Clinical relevance of contemporary cultural psychiatry

Renato D. Alarcón, Joseph Westermeyer, Edward F. Foulks, Pedro Ruiz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


In recent years, the field of cultural psychiatry has gained recognition and accumulated evidence of its clinical relevance. This article examines the intersections of culture and psychopathology and describes five independent but interrelated clinical dimensions that identify and define culture as: a) an interpretive/explanatory tool, b) a pathogenic/pathoplastic agent, c) a diagnostic/nosological factor, d) a therapeutic/protective element, and e) a service/management instrument. Along these lines, conceptual boundaries, clinical findings, specific applications, and research implications for each of the five dimensions are systematically reviewed. Cultural psychiatry adds significantly to the comprehensiveness of psychiatric evaluation and management and addresses prominent issues regarding understanding, classification, diagnosis, and competent treatment of most psychiatric disorders in every society and region of the world. Based on the strength of these clinical dimensions, and on the related educational and research efforts, cultural psychiatry can also contribute decisively to the design of comprehensive mental health policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-471
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nervous and Mental Disease
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 1999


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