Hispanic Americans are people who live in the United States and have a lineage and a cultural identity with Spain. In the United States, they comprise of a population sharing diverse migration histories, experiences with prejudice, racism, and discrimination. They are also characterized by the Spanish language, which ties them in spite of their acculturation experiences.
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Some prefer to be identified differently; for example, Latino, Chicano, and Mexican American while others refer to associate with their country of origin. They comprise a significant fraction of the American population of more than 35 million (Sue & Zane, 2009, p.3). Different scholars have contributed in the cultural values like the customs, language, religion, and values, which unite the Hispanic Americans.
Due to these unique experiences, counseling sessions ought to be conducted under familiar grounds. As such, creating a rapport is necessary with the psychologists expected to understand what constitutes the Latin-American heritage and what can, and cannot, be discussed in an open forum.
Conducting a counseling session requires extensive research in dealing with issues that regard the culture, the societal expectations, as well as a looking at the ideals exercised in religious settings.
Comparisons between different authors and their perceptions
Family structure and gender roles
Family commitment in different cultures is an indispensable characteristic, which involves loyalty, a strong support system, the behavior of a child, which is associated with the honor of the family, the hierarchy among the siblings, and a duty of care for family members.
The Hispanic “adolescents adopt their parents’ commitment regarding religious and political beliefs, lifestyle and occupational preferences” (Altarriba, 2003, p. 305). Sex roles exist among Hispanic Americans whereby, men stand out as dominant and inviolable.
Fraga, Atkinson, and Wampold (2004, p.55), on the other hand, analyze the family structure of the Hispanic Americans as one where the father is the authoritative figure. The relationship between parents and children is reciprocal, in that, the children are supposed to be obedient and expected to help financially, whereas parents are to provide for their children when they are young and newly married.
Any deviation from this norm would be viewed as deviating from the traditions of the Hispanic community and would cause stress amongst the family members. With the family being an integral part of the Hispanic community, a psychologist ought to utilize all the available information to realize the goals set, as well as, help them in matters regarding psychological aspects (Sue & Sue, 2003, p.178).
However, it is essential to understand that issues or conflicts may arise from the family background, and a counselor should be careful in this area. For the males, it is crucial to understand that they value their macho status. Therefore, discussing issues that concern their family may show a sign of weakness in terms of their control of their household (Biever, et al., 2002, p.331).
Sharing emotions may be regarded as a sign of weakness, and this may bring about isolation, as they are not able to discuss their frustrations with anyone. Altarriba (2003, p.309) agrees with this assertion further adding that, any slight provocation may lead to his rigidness and the use of traditional roles as a reference for his actions.
Thus, any increase in stress amounts to further trouble amongst his household members with all expected to submit to his orders. Sue and Zane (2009, p.9), contend that, the issue of women gaining employment adds anxiety to the family setting, with fears of not conforming to traditions being rife.
Therefore, a researcher needs to be up-to-date with the requirements of the society, both the traditional and the modern one, and create a session from where the two can be solved in earnest. The modern Latino woman has been exposed to the dominant culture, and this has created ripples in the family setting.
The women now question their traditional roles as they embrace the fact that, they are the breadwinners of the family in the new environment. This element, on the other hand, creates anxiety to the males as is indicated by a research conducted by Leong in 2007.
With this in mind, counseling should take place in an environment where the current aspects of the family are taken into consideration with the counselor acting as a mediator, well versed with the current and previous happenings. It also calls for what Sue and Zane (2009, p.10) term as, patience as they need not impose their own values on the client, especially if they are from a different race or ethnicity.
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Religion and spirituality also play a leading role in counseling sessions. With 70% of Hispanics being Catholics, and 23% Protestants, there is a need to engage religious aspects in solving some of the problems encountered. Latinos have a strong belief in prayer and sacrifice, and this means a lot to them in their everyday interactions (Biever, et al., 2002, p.334; Leong, 2007, p.265).
They perceive trials and tribulations as part of their life’s endurance requirements. They may also avoid counseling sessions, as they believe that, they are resigned to their fate, as it is God’s will for them to face their tribulations. If nothing is done early enough, these people may end up suffering in silence waiting for their trials to end and continue with their daily activities.
As a counselor, one should understand that Hispanics view health as harmony between the body, mind, and soul (Altarriba, 2003, p.311; Fraga, Atkinson & Wampold, 2004, p.58). In addition, the counselor ought to offer alternative forms of counseling if there is a belief in the mind-body connection. This may result in the use of methods such as imagery, mediation, hypnosis, biofeedback, or relaxation to achieve maximum effect.
The process of acculturation also brings with it stressful moments. Fraga, Atkinson, and Wampold (2004, p.63) stipulate that, women acculturate faster than men do. Further, there are psychological and social difficulties that they undergo, which strain the ties between the members of the family. The different stages of acculturation are tedious and may end up changing the family setting.
By being farther apart from their extended families, their source of income, as well as financial stability, is destabilized with women opting to look for jobs to supplement their husbands’ earnings. With their ability to learn English faster than the males, they get integrated faster into the new setting and suddenly the roles change, as women become the breadwinners for the family (Altarriba, 2003, p.315).
The men are thus threatened, and women become more empowered. The children, on the other hand, lose touch with their traditions and hold on to the new traditions rather than maintain their real identity. Thus, the rift between the parents and their children widens.
The generational changes and status should also be assessed with language issues being a point of considerable concern (Sue & Sue, 2003, p.192). If they can communicate effectively in all languages, then they ought to be encouraged to come up with a strategy of harmonizing their differences.
Consequently, dealing with less acculturated families also requires an orientation into what counseling occurs with solution-based therapies being served (Sue & Zane, 2009, p.14).
In a recap, it can be noted that Hispanics are a community with different affiliations and different needs altogether. Thus, counseling services ought to be done in a way that appreciates their background, their culture, as well as their social constructs. This may be achieved with different methods as found fit after a counselor has understood the basis of the problem and the ideals of the society the families currently live in.
It should also be noted that counseling is an integral aspect of culture with each community holding on to that which it views as part of their past. It is vital to respect the culture and uphold one’s beliefs.
However, further research ought to be done to establish whether there exists any relationship between mental illness, gang-affiliated Hispanics and acculturation issues. For a long time, the issue of people being treated for mental illnesses amongst Hispanics has increased with measures not sufficiently being postulated.
Altarriba, J. (2003). Does Caroño Equal “Liking”? A Theoretical Approach To Conceptual Nonequivalence between Languages. International Journal Of Bilingualism, 7, 305-322.
Biever, L., Castaño, T., De Las Fuentes, C., Gonzólez, C., Servín-López, S., & Sprowls, C. (2002). The Role of Language in Training Psychologists to Work With Hispanic Clients. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 33, 330- 336.
Fraga, D., Atkinson, R., & Wampold, E. (2004). Ethnic Group Preferences for Multicultural Counseling Competencies. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 10, 53-65.
Leong, F. (2007). The Role of Acculturation in the Career Adjustment of Asian American Workers: A Test of Leong and Chou’s (1994) Formulations. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 7(3), 262-273
Sue, W., & Sue, D. (2003). Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice (5th Ed.). New York: Wiley Publications.
Sue, S., & Zane, N. (2009).The Role of Culture and Cultural Techniques In Psychotherapy: A Critique and Reformulation. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 5(1), 3-14.