How to (Un)-Learn Cultural (In)-Competency in Social Work: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Cultural Competency Trainings in Community Mental Health


  • Fatima Tahir York University


This research project seeks to investigate the ways in which professional cultural competency training in social work settings perpetuates mainstream stereotypes of racialised clients and to deconstruct how non-white communities are represented in within these models. Using critical race theory (CRT) and social justice lenses, the study entails conducting a critical discourse analysis (CDA) with thematic and framing analyses to deconstructed a community mental health organisation’s cultural competency training derived from a ‘cultural competency resource kit’ by the Alberta Health Service’s (2009). The research engages in an exploration of existing cultural competency literature in social work in order to highlight themes of whiteness and diversity. The findings of the study address gaps in existing cultural competency scholarship and unpack dominant discourses of whiteness and homogenisation that continue to perpetuate racial oppression and injustice for racialised individuals and communities who access social services. The paper concludes by acknowledging that the idea of ‘cultural competency’ can never be congruent with critical social work pedagogy and practice and provides clinical implications for future social work practice.

Author Biography

Fatima Tahir, York University



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Beyond “cultural competency”: Confronting whiteness in social work