Working with Multicultural Groups: the Latino/a Population Katie Fidrych Brittany McNamara
Definition of Latino/a
This designation is broad and encompasses a large group of people. It is important to consider how the person you are working with defines this label, as it often means something different to every individual, (Keefe & Casas, 1980).
Latino/a generally designates a person who is connected to the Spanish language and has certain cultural ties to Latin America.
Find out more at this website! http://www.pbs.org/americanfamily/latino3.html
Flags of Spanish Speaking countries Image retrieved from http://www.oregonsubaruprices.com/wgp-flags-of-spanish-speaking-countries.php4
History of Oppression
Latino/as have had a variety of experiences of living in the United States. Sometimes this is a welcoming relationship, other times not. This is often dependant on the political relationship at the time between the United States and that individual’s home country.
To understand the history of oppression for a client, it is important to discuss their experiences as a way of understanding them better as well as gaining a more complete picture of that person and their social system, (Altarriba & Bauer, 1998).
“ I am Joaquin”
I am Joaquin,
lost in a world of confusion,
caught up in a whirl of a gringo society, confused by the rules, scorned by attitudes, suppressed by manipulation, and destroyed by modern society.
My fathers have lost the economic battle and won the struggle of cultural survival.
And now! I must choose between the paradox of victory of the spirit, despite physical hunger or to exist in the grasp of American social neurosis, sterilization of the soul and a full stomach.
Acculturation Process with Latina Adolescent
(Vasquez, Vasquez, & Ivey, 2004)
To understand Latino/as is to have a working knowledge of the values, beliefs, religious views and customs, culture, generational lessons, language, and nonverbal cues that are unique to this population,(Marcos, 1988).
Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez Image retrieved from www.umich.edu/students_project
Working with Latino/as
• It is important to know how current immigration legislation effects Latino/a clients in their daily lives. They likely have experienced racism or racial profiling.
Bilingual clients sometimes describe having to live between two worlds and two cultures (Ruvas, Delgado- Romero, & Ozambela, 2005).
The younger generation that tends to have lived in the United States for a
longer period considers themselves biracial or bicultural, as compared to the older generation that typically does not, (Marcos, 1988).
It has been seen that values tend to differ between primarily English speaking Latino/as as compared to primarily Spanish speakers, (Keefe & Casas, 1980).
Image retrieved from http://www.luc.edu/education/resources_diversity-resources.shtml
Common Values: Family
The respect for and reputation of the family is considered very important.
Family is generally structured in a hierarchical fashion with the man/father at the top. He makes the majority of decisions and is the primary income earner, (Altarriba & Bauer, 1998).
A typical Latino/a household usually includes nuclear and extended family members, resulting in extensive familial support ,(Altarriba & Bauer, 1998; Keefe & Casas, 1980).
It is due to this highly revered, close-knit family structure that many Latino/as will not seek out or speak to an unrelated third party (such as a therapist)for help and guidance. Usually that will be sought out from within the family first,(Altarriba & Bauer, 1998).
Image retrieved from http://www.glowimages.com/search/Hispanic+family+at+birthday+party.html For these reasons, it is very important to incorporate the entire family system as a component of treatment when working with Latino/a clients.
Religion is usually a part of the Latino/as life as well as a general belief in folk medicine and supernatural causation of phenomenon (Keefe & Casas, 1980).
Some people of Hispanic descent have visions of family and religious figures. This is seen as being a special event and is revered. An unfamiliar clinician may think this is schizophrenia or another mental health disturbance,(Marcos, 1988).
Image retrieved from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/461/religion-hispanic-latino
Relationship with Nature & Time
Many Latinos/as consider their relationship with nature as being a partnership,
They think that people have little control over the forces of nature. Many Latino/as focus on the present as compared to spending much time thinking about the past or the future. Past and future considerations have little effect on a person’s decision about their behavior or actions in the present,(Altarriba & Bauer, 1998). Image retrieved from http://smileyloves.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/past-present-future/
The man is to set the standard that the women of the house stay at home. Daughters often cannot date until they are in their late teens. If they do date, girls often cannot go by themselves and have to be chaperoned.
In the past years, this hierarchical structure has begun to change mainly due to economics. Women are having to work in order to help support the family,(Altarriba & Bauer, 1998).
There is a cultural value of machismo , where the man is supposed to be the one to make the decisions and money for the family. Not all Latino/a families subscribe to this. Image retrieved from http://www.simoncotter.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/man_holding_money.jpg
This is another cultural value that emphasizes harmony in relationships and avoiding conflict, (Altarriba & Bauer, 1998).
However, this value implies that a person does not discuss distressing information, no matter what they cost.
This does not always work in that individual’s favor as some things need to be discussed in a family for safety and protection issues.
Other than English, Spanish is the most common language spoken in the United States, where there are over 28 million Spanish-speaking people (U.S. Census Bureau, 2003b)
Image retrieved from http://www.fernandogomezherrero.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/maps-Spanish-speakers-2000.gif
Innovative Approaches to Counseling Latino/a People
(Santiago-Rivera & Vasquez, 2000)
Clients sometimes use both languages in sessions-- Spanish for emotional issues, English for cognitive discussions, (Rivas, Delgado- Romero, & Ozambela, 2005).
Bilingualism gives clients power as they have the choice of how they want to communicate, (Rivas, Delgado- Romero, & Ozambela, 2005).
It is important to consider language dominance when working with bilingual clients, as language choice influences speaking ability and brain processing, (Marcos,1988).
Image retrieved from http://www.kidsinmadrid.com/en/bilingualism.html
It is possible that the person could spend so much energy focusing on speaking in English that they display a flat affect. But this is not the case when speaking in Spanish, (Marcos, 1988).
People who try to speak in English when they are more comfortable speaking in Spanish might focus more on speaking in their second language than focusing on therapeutically relevant themes or ideas, (Marcos, 1988).
Sometimes speaking in the native language can help a client access memories and feelings that would not have been discovered if he/she was speaking in English.
Many Hispanics emphasize somatic symptoms with emotional issues. When interviewed in English, clinicians often interpret the symptoms as more severe than when conversing in Spanish, (Marcos, 1988).
• Using traditional proverbs are helpful when working with Latino/a clients. It conveys an understanding of the culture and its values.
• Two traditional proverbs are-- Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres . Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.
A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda. God helps early risers, (Marcos, 1988).
Image retrieved from http://www.multiculturalkids.com/images/products/thumbs/cbp02.jpg
Points of Consideration
It is recommended that the clinician begins the meeting with a handshake and greeting in the native language, even if the rest of the session will be in the non-native language. This will help to build trust and respect, (Altarriba & Bauer, 1998).
Insensitivity and a lack of understanding often leads to early termination of services by the client and/or misdiagnosis by the clinician, (Santiago- Rivera, 1995).
It is important to consider if the client wants to return to their homeland one day, how they have experienced living in the United States, how they were welcomed, and under what circumstances they came to this country if they immigrated. These factors all have a profound impact on their daily lives and psychological well-being, (Altarriba & Bauer, 1998).
At present, Latinos comprise 32.5 million or 12 percent of the population, (Vasquez, Vasquez,& Ivey, 2004).
Between 2000 and 2050 there will be an estimated 98 million Latinos. In fact, Latino’s will comprise the largest minority group among all ethnic groups, (Vasquez, Vasquez, & Ivey, 2004).
It remains our duty as clinicians to educate ourselves about and celebrate this ever-growing population.
Altarriba, J., & Bauer, L. M. (1998). Counseling the Hispanic client: Cuban Americans, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans. Journal of Counseling & Development, 76 , 389-396.
Gonzalez, R. (1967). Yo soy Joaquin. Retrieved from http://yosoyjuaquin.tripod.com/English.htm
Keefe, S. E., & Casas, J. M. (1980). Mexican Americans and mental health: A selected review and recommendations for mental health service delivery. American Journal of Community Psychology, 8 , 303-326.
Marcos, L. R. (1988). Understanding ethnicity in psychotherapy with Hispanic patients. American Journal of Psychoanalysis , 48, 35- 42.
Rivas, L. A., Delgado- Romero, E. A., & Ozambela, K. R. (2005). Our stories: Convergence of the language, professional, and personal identities of three Latino therapists. In Rastogi, M. & Wieling, E. (Eds)., Voices of color: First-person accounts of ethnic minority therapists (13-23). California: Sage Publications.
Santiago-Rivera, A. (1995). Developing a culturally sensitive treatment modality for bilingual Spanish-speaking clients: Incorporating language and culture in counseling. Journal of Counseling & Development, 74 , 12-17.
Santiago-Rivera, A. & Vazquez, L. (2000). Innovative approaches to counseling latina/o people. [video]. Available from
U. S. Census Bureau. (2003a). Detailed list of languages spoken at home for the population 5 years and over by state: 2000 . Retrieved May 16, 2011, from http://www.census.gov/population/cen2000/phc-t20/tab05.xls
U. S. Census Bureau. (2003b). Language use, English ability, and linguistic isolation for the poluation 5 years and over by state:2000 . Retrieved May 16, 2011, from http://www.census.gov/population/cen2000/phc-t20/tab01.xls
Vazquez, E., Vasquez, L. & Ivey, M. (2004). Counseling latino children and adolescents: Cross-cultural issues . [video]. Available from http://0ctiv.alexanderstreet.com.bianca.penlib.du.edu:80/View/530244
Vazquez, E., Vasquez, L. & Ivey, M. (2004). Counseling latino children and adolescents: Cross-cultural issues. [video]. Available from http://0- ctiv.alexanderstreet.com.bianca.penlib.du.edu:80/view/530244