Ánimo counseling program tackles shortage of mental health providers in Latinx communities
When Jennifer Coronado discovered a graduate program at Cal State Fullerton that offered a focus on Latinx counseling, she immediately knew she wanted to be a part of it.
“When I was looking for a master’s degree program, I quickly realized that many programs didn’t offer a lot of diversity,” said Coronado ’21 (MS counseling-Ánimo: focus on Latinx counseling), who identifies as being both Mexican and American.
Latinxes are California’s largest ethnic group: US Census Bureau data released in August shows California’s Hispanic population grew 11% between 2010 and 2020, accounting for about 40% of the 40 million people in the country. State.
But the state has one of the biggest gaps in Spanish-speaking mental health providers. According to the American Psychological Association, only 5.5% of psychologists can provide services in Spanish.
A need for bilingual and culturally sensitive counselors
Launched in 2018, Ánimo: Latinx Counseling Emphasis is one of two public master’s programs in the United States accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. In addition, less than 10 master’s, doctoral, public and private programs in the country offer bilingual or bicultural counseling training. (“Ánimo” comes from the Spanish verb “animar”, which means to encourage, to give spirit, to motivate.)
Led by Olga Mejía, associate professor of counseling, the program consists of five master’s-level counseling courses that prepare graduates to provide bilingual and bicultural counseling to Latinx clients and families. Ánimo courses are offered in English and Spanish to meet the needs of students.
“The Ánimo program trains and empowers bilingual and culturally sensitive counselors to break down barriers in mental health to ensure quality care for the Latinx community,” said Mejía. “The program responds to the critical shortage of bilingual and culturally sensitive professional counselors who can provide therapeutic care to Latin American and Spanish-speaking adults and children.
“There are not enough bilingual, bicultural mental health clinicians to meet the needs of the Latinx community.”
Addressing health care disparities
“I felt seen when I discovered this emphasis. It gave a voice to my Latina side when I entered the consulting business, ”Coronado said. “It gave me a feeling of belonging to the education system, which has always been oriented towards non-minorities.”
Since graduating, Coronado has secured employment as a clinical therapist with the Long Beach Guidance Center and Long Beach Unified School District.
“My training has helped me better understand the different struggles that minorities may face, whether related to culture, identities, socio-economic status or migration status,” she explained. “No one person is the same, and when developing treatment plans or making a diagnosis, one person should be seen as a whole. “
The Ánimo program addresses relevant issues such as immigration and cultural change, the dismantling of anti-black racism within the Latinx community, Spanish therapeutic and cultural value systems, heterogeneity within Latinx groups, intergenerational family conflicts, ethnic identity patterns and the intersectionality of various other identities. (eg race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, social class).
In the long term, Mejía plans to increase enrollment from 18 to 36 students per year, develop a clinic where students provide counseling services under the supervision of faculty, offer scholarships and research assistantships and develop a doctoral program in the training of counselors.
“This type of training is needed in mental health because it has been missing for so long. Mental health is taboo in so many cultures, and it needs to be talked about, ”Coronado said. “It starts by helping others to better understand why these stereotypes exist and how culture has played into them for centuries. Training mental health clinicians in cultural competence is important in the fight for equity and social justice.