Latinx Psychologists Share About Mental Health Training

Sebastian Lopez

Reporting on the Latinx University Collaborative session of the #NLPA2020 conference

logo of National Latinx Psychological AssociationAt the 2020 conference of the National Latinx Psychological Association (NLPA), a faculty panel from the University of Denver shared about graduate programs in psychology and social work. The professors discussed issues such as the difficulties of language barriers, the lack of interdisciplinary collaboration, and a scarcity of funding.

Training graduate students to provide mental and social care to Latinx communities, the panel described, becomes difficult when there is not sufficient funding. Similarly, where interdisciplinary collaboration between academic departments would be helpful, the will is lacking.

“I’m only at the program half time,” said Dr. Henrietta Pazos, Clinical Assistant Professor of Professional Psychology, referring to her position as director of the schools’ Latinx Psychology Specialty.

Dr. Pazos described the limitations of her program. Bilingual or Latinx students are difficult to recruit at the graduate and doctoral levels, and scarce funding is responsible for the lack of courses conducted in Spanish. Such a curriculum along with bilingual students are crucial to address mental health challenges in Latinx communities.

Professor Lorena Gabor emphasized the need for Spanish competency even beyond bilingual students. “Everybody is going to be needed to work with our Latinx communities”, said Gabor.

Professor Gabor works as the coordinator of the Latinx Social Work Certificate Program. The program aims “to educate social work students to practice effectively in the Latino immigrant community at the macro and micro level”.

During this session Gabor and Pazos proposed a collaboration between psychology and social work. This interaction represents one solution to the issue of a lack of interdisciplinary collaboration within – let alone between – universities.

Everybody is...needed to work with our Latinx communities

In addition to a lack of funding, it is also hard to find scholarships noted Dr. Julia Roncoroni, researcher at Morgridge College of Education. “It's so hard to find unless you have really solid institutional structures to do this work,” she said. Most of the responsibility that is involved in searching ends up going back onto her shoulders.

Roncoroni heads the college’s Health Disparities Research Lab and has experienced many of the obstacles her colleagues have faced, including a need for her own psychology certificate program. “I want one with all my might”, lamented Roncoroni.

However, with all the challenges discussed in this session, there were also shared moments of successes and hope looking to the future of Latinx research in mental health.

The Latinx Psychology Specialty conducts pre- and post-cultural competency surveys on trainees to allow them to reflect on their experiences in the program. "It's more around what have they learned about themselves, about where they need to go,” said Pazos. The survey results from the past 5 years have demonstrated that students have grown in their skills, cultural awareness, and knowledge.

The three panelists share the goal of connecting Latinx communities with resources and healthcare professionals who speak Spanish. By Winter 2021, Dr. Pazos’s program will have trained 46 bilingual students.

2020 conference banner of the National Latinx Psychological AssociationStudents at multiple levels of education and from different backgrounds have also expressed enthusiasm about receiving training from the programs. Gabor wished she could offer through her program a path to training for English-speakers who have expressed an interest in Latinx mental health care. The program wants to also include post-graduate students in the future.

The NLPA conference itself works toward establishing connections even if just online as occurred for this event. The 2020 conference theme was "You Are My Other Me: Creating Communities of Healting." This professional society does the work of establishing a space where professionals in the field of Latinx mental health can come together, plan strategies, and support one another.


(top) NLPA logo. (Credit: NLPA)

(bottom) NLPA 2020 Conference banner. (Credit: NLPA)


S. Lopez (2020) Latinx Psychologists Share About Mental Health Training. DiverseScholar 11:3

Sebastian Lopez graduated from Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff with a Bachelor’s degree in English literature. Mr. Lopez also worked at Northern Arizona’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management Writing Center assisting students develop their technical writing capacities. Most recently, Mr. Lopez was the Coordinator for the DiversScholar non-profit. He is working to enroll in a graduate program in Comparative Literature where he hopes to continue studies in literature and philosophy. Any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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Originally published 31-Dec-2020

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