Some Hispanic Americans tend to have a distrustful view toward non-Hispanic Americans mental health professionals, due in part to the long history of hostility, prejudice and injustice they have experienced as a group. Catholicism has also had a great influence on the worldview of Hispanics in general. The relationship between a non-Hispanic counselor and Hispanic client could be influenced by that. For example, when a Caucasian counselor who is not culturally competent regarding the influences of those elements attempts to create rapport with a client, there is a possibility that he or she will fail in that attempt (Sue & Sue, 2008).
Acknowledge Differences to Make a Difference
The traditional therapeutic worldview of some non-Hispanics could be a barrier in genuinely understanding why the disconnect exists. Lack of training or experience might be part of the problem as well. Demonstrative, tactic interaction among Hispanics is considered normal within the culture and this might need to be acknowledged in the counseling session on some level although that might not be the same norm in the European American culture. Feeling social and intimate creates a sense of familiarity and comfort for most Hispanics and therefore, if the counselor is emotionally and socially distant and cold, it can inadvertently put a barrier between the client and the counselor (Sue & Sue, 2008).
Acknowledge the Role of Religion
Hispanics might seek counseling from someone who they believe they can relate to better, such as another Hispanic. Although this might not necessarily be fair or guaranteed, it starts them off with a greater sense of trust in the process of counseling. Catholicism influences this group greatly and they are more likely to seek guidance form a church leader before they would a professional, clinical authority figure (Sue & Sue, 2008).
Acknowledge Family and Friends as Vital Partners
It is also very important that a non-Hispanic counselor recognize how intricate family and friends are to the every day life of most people of Hispanic heritage. This is a fact that must be affirmed and recognized as vital rather than dysfunctional within that group. Godmothers, aunts, cousins and other family members carry a lot of weight in the care of the entire family as a unit. They must be valued and considered influential and important to each client as a general rule (Sue & Sue, 2008).
By Xiomara A. Sosa
Clinical Mental Health – Forensic Counselor (Intern)
XAS Consulting, LLC (www.xasconsulting.com)
Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.