Cultural Competence Continuum


About this resource

Cultural competence is a developmental process. It requires the learner to:

  • ensure ongoing education of self and others;
  • research for additional knowledge and develop approaches based on cultural considerations;
  • seek ongoing mentoring, supervision of cultural practice in order to advance along the cultural competence continuum

Research tells us that most service providers fall between cultural incapacity and cultural blindness on the following cultural competence continuum

It is important for an individual service provider or an institution to assess where they fall along the continuum as such an assessment can be useful for their further development.

Figure 1: Cultural Competence Continuum 

Cultural destructiveness

Genocide or ethnocide; exclusion laws; cultural / racial oppression; forced assimilation.

Cultural incapacity

Disproportionate allocation of resources to certain groups; lowered expectations; discriminatory practices, unchallenged stereotypical beliefs.

Cultural blindness

Discomfort in noting difference; beliefs / actions that assume world is fair and achievement is based on merit; we treat everyone the same: this approach ignores cultural strengths. The belief that methods used by the dominant culture are universally applicable can lead to implicit or explicit exclusion of ethnic minority communities

Cultural pre-competence

Delegate diversity work to others, e.g. cultural programs asked to be lead by those of that background; quick fix, packaged short-term programs; a false sense of accomplishment; inconsistent policies and practices; practitioners are sensitive to minority issues but these are not an organisational priority

Cultural competence

Advocacy: on-going education of self and others; support, modeling, and risk-taking behaviors; a vision that reflects multi-culturalism, values diversity and views it as an asset: evidence of continuing attempts to accommodate cultural change; careful attention to the dynamics of difference, realising that equal access is not equal treatment.

Cultural proficiency

Interdependence; personal change and transformation; alliance for groups other than one’s own; adding to knowledge-base by conducting research; developing new therapeutic approaches based on cultural considerations; follow-through social responsibility to fight social discrimination and advocate for social diversity.

Citation information


Reference: Cross T., Bazron, B., Dennis, K., & Isaacs, M. (1989). Towards a Culturally Competent System of Care, Volume I. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Child Development Center, CASSP Technical Assistance Centre.

Citation for the electronic image: Waitemata District Health Board. (2019). Cultural Competence Continuum (Online image).

Continuum Graph