We're here to help. Download our report, The ROI of Workplace Mental Health Benefits to learn more.  

Modern Health

Modern Health is the comprehensive mental wellness platform that combines the WHO well-being assessment, self-service wellness kits, an international network of certified coaches, and licensed therapists available in 35 languages all in a single app. Modern Health empowers employers to lead the charge in acknowledging that mental health is just as important as physical health, de-stigmatizing the conversation, and increasing accessibility of mental health services for all.