Embracing Cultural Humility: A Key Element of Trauma-Resilient Research and Practice

May 7, 2024

A meaningful definition of cultural humility that our TREC team embraces is from the First Nations Health Authority, “Cultural humility is a process of self-reflection to understand personal and systemic biases and to develop and maintain respectful processes and relationships based on mutual trust1. It means admitting that we don’t know everything about another’s experience, culture and feelings, and that cultural humility involves humbly acknowledging oneself as a learner when it comes to understanding another’s experience.”

Thus. rather than an end point, as cultural competency suggests, cultural humility recognizes that the person in front of you is the expert, not the textbook.

With cultural humility a shared value of our TREC Model, we weave self-reflection and self-awareness, especially in our TREC 201 Course, Self-Care and Mindfulness for Individual and Collective Well-Being.

As an inner-city community organizer for twenty-six years, some of my greatest teachers have been the children, youth, and families I’m blessed to serve. Listening and learning from their experiences from the impacts of being a recent refugee, an immigrant, reentering the communities from the juvenile- or criminal-justice systems, being groomed for human trafficking, living with domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health, having a loved one murdered or complete suicide, being homeless. etc., my vicarious resilience has been profoundly enhanced.

What did the researchers do?

This research paper presents a discussion of the process of cultural humility and its important role in research to better understand the perspectives and context of the researcher and the research participant.  Further exploring cultural humility, through human subjects research, we can better understand the perspectives and context from the researcher and their research participant.

This is a continual process which involves self-reflection and an authentic appreciation of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Cultural humility encourages researchers to examine their own biases, privileges, and limitations. Fostering meaningful relationships, these connections enhance communication and building trust. We know that cultures are fluid and affected by structural, systemic, and personal elements.

What were the results?

This research article reflects the thoughtful examination of cultural humility and is applicable to any clinical researcher who is studying someone different from her / himself / themselves in any cultural aspect, different in ethnicity, geographic location, gender, race, religion, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, in any part of the world. This intentional, thoughtful process reflects that cultural humility cannot be collapsed into a class or educational offering, rather, viewed as an ongoing process.

What do the results mean? What were their implications?

This promising approach for researchers can play a role in addressing health disparities in research. Humility requires courage and flexibility as the strengths and challenges of individuals and groups are explored, as well as the advantages and privileges of certain group memberships.

The professional identity of the clinical researcher is also an important area to reflect on. For example, nurse researchers must first identify that their own values, perspectives, and biases are derived not from their own cultural origin, but also from the biomedical worldview of their professional training.

What are TREC's takeaways from this research? Practical and actionable trauma-resilient recommendations.

Through becoming a Trauma-Resilient Professional (TRP), as a helping professional, you’ll deepen your understanding and awareness of how cultural humility will benefit you both personally and professionally.

With cultural humility one of the shared values of our TREC Model, Trauma-Resilient Professionals (TRP) have myriad opportunities for self-reflection and self-awareness of beliefs, bias, and values to examine from their own culture.

Dana Brown

Community Organizer, Trauma-Resilient Professional, TREC Pioneer, and PACEs Science Statewide Facilitator

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