In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Multiculturalism

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Textbooks
  • Manuals and Guides
  • Bibliographies
  • Development of Multicultural Social Work Practice
  • Policy
  • Dissemination and Implementation
  • Teaching

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Social Work Multiculturalism
Eun-Kyoung Othelia Lee
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0076


Multiculturalism has been defined as an ideology that suggests that society should consist of, or at least recognize and include with equal status, diverse cultural groups (see Textbooks). Multiculturalism is often considered the opposite of monoculturalism, which implies a normative cultural unity and preexisting homogeneity. Monoculturalism assumes rejection of differences and a belief in the superiority of a dominant culture, while multiculturalism represents acceptance, appreciation, utilization, and celebration of similarity and differences (see Development of Multicultural Social Work Practice). This entry identifies multicultural resources with specific reference to social work’s adaptation of multiculturalism. While the identified references are focused on social work applications, relevant ones dealing with cross-cultural counseling, multicultural education, and organizational diversity are selected.

Introductory Works

A number of terms, including “multiculturalism,” “diversity,” “cultural diversity,” “cultural competency,” and “cross-cultural practice,” are often used in the literature to describe patterns of interaction, awareness, and sensitivity to “special populations.” These populations are typically people of color and often are considered oppressed, disenfranchised, and marginalized. Multiculturalism is used to describe the professional disposition to acknowledge, appreciate, and understand cultural diversity. There are excellent references available that provide introductory descriptions of multicultural social work practice. For a comprehensive guide to weave cultural information into assessment and intervention planning, McGoldrick, et al. 2005 is a great resource. Lum 2004 covers areas that are not well covered in some other analogous texts (for example, women of color, older people of color, multicultural gays and lesbians, impact of spirituality). First written in response to the Council on Social Work Education mandates in the early 1980s, Devore and Schlesinger 1999 is one of the most well-known texts on ethnic-sensitive social work practice.

  • Devore, Wynetta, and Elfriede G. Schlesinger. 1999. Ethnic-sensitive social work practice. 5th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

    Through a generalist perspective in its approach, the book includes various ethnicities—individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities—and various approaches to practice.

  • Lum, Doman. 2004. Social work practice and people of color. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Brooks Cole Thompson Learning.

    Offering a practical and well-defined five-stage model of social work practice with culturally diverse communities, this text articulates and demonstrates what culturally competent professional practice is and what it looks like when implemented.

  • McGoldrick, Monica, Joe Giordano, and Nydia Garcia-Preto, eds. 2005. Ethnicity and family therapy. 3d ed. New York: Guildford.

    This widely used clinical reference and text has been fully revised and expanded, providing the latest knowledge on culturally sensitive practice with families and individuals from over forty ethnic groups. Each chapter demonstrates how ethnocultural factors may influence clients’ and therapists’ assumptions, issues brought into the clinical context, and resources for coping and problem solving.

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