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The Need for Specialized Clinical Training in Mental Health Service Delivery to Latinos.


Research demonstrates the need for specialized clinical training to develop culturally sensitive therapists who can provide effective mental health treatment for Latinos and other ethnically diverse populations (De La Cancela & Guzman, 1991; Donahue & Thomas, 1998; O'Sullivan & Lasso, 1992). This paper proposes developing community-academic partnerships as one approach to help professionals develop cultural competent therapeutic skills.

There is a great need for mental health services health services Managed care The benefits covered under a health contract  and specialized training for Latino populations. Latinos constitute the second largest minority group in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . Of these approximately 63% identify themselves as Mexican American Mexican American
A U.S. citizen or resident of Mexican descent.

. As a group, their numbers are rapidly growing. It is projected that by the year 2010, if not sooner, they will surpass African Americans African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race.  as the nation's largest minority group (WICHE WICHE Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education , 1996).

Although Latinos are the nation's fastest growing ethnic minority population, studies show they have lower mental health utilization rates, higher dropout (1) On magnetic media, a bit that has lost its strength due to a surface defect or recording malfunction. If the bit is in an audio or video file, it might be detected by the error correction circuitry and either corrected or not, but if not, it is often not noticed by the human  rates, and fewer average sessions than other ethnic groups (Gallo, 1993). Many researchers have taken this alarming under-utilization rate to be the result of therapists not being sensitive to the needs and culture of Latino clients.

Studies have been conducted that suggest that Latinos will utilize mental health services and will remain in therapy longer if they are treated in a mental health center in their community and by individuals who are aware of their culture (O'Sullivan and Lasso, 1992). Racism, poor treatment, and the perception that one is not understood may also increase these dropout rates.

Minority clients treated by culturally insensitive in·sen·si·tive  
1. Not physically sensitive; numb.

a. Lacking in sensitivity to the feelings or circumstances of others; unfeeling.

 therapists are often over-pathologized because their cultural practices and worldviews do not fit into a Eurocentric psychological framework. Graduate student therapists who do not receive training in minority issues tend to be less aware of cultural factors that may affect treatment and are less adept in treating diverse populations.

Therefore, the question which must be addressed is "How can this problem be remedied at the preventive level within graduate programs in psychology?" Many clinical psychology graduate programs do not have specific training sites where students can receive specialized clinical training and supervision in working with ethnic minority clients. In the past decade, with changes in mainstream accrediting bodies requiring "cultural competency COMPETENCY, evidence. The legal fitness or ability of a witness to be heard on the trial of a cause. This term is also applied to written or other evidence which may be legally given on such trial, as, depositions, letters, account-books, and the like.
," there has been much more research in how cultural sensitivity can be achieved among professionals and students in training. The field of service learning has provided much valuable research on how to train students in providing culturally competent services to underserved minority groups.

Service-learning refers to experiential ex·pe·ri·en·tial  
Relating to or derived from experience.

 educational and research training which addresses social issues and community needs (Keys et al., 1999). This model provides students with the opportunities to apply classroom knowledge to community settings. Recent research has been conducted which demonstrates the link between service-learning and the development of cultural competency (Seifer, 1998; Flannery & Ward, 1999).

Service-learning has been shown to (1) increase students' interests and skills in working with minority communities; (2) increase students' understanding of cultural, community values, traditions, and customs; and (3) teach students to develop appropriate interventions and programs that incorporate culture and build on strengths. Finally, this approach provides experiential learning where students can learn in a minority community instead of congregating con·gre·gate  
tr. & intr.v. con·gre·gat·ed, con·gre·gat·ing, con·gre·gates
To bring or come together in a group, crowd, or assembly. See Synonyms at gather.

1. Gathered; assembled.

 in traditional classrooms with others similar to themselves (Flannery & Ward, 1999).

In addition, service-learning provides a means by which students can train and learn to work with minority populations in a context that combines experiential, affective affective /af·fec·tive/ (ah-fek´tiv) pertaining to affect.

1. Concerned with or arousing feelings or emotions; emotional.

, and cognitive learning. For years, social learning theory has consistently demonstrated that this combination is the most effective means of learning (Bandura ban`dur´a   

n. 1. A traditional Ukrainian stringed musical instrument shaped like a lute, having many strings.
, 1977). A review of the psychological outcome research in the last decade has demonstrated effective change to be a result of cognitive and affective understanding as well as behavioral change (Bergin & Garfield, 1994). Service-learning combines these modalities Modalities
The factors and circumstances that cause a patient's symptoms to improve or worsen, including weather, time of day, effects of food, and similar factors.
 and provides the context for training culturally competent professionals.

Given that most graduate psychology programs only have one formal academic course on ethnic minority issues, only a superficial, intellectual understanding of general multicultural mul·ti·cul·tur·al  
1. Of, relating to, or including several cultures.

2. Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.
 issues is likely to result. As much of the psychological literature demonstrates, intellectual learning alone usually does not result in change without experiential learning and action (Bergin & Garfield, 1994).

When this formula is applied to multicultural graduate clinical training, the question that arises for me is "Why don't we combine the other elements of effective learning into a culturally competent training environment?"

This paper proposes a service-learning model for specialized clinical training in working with Latino populations. This model has been based on a Latino outreach training program at the University of Denver Background and rankings
The University was founded in 1864 as Colorado Seminary by John Evans, the former Territorial Governor of Colorado, who had been appointed by US President Abraham Lincoln.
 and on extensive research specific to Latino mental health, and is intended to serve as a model for other graduate training programs, to disseminate dis·sem·i·nate  
v. dis·sem·i·nat·ed, dis·sem·i·nat·ing, dis·sem·i·nates
1. To scatter widely, as in sowing seed.

 resources, and to inspire similar efforts.

This model would also apply to developing clinical outreach training programs in other minority communities; however, supporting research and evaluation guiding program development needs to be based on the target community and population served. The program described here is intended to decrease the problem of inadequate training in Denver's Latino neighborhoods by developing outreach community partnerships that will serve as training sites. This program will also serve to incorporate more multicultural educational experiences and greater diversity training.

In this program developed at the University of Denver, a community-academic partnership was established with Mi Casa Resource Center for Women, one of the primary community support providers in the Denver Latina community and La Clinica Tepeyac, a community medical center for monolingual mon·o·lin·gual  
Using or knowing only one language.

 Spanish-speaking Latino immigrants. These partnerships operate according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 a collaborative, interdisciplinary in·ter·dis·ci·pli·nar·y  
Of, relating to, or involving two or more academic disciplines that are usually considered distinct.

 fashion where graduate liaisons and university faculty work together with representatives from the community agency to assess their people's needs and work together to provide specialized and comprehensive services.

Research has demonstrated the necessity of specialized clinical training in developing culturally sensitive therapists who can tailor mental health treatment for Latino and ethnically diverse populations (O'Sullivan & Lasso, 1992; Acosta, Yamamoto, & Evans, 1982). Culturally-sensitive therapy includes providing ethnic minority groups with services consistent with their values, increasing cultural credibility, understanding issues relevant to the client, and incorporating the client's ethnic identity into the larger framework of the self (Gallo, 1993).

The lack of adequate clinical training and culturally-appropriate supervision in working with ethnic minority clients can result in therapists perpetuating negative cultural stereotypes, over-pathologizing the client, and providing ineffective and potentially harmful treatment.

It has been demonstrated through years of research that specialized clinical training with minority clients is necessary for the development of culturally-sensitive therapists who are competent in providing services and effective treatment to diverse populations (O'Sullivan & Lasso, 1992; Acosta, 1982). This problem has a long-term impact on several groups within the system: Clinical psychology graduate students and minority clients suffer as a result of lack of adequate training; therapists graduate without the skills in providing effective treatment to ethnic minority populations; and minority clients receive ineffective and potentially harmful treatment. Given our nation's increasingly diverse and multiethnic society This article or section has multiple issues:
* It may contain original research or unverifiable claims.
* It does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by citing reliable sources.
, therapists need to have the skills and the training to provide effective mental health services to minority populations.

Building effective multicultural training programs, which produce culturally competent professionals, has been recently recognized in the strategic planning Strategic planning is an organization's process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital and people.  conference in 1995 on Latino behavioral health Behavioral health was first used in the 1980's to name the combination of the fields mental health and substance abuse. As an example, an organization serving both mental health and substance abuse clients might refer to its practice as behavioral health or  workforce development sponsored by the Western Interstate in·ter·state  
Involving, existing between, or connecting two or more states.

One of a system of highways extending between the major cities of the 48 contiguous United States.

Noun 1.
 of Higher Education higher education

Study beyond the level of secondary education. Institutions of higher education include not only colleges and universities but also professional schools in such fields as law, theology, medicine, business, music, and art.
 (WICHE). Conference speakers stressed the importance of cost, quality, access, and cultural competence cultural competence Social medicine The ability to understand, appreciate, and interact with persons from cultures and/or belief systems other than one's own  in providing services to meet the Latino communities' mental health needs.

Community-academic partnerships may be established with many different types of community agencies such as, community resource centers, primary care and mental health clinics, schools, and churches. It is important for graduate clinical programs to form partnerships with these community agencies for a number of reasons: to provide access into the Latino community, to establish standards in working with Latino clients, and to meet the needs of the Latino community. Also, these partnerships provide students with essential training in working with Latino clients and even opportunities for future internships and jobs.

Cultural competence and an awareness of Latino culture and values are essential in working with Latino clients. Much of the professional literature encouraging cultural competency among mental health providers has been produced during the past three decades. Research suggests that services for Latinos and other underserved populations need to be of the highest quality in order to deal with the multitude of factors that contribute to their health care (Pumariega, 1995).

The importance of cultural factors influencing the delivery of health care is being addressed by mainstream accrediting bodies such as the American Psychological Association The American Psychological Association (APA) is a professional organization representing psychology in the US. Description and history
The association has around 150,000 members and an annual budget of around $70m.
 (APA (All Points Addressable) Refers to an array (bitmapped screen, matrix, etc.) in which all bits or cells can be individually manipulated.

APA - Application Portability Architecture
), and the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO JCAHO Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, see there ). In fact, JCAHO requires that cultural factors affecting the delivery of healthcare be addressed in the assessment and treatment of clients (JCAHO, 1993).

For accreditation purposes, the American Psychological Association (APA) now requires doctoral students to take a course in multiculturalism multiculturalism or cultural pluralism, a term describing the coexistence of many cultures in a locality, without any one culture dominating the region.  and ethnic minority issues. Unfortunately, the APA has made only a few attempts, such as this requirement, to remedy the problem of lack of adequate training. As research suggests, however, simply having one required course in multiculturalism and having a limited exposure to minority clients without emphasis on specialized training is not enough for students to provide effective, culturally-sensitive treatment to minority clients (Ponterotto, 1998).

In the past decade, research has emphasized the need to provide specialized multicultural clinical training through university and community collaboration programs also known as service-learning (Moya, 1996; Pumariega, 1995). Service-learning refers to experiential, educational, and research training which address social issues and community needs (Keys et al., 1999).

Scholars have suggested one of the solutions for inadequate training is implementing community outreach teams (Flannery & Ward, 1999). However, as a number of Latino researchers suggest, implementing this sort of partnership would require specialized instruction, training, and supervision in advocacy and in ensuring cultural competency when working with Latino clients (Moya, 1996; Ponterotto, 1998). These authors also suggest that academic/community-training programs should also broaden their mental health conceptions to include problems having to do with welfare, housing, hospital clinics, and courts.

De La Cancela & Guzman (1991) also emphasized the importance of training programs teaching psychologists to work in natural support systems such as community support agencies when working with Latino clients to impact client and community behavior. The APA emphasizes five crucial ingredients for the establishment of specialized multicultural clinical training programs (Myers, Wohlford, Guzman, & Echemendia, 1991): (a) commitment, (b) funding, (c) extensive outreach, (d) cultural diversity (in training curricula and recruitment of minority faculty and students), and (e) social support.

Only within the past few years have clinical psychology graduate programs begun to integrate cultural diversity training into the formal curricula and clinical training. A special feature section in the Community Psychologist entitled en·ti·tle  
tr.v. en·ti·tled, en·ti·tling, en·ti·tles
1. To give a name or title to.

2. To furnish with a right or claim to something:
, "Cultural Competency in Community Research & Action," reviews a survey of all clinical psychology graduate programs where directors were asked what their programs did to promote cultural competence among their students and faculty (Cherniss, 1999). The response rate yielded twenty-one graduate clinical programs that responded to the survey. Out of these programs, diversity training usually consisted of encouraging students to take courses on race and ethnicity, and conducting research projects in minority communities. Some of these programs also offered symposia sym·po·si·a  
A plural of symposium.
 and have encouraged graduate students to teach undergraduate courses on diversity. However, as the survey reveals, few programs have gone beyond these basic approaches (Cherniss, 1999).

According to Cherniss (1999), only a very small percentage of programs have gone further to establish activities such as brown bag lunch discussions, colloquia col·lo·qui·a  
A plural of colloquium.
, research groups, and speaker series. Even fewer programs use more experiential strategies (such as those used at Rutgers, the Chicago School Chicago School

Group of architects and engineers who in the 1890s exploited the twin developments of structural steel framing and the electrified elevator, paving the way for the ubiquitous modern-day skyscraper.
 of Professional Psychology, and the University of Waikato In 2002 over 14,000 students were enrolled at the university. More than a quarter of students were aged over 25, and over half were women. It has the highest proportion of Māori students on any campus in New Zealand. ) to promote cultural competence in clinical training (1999). Of the graduate program directors who responded to the annual survey, none could report that their programs specifically addressed means to increase students' cultural competence with specific minority groups such as Latino clients. Recent literature suggests that researchers and clinicians often fail to achieve cultural competence with Latinos because of their lack of knowledge about diverse world views among Latinos, including religious, philosophical, and health beliefs (Zea & Murguia, 1999).

The pilot program at the University of Denver has been designed to improve multicultural training in a number of areas. First, the program will address the inadequate supply of specialized clinical specialists available for minority clients. In addition, graduate students will be better able to provide culturally competent mental health services to ethnic minority clients.

By having specialized training sites and more multicultural educational experiences, it is possible to increase recruitment and retain more minority graduate students in the program. In addition, when implemented, the Latino outreach program will also provide affordable mental health care to underserved Latino groups within the community.

In Colorado, research indicates that many of the social indicators of major mental health concerns of the Colorado Latino community (graduation rates, teen pregnancy, violence) can be more effectively addressed by programs which provide adequate access and culturally competent mental health services (Donahue & Thomas, 1998). It is important in the development of multicultural training programs that they be based on local research as well as community and program needs.

Unfortunately, finding therapists with specialized training in addressing minority patient needs is difficult because minorities are significantly unlikely to make use of mental health services in general. In fact, Latinos and Asians typically use mental health services the least of all ethnic groups (Sue, 1991).

Culturally diverse populations are unlikely to seek mental health services for a number of reasons: low socioeconomic status socioeconomic status,
n the position of an individual on a socio-economic scale that measures such factors as education, income, type of occupation, place of residence, and in some populations, ethnicity and religion.
, limited presence of bicultural-bilingual staff, and lack of knowledge and accessibility to facilities (Sue, 1988). The development of such programs will eliminate the problems of training and service delivery by reaching into minority communities and delivering mental health services to multicultural agencies within those communities.

Studies have shown that therapists who participate in cultural sensitivity training and receive specialized supervision provide more effective treatment to ethnic minority populations (Munoz, 1996; O'Sullivan & Lasso, 1992; Lopez, 1989). Therefore, a crucial aspect of these training programs is clinical sensitivity training and supervision with a licensed psychologist with expertise in working with culturally diverse populations. Diversity training has been shown to significantly increase therapists' knowledge and sensitivity in dealing with low-income and minority patients (Acosta, 1984; De La Cancela & Guzman, 1991).

Given the current state of multicultural training, most graduate clinical training programs are in need of programs designed to increase the diversity of the client population, increase community access to the clinic, and provide mental health care to disadvantaged ethnic minority groups within the community.


Clinical training programs must be able to adapt and change in order to the meet the needs of our rapidly changing society. Service-learning applied to multicultural training provides solutions for the problem of inadequate training as well as needed as needed prn. See prn order.  services to Latino communities. This approach is comprehensive in client care as well as in training well-rounded professionals who are prepared to meet the needs of the growing Latino population.


Acosta, F. X., Yamamoto, J., & Evans, L. A. (1982). Effective psychotherapy psychotherapy, treatment of mental and emotional disorders using psychological methods. Psychotherapy, thus, does not include physiological interventions, such as drug therapy or electroconvulsive therapy, although it may be used in combination with such methods.  for low-income and minority patients. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: Plenum In a building, the space between the real ceiling and the dropped ceiling, which is often used as an air duct for heating and air conditioning. It is also filled with electrical, telephone and network wires. See plenum cable. .

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  • John Wiley & Sons, publishing company
  • John C. Wiley, American ambassador
  • John D. Wiley, Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • John M. Wiley (1846–1912), U.S.
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MHAC Microhydranencephaly
MHAC Mental Health Association of Connecticut, Inc.
MHAC Midwest Hispanic AIDS Coalition
MHAC Manufactured Housing Association of Canada
MHAC Mental Health Association of Colorado, Inc.

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Stricker, G., Davis-Russell, E., Bourg bourg  
1. A market town.

2. A medieval village, especially one situated near a castle.

[French, from Old French, from Late Latin burgus, fortress,
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Sue, S. (1988). Psychotherapeutic psy·cho·ther·a·py  
n. pl. psy·cho·ther·a·pies
The treatment of mental and emotional disorders through the use of psychological techniques designed to encourage communication of conflicts and insight into problems, with the goal being
 services for ethnic minorities: Two decades of research findings. American Psychologist The American Psychologist is the official journal of the American Psychological Association. It contains archival documents and articles covering current issues in psychology, the science and practice of psychology, and psychology's contribution to public policy. , 43, 301-308.

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Theresa A. Salazar, M.A. Clinical Psychology, Psy. D Candidate. <>. Jesse N. Valdez, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology, Assistant Professor. <>.

Theresa A. Salazar, University of Denver, CO

Jesse N. Valdez, University of Denver, CO
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Author:Valdez, Jesse N.
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2000
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