Skip to main content

Cultural competence isn't a destination; it's a journey that never stops.

The physical therapy profession cannot achieve its vision of societal transformation without a commitment to promoting and practicing a high level of cultural competence in all areas of practice, research, and education. It’s key to our future as relevant health care providers.

Far from being a limited set of prescribed skills, cultural competence is more holistic—"a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables work in cross-cultural situations," according to the CDC. Those cross-cultural situations aren't limited to race or ethnicity—they can also include language, religion, age, gender identification and much more.

While a major component of the cultural competence journey involves understanding and appreciating differences, working toward those "congruent behaviors" also requires individuals to take an honest look at themselves, their own biases, and how those biases may affect the care they provide patients—and the ways they see the world around them.  Working toward greater cultural competence demands a willingness to learn and an openness to possibility.

Recommended Content

Achieving Cultural Competence

Jan 15, 2020 / Open Access

Cultural Competence Policy

Sep 20, 2019 / Policies & Bylaws

Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

Jun 2, 2020

Evidence shows racial and ethnic disparities exist across a range of illnesses and health care services.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

May 19, 2020

We are striving to improve DEI in our profession and association.

Search Cultural Competence


Additional Cultural Competence in Physical Therapy Content

Resources for Teaching Cultural Competence in Physical Therapy Education

Oct 6, 2020 / Resource

Use these resources within your program or curriculum to teach cultural competence to your physical therapy students.

Five Ways To Be an LGBTQ Patient Ally

Jul 21, 2020 / Open Access

You can help LGBTQ patients feel safe and supported by taking these five simple actions.

The Look

Jun 5, 2020 / Perspective

"The look" comes from a poor understanding of those who are different from us.

Patient Protections

Mar 1, 2020 / Article

What are the federal expectations for providers when it comes to non-discrimination, disability access, and the rights of patients with limited English proficiency?

Understanding the Muslim Community From a PT-Specific Lens

Jun 16, 2020 / Perspective

PTs and PTAs should educate themselves about the needs of their patients who identify as Muslim to ensure that patient-centered care remains our profession's priority.

Matters of Respect

Dec 1, 2019 / Column

On what basis is referral acceptable?

For Myself, My Future Patients, and My Culture

Oct 22, 2019 / Perspective

I'll be able to speak the language and understand cultural norms of my patients while creating a space for trust and understanding.

To Be All of Me

Oct 16, 2019 / Perspective

I don’t need you to know everything about the LGBTQIA+ community. I just need you to know enough to be respectful and aware.

Battling Bias's Distorted Images

Oct 1, 2019 / Feature

Looking in the mirror is the first step.

Speaking Spanish and Finding My Voice

Aug 19, 2019 / Perspective

It may sound dramatic to some, but this personal evolution has been genuinely liberating.