Development of cultural competence among social work students: A psychoanalytic perspective

Noga Levin-Keini, Shirley Ben Shlomo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This article addresses the development of attitudes toward the other and otherness in light of the classical psychoanalytical approach of Freud. Through this approach, the authors attempt to surmount the criticism that was raised in the literature in connection with the difficulty faced by students and professionals in the field of social work in achieving cultural competence. Based on this approach the authors suggest that cultural competence can develop provided two conditions exist: (1) interpersonal contact between lecturer and student, and (2) using the bond to help the student connect with the inner stranger within himself or herself, or as Freud put it, connecting with the "unconscious parts of the mind." With the help of two examples presented, the authors demonstrate how every meeting with strangeness is first and foremost a meeting with a concrete stranger - in the first case the meeting of Jewish students with an Arab student, and in the second case the meeting of a secular student with an ultra-Orthodox boy. Implications for social work practice and education are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-357
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Work
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Cultural competence
  • Meeting with the stranger
  • Psychoanalytic perspective
  • Social work students


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