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We discuss the complicated nature of communication between people from different cultural groups, perhaps using a second language. We focus on the fact that mental health practitioners and service users often have in common neither their cultural backgrounds nor their explanatory models of illness. Communication even in a shared language can be less than optimal as words carry multiple meanings. Consequently, consultations that involve culturally grounded explanatory models of illness challenge the professional. We give examples showing that reconciling different explanatory models during the consultation is a core task for psychiatrists and mental health practitioners working in multicultural settings.

Original publication




Journal article


Advances in Psychiatric Treatment

Publication Date





474 - 478