Why is learning, understanding, and acknowledging the Hispanic community relevant? The Hispanic or Latinx population in the US., which includes people of any race, was 62.5million in 2021 accounting for 19% of the U.S. population-up from 13% in 2000. It’s a given that you will encounter clients that are Hispanic or that have Hispanic heritage. Knowing this community's commonality and unique differences is indispensable to being a competent and effective mental health provider. The question is, are you prepared to serve them?
Knowing that there is a need for Hispanic bilingual providers to provide services one must understand the stigma that going to see a therapist comes with. People in the Hispanic/Latinx community can be very private and may not want to publicly talk about challenges at home or in their lives. Many in the Latinx community are familiar with the phrase “la ropa sucia se lava en casa” (similar to “don’t air your dirty laundry in public”) and prefer to maintain problems within their families. Some people do not seek treatment for mental illness out of fear of being labeled as “locos” (crazy) or bringing shame and unwanted attention to their families. Additionally, faith communities may be a source of distress if they are not well informed and do not know how to support families dealing with mental health conditions. Understanding the mental health stigma, one as a provider can learn better ways to provide psychoeducation to this population in order for them to understand the importance of mental health.
Treatment and Interventions for the Hispanic Community
By gaining insight and knowledge about the Hispanic community enhances one’s cultural competence. Utilizing psychoeducation will most likely be your only intervention. Knowing how to use colloquial language as well as simple words improve the therapeutic relationship. Being curious as well as asking questions will help one get a better understanding. Furthermore, clients will most likely not tell you that they do not know. Repetition creates trust. At times, psychoeducation will be the only intervention, and ensuring your client is well-informed will improve their treatment process.
Interventions for Cultural Competency
Multicultural Competency: being sensitive to and understanding the Hispanic cultural background. This includes values, race, and religious or spiritual beliefs.
Intervention: Educate and expose yourself to different cultures and subcultures.
Cultural Identity: part of a person's identity, or their self-conception and self-perception, and is related to nationality, ethnicity, religion, social class, generation, locality, or any kind of social group that has its own distinct culture.
Intervention: Ask open-ended before assuming you understand the cultural background. Summarize and reflect back
Cultural humility: refers to the ability to recognize that culture plays a large role in a person’s health and well-being and may sometimes affect the provider’s ability to best serve their patient’s needs.
Intervention: Listen, be aware of your own cultural bias (unconscious), avoid judgmental attitudes (postures), practice acceptance, and meet clients where they are.
Normalizing: respecting and accepting the client and the client’s situation and acknowledging the client's humanity and the client's struggles and frailties.
Intervention: Be curious, understanding vs condoning, and validate their experience
Medication is an intervention used as part of the client’s treatment. However, be aware that as a provider you will receive some pushback when discussing medication. Hispanic clients prefer doing everything as holistic and naturally as possible. Many Hispanic clients believe that medication is “bad.” They believe that it will leave them a “zombie” and they fear that as a result, their family member will be unwilling to participate in family events. Many Hispanic clients believe that medication “does not work.” It is important that when discussing medication with clients encourage them to ask questions to their psychiatrist to help alleviate their fears and misconceptions about medication.
Next time you have a Hispanic client sitting across from you in a session keep in mind these tools and tips to be able to be a more culturally competent therapist.
Guest blog post written by:
Diana Beltran , LCSW
Diana Beltran is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Arkansas and Texas. Sheis originally from Little Rock, Arkansas where her experience has been in working innon-profit agencies providing services for low-income Hispanic communities. Uponreceiving her MSW in 2018, she worked for Centers for Youth and Families in Little Rock,Arkansas providing services for Latino families. As she worked at Centers for Youth andFamilies, she slowly worked on breaking the barriers of the mental health stigma in theLatino culture by engaging in community outreach at local Catholic churches.At Centers for Youth and Families, she worked with clients as young as 2 years old toadults by providing Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT) to improve attachment tochildren as well as their parents who have experienced trauma. Not only was PCIToffered, she provided clients support and treatment for clients experiencing depression,anxiety, and issues with family/platonic relationships. Moreover, she engaged inconducting mental health assessments for clients going through immigrationprocesses as well.
In January 2021, she began working for The Family Place, providing group and individualcounseling services for domestic violence survivors. Throughout her experience inworking at The Family Place, she has been able to educate survivors inPsycho-education Domestic Violence groups and provide a safe and culturallycompetent space to process their experience with other individuals who have gonethrough similar incidents. Now, she is the Clinical Director at Therapy Works Counselingwhere she oversees bilingual clinicians in five offices and provides supervision formaster-level interns. Diana, has continued to engage in community outreach by beingavailable for interviews with Telemundo, Estrella, and conducting trainings to educatethe community. She is dedicated to educating, supporting, and collaborating with thoseas equally as passionate about providing services for the Hispanic community.