Mariela Marin, MA, MFT, is head of the Latino Mental Health (LMH) concentration at AU Santa Barbara, as well as a 2005 graduate of the Masters in Clinical Psychology program. Process of Bilingual Group Psychotherapy is one of her favorite courses to teach.
“Group courses are an essential aspect of the training of therapists,” says Marin. “This course is set apart from the rest as half of the groups are conducted in Spanish.”
The practice of colloquial and formal Spanish language in a group setting embodies the unique multicultural identity of the concentration and gives students the opportunity to encounter shared cultural themes within a therapeutic context. When she came to Antioch in 2004 as a student, Marin was one of very few from a Latinx background. “I found myself in a traineeship where I was asked to work exclusively with monolingual Spanish speakers, and while I felt I had excellent training from my classes at Antioch, it was clear there was a need to address specific aspects of working with the Latinx community that didn’t form part of the usual approach to supervision and treatment,” says Marin.
The LMH concentration was founded a few years after Marin graduated from AUSB. When she was asked to teach in the first cohort of the LMH concentration, she was thrilled at the idea of being able to be a part of improving access and effectiveness of services for her community.
The framework of the course encourages collaboration and incisive understanding of the therapeutic experience from a cultural perspective that may differ from that of the therapist.
Students love the highly experiential nature of the course and its relevance and impact for the Latinx population.
If language is at the heart of culture and suffering is compounded by feeling misunderstood, this course provides a tool for therapists whose goal is to communicate authentically with Latinx clients, whether or not they share a common background. Understanding cultural imperatives, especially in our current political and social climate, is crucial to the health of individuals and communities.
May we all strive to practice the languages that speak to the hearts around us.
“If you talk to a [person] in a language [they] understand, that goes to [their] head. If you talk to [them] in [their] own language, that goes to [their] heart.” – Nelson Mandela