Counseling Latina/Latino Clients
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
In Counseling Latina/Latino Clients, Dr. Patricia Arredondo demonstrates her contextual, psychohistorical approach to therapy with clients whose heritage is from one of the many Spanish speaking countries. Her approach takes into consideration not just the client as an individual, but the client in context. This means attending to the client's culture, family traditions, religious beliefs, current situation, and historical context.
In this session, Dr. Arredondo helps a 39-year-old Latina woman work out how to fit the changes in her life into the context of her family's expectations of her as well as her own life goals.
Dr. Arredondo stresses the importance of culture when working with any client, not just Latino/Latina clients: It is always helpful to look at a client's background, upbringing, and family influences as one gathers information about a client. When working with Latino/Latina clients in particular, it is necessary to consider the client's individual heritage: Latino culture varies so significantly among the many Spanish speaking countries, and even among regions of individual countries, that it is impossible to generalize about a Latino/Latina client.
That said, there are some common traits in Latino culture that may be useful as a guide for working with Latino/Latina clients. The most important of these also happens to be a good general rule of therapy: Build rapport with the client. Latino culture values personalismo, or one-on-one relationships between people, so working toward building a good therapeutic relationship should be the first goal of therapy. Personalismo also involves confianza, or demonstration of trust so that the client will be responsive and participatory.
The main approach Dr. Arredondo recommends is working with clients within their context, including ethnic and family heritage and traditions. The client's family and cultural background must be understood if the therapist is to treat the individual, especially in Latino/Latina clients, for whom the family (familia) is usually central. She also recommends a psychohistorical approach to therapy, which is based on Erickson's ideas about taking a chronological history of the client's major life events. Thus, learning about the client's ethnic history as well as personal history may help in the treatment, both as a way of knowing where the client has come from and as a means of discerning his or her goals for the future.
In addition, knowing how a client may have been affected by racism or prejudice because of his or her background may come into play in therapy, especially with Latino/Latina clients, who may have been discriminated against recently or in the past because of language differences, color, national heritage, or other negative projections on the basis of ethnicity. Keep in mind, however, that generalizing about a client's experiences is not productive: It is important to be sensitive to these issues and to be aware that they may arise during the course of therapy.
Patricia Arredondo, EdD, is senior associate, vice president, and advisor for Academic Initiatives and professor of counseling/counseling psychology at Arizona State University. She is known for her scholarship in the areas of multicultural competencies, organizational diversity management, and Latino psychology.
She has served as president of national associations including the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues), the American Counseling Association, the National Latina/o Psychological Association, and the Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development. She is an APA fellow of Divisions 17 (Society of Counseling Psychology) and 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues) and was recognized as a Living Legend for her contributions to multicultural counseling by the American Counseling Association. Dr. Arredondo holds an honorary degree from the University of San Diego.
- Arredondo, P. (2002). Mujeres Latinas-santas y marquesas [Latin women: Saints and royalty]. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 8, 1–12.
- Arredondo, P. (2004). Psychotherapy with Chicanas. In R. J. Velasquez, L. Arellano, & B. McNeill (Eds.), Handbook of Chicana/o psychology and mental health (pp. 231–250). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Santiago-Rivera, A., Arredondo, P., & Gallardo-Cooper, M. (2002). Counseling Latinos and la familia: A guide for practitioners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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