The Role of Civility and Cultural Humility in Navigating Controversial Areas in Psychology

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Spirituality in Clinical Practice






American Psychological Association

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We are living in the most culturally diverse but perhaps least interculturally civil time in modern history, and the field of psychology is not immune. Over recent decades, our field has often engaged in divisive and uncivil dialogue, as people with diverse perspectives have criticized, derogated, or even demonized one another. This article explores how civility and cultural humility can help remedy such situations. We focus on the controversial intersection of religion/spirituality and sexuality/gender. Bringing together a diverse group of coauthors, we discuss how cultural humility and civility can help navigate controversy within the arenas of public policy, multicultural training, clinical practice, and scientific research. First, we summarize current policies about civility and theories about cultural humility. Second, drawing on case examples, we discuss how civility and cultural humility can guide effective multicultural training and clinical practice at this intersection. Third, we review the team science literature on diversity and use a case example to illustrate how civility and cultural humility can help diverse teams advance research on religion/spirituality and sexuality/gender (e.g., by helping harness collective wisdom, honor cultural differences, build group cohesion, and resolve team conflict). Fourth, we highlight possible problems with civility (e.g., perceptions of civility can differ) and promises of incivility (e.g., protest can catalyze progress). Finally, we present an integrative model for guiding policymaking, clinical practice, and research in controversial areas, as dialogue partners adopt empathy as their affective stance, civility as their behavioral stance, and humility as their cognitive stance