Latin American Women in the Context of Counseling
It is not a secret that culture and ethnicity exert a tremendous impact on the behavior of a person as well as on the views and the decision-making process. It is possible to interpret culture as the driving force of behavioral peculiarities. Due to this reason, a human services professional should be able to differentiate between different cultures and know all the peculiarities in order to provide the patient with effective treatment. The purpose of this research paper is to shed light on the particular subgroup of population, namely Latin American women. The study of this subgroup is relevant to the counseling profession due to the fact that sometimes Latinas are badly in need of help from human services as they face discrimination, leading to psychological problems. Latin American women in the course of time face problems of different nature that have psychological implications. In fact, the lifestyle exerts a profound impact on the individuality of Latinas.
Latinas: General Information
To start with, it is necessary to state that while researching into Latin American women, one should not limit the findings toward Latin America’s countries only such as Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina, among others because of the endless migration and acculturation processes. However, it is worth mentioning that the concept of this particular population subgroup is rather ambiguous as it encompasses Brazilian, Venezuelan and other women as well as the ones that have migrated to the United States seeking for better life. Specifically, in the context of the counseling profession in the United States, it is reasonable to conduct the analysis of Latinas or Hispanics in the American settings.
Cultural diversity in the United States in particular tends to manifest itself in the presence of different races and ethnicities in the American cities. The context of this research paper is limited to Latinas or people of Latin American descent; thus, Latinas are women of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican, South or Central American origin. Apparently, their arrival to the United States because of the migration processes, relation to the above-mentioned countries, or birth define them as Latinas while they mainly prefer to be called Hispanics. It is possible to find Mexican women in the West of the country, while Cubans and Puerto Ricans live in the South and Northeast respectively. In general, the majority of Latinas live in California.
Although Latinas are forced to assimilate in the United States, it is paramount to remark that this kind of assimilation will never be fully justified because of the number of reasons. Hereby, Latinas mainly come from the collectivistic cultures that are characterized by shared responsibilities and mean that men and women’s roles in the family are equal. In addition, it is necessary to emphasize that Latinas profoundly value their society. These women tend to attach the highest importance to Spanish language that they consider the main indicator of their traditions and privacy. Moreover, Latinas are very sensitive to the notion of bilingualism, and one may find the reflection of this assumption in the Latin American literature written in Spanglish. There are viable data that prove the fact that nowadays Latin Americans are moving into the middle-class. In fact, Latinas are exposed to a high level of blatant discrimination.
Not surprisingly, the majority of Latinas deeply value their religion, believing that God’s actions determine the essence of their lives. Faith becomes a turning point in this context and closely relates to the concept of ‘familismo’ that anticipates the link of religion to the entire family and health issues. Taking into account the religious beliefs of Latinas, it is reasonable to admit that most of them are Catholics, while some of the women are Protestants. Even though religion, family, and respect to their culture play an indispensable role in their lifestyles, Latinas are characterized by a certain exposure to substance abuse that becomes the reason for discrimination (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.).
The Status of Latinas in Modern U.S. Society
There exist distinctive factors determining the status of Latinas. Taking into account the status of Latin American women in particular, it is reasonable to remark that a tremendous amount of them live in rural settings. Apparently, this fact is a certain indicator of the assumption that Latinas tend to suffer from poverty. In this context, the problem of poor education arises and negatively contributes to their lifestyles. It is not a secret that the limited access to the resources exacerbates poverty and affects the independence of women from men. Moreover, poverty leads to the endless immigration processes that do not tend to satisfy the expectations of Latinas. In this particular context, it is essential to focus on Latinas born particularly in the United States and the ones that were born in Latin America and came with certain purposes. The research shows that the results of Latinas’ adjustment to the U.S. culture are negative due to the assimilative culture’s influence on the mental health (Sabina, Schally, & Cuevas, 2013). Thus, one may admit that Latinas have minority status in the USA.
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Acculturation as the Main Stressor for Latinas
Researchers mostly pay attention to the problems that occur because of acculturation processes of Latinas. Presumably, the above-mentioned assimilation negatively contributes to the lives of Latin American women as they consider it intrusion into their private language and cultural patterns. Thus, any changes transform themselves into new sources of stress that, in turn, presuppose interpersonal conflicts and family breakdowns. Generally, a distinctive variety of factors challenges Latin American individuals, among which one may find education. The problem of changing environment and immigration to the United States firstly leads to learning the new language, namely English, which is an exceedingly stressful phenomenon for Latinas. It is widely accepted that Latin Americans have been subjected to learning English because of the hackneyed truth that it is a public language. Thus, these people face some shifts from their native language to the one that is nowadays widely used and has a broad range of applications. Although bilingual education provides a solution to this problem, it does not satisfy the expectation of Latin Americans. In “Aria: A Memoir of Bilingual Childhood,” Rodriguez (2011) sheds light on the drawbacks of bilingual education, assuming that it differentiates between the public (English) and private (Spanish) languages. In this particular context, private language represents confidence, authority, and separateness from ‘los gringos.’ The author lays emphasis on his own experience and draws a conclusion that the distinction between public and private individuality in the bilingual education is a harrowing experience.
In addition, Latinas’ immigration proves to be quite a traumatic experience. In fact, it is possible to explain this statement by integrating the research based on its link to victimization and acculturation. Specifically, acculturation is a factor that conceives Latinas’ victimization, including “physical assault, sexual assault, stalking, and threatened violence” (Sabina, Schally, & Cuevas, 2013, p. 13). However, it is crucial to admit that the rates of victimization are dependent upon the levels of acculturation and the birthplace. Research shows that Latinas born in the United States experience less influence of this particular phenomenon. Presumably, the immigration status serves as a determinant for the abusers.
Exposure to Racial and Gender Discrimination
In fact, discrimination is a prevailing factor that is accountable for Latinas’ health problems. In the context of Latin American women’s life, it is evident that discrimination is also the result of the immigrant status. Apparently, it relates to acculturation as well. Nevertheless, discrimination leads to substance abuse in case with Latinas, and alcohol is among the main threats to Latinas’ health. Otiniano Verissimo (2014) examines the association that exists within the frames of discrimination and alcohol abuse. In fact, the cause of alcohol abuse is the major factor mentioned above. Therefore, Latinas continue to experience discrimination at work that triggers decreased psychological status.
Implications for the Human Service Professionals: Multicultural Competence
Evidently, evolving client needs exert tremendous effects on the human services delivery settings. The reason is that the scope of customers has increased with the course of time. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that nowadays human services delivery systems face sweeping changes in terms of clients’ needs. Although the traditional settings such as social service agencies and institutions continue providing the customers with their services, it is necessary to state that a number of new distinctive settings function within this field of work. The vivid example concerns the establishment of human services delivery systems in rural areas. As Latinas live in rural areas, a human service helper should also work in these settings. According to Woodside and McClam (2011), “those living in rural areas, which are losing population, have been disadvantaged, and are experiencing a steady erosion in their quality of life” (p. 55). By ‘erosion’, the authors mean that people who live in rural areas are badly in need of help. Therefore, it is necessary to admit that the human services professional should be ready to work in rural settings.
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It is not a secret that helping services handle the clients with a wide range of problems that generally originate from the imbalance in people’s basic needs. Undoubtedly, human services ought to adjust to these problems while constructing the suitable plans of help to those in need. Not surprisingly, the clients’ needs always differ and due to this fact, helpers should adopt special approaches in order to provide the impaired who appeal for support and professional help. Human services delivery systems should take into account all the information about the clients and the problems that they are currently facing. Moreover, they should apply their special helping skills to reduce and resolve the problem, thereby creating mutual understanding between the helper and the client. From the perspective of helpers, it is crucial to treat every client the ‘whole person’. It means that the helper should not narrow their expectations concerning a particular client to one specific problem, as usually clients require help because of facing a variety of them.
The main problem that appears within the context of human services closely connect to the developmental stages of human life. Apparently, the developmental stages relate to the abilities of a particular person to endure the changes that the developmental process presupposes. Apart from the developmental perspective, people undergo problems resulting from different kinds of accidents, crimes, natural disasters that create a situational context. As it has been mentioned above, many problems occur because of the imbalance peculiar for a hierarchy of basic human needs. Furthermore, human services also tackle rapid societal changes that may affect individuals. The societal changes can be the causes of homelessness, mental impairment and substance abuse. As for the environmental changes, they constitute the family and social institutions that exert a tremendous impact on the problems that the clients have to handle.
Not surprisingly, the counseling profession presupposes endless interactions with the impaired people that belong to different cultures due to the expansive nature of globalization. In this context, a dutiful counselor should accommodate their treatment to the main goals of the counseling profession and the cultural peculiarities of Latinas; hereby, these are self-awareness, knowledge, and skills (Remley & Herlihy, 2014). A human service helper should possess knowledge of the Latino subgroup and form peculiar skills in accordance with it. In fact, it is reasonable to shed light on the role of self-awareness in the multicultural competence. According to Ahmed, Wilson, Henriksen, and Jones (2011), the counselor’s bias should not override the client’s origin, ethnicity, race, and tradition, among others. In this context, the counselor’s self-awareness should function in a way that accepts the culture of a patient.
Seemingly, the mission of counselors should not fall under the influence of any prejudices toward Latinas. In addition, there are various reasons that prove the value of intercultural competence. Apparently, one of them is transparently obvious as it copes with cross-cultural interactions. In general, the lack of information about the cultural peculiarities of a Latin American woman may lead to endless misunderstandings and offences. Intercultural competence helps people to benefit from cross-cultural interactions. In fact, all scholars treat this topic differently, and there are multiple speculations about the importance of intercultural competence. Thus, cross-cultural communication plays one of the most important roles in the development of the counselor’s identity. Moreover, I consider it to be vital in my profession as I always confront people and their problems that may be culturally different and possess ethnic-specific peculiarities. By means of communication, I am developing my social skills that have a direct impact on my identity.
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It is significant to be culturally competent due to a number of reasons. Firstly, a professional counselor should be aware of the patient’s culture to provide them with proper psychological treatment and counseling. Secondly, there is an obvious advantage to know something about the patient’s culture because it can aid in sympathizing and understanding the client on the level of conscious decision-making. In the context of this research paper, it is important for the counselor to learn about the immigrant status of the Latina in order to determine the level of acculturation and discrimination. Thirdly, the patient is more likely to talk and express their feelings and emotions if there is a kind of trust between the counselor and the latter. The counselor that handles Latinas should be aware of the fact that this subgroup is very emotional. The knowledge of Spanish language would help the counselor to fathom the underlying meaning of the existing problem. Eventually, it is of paramount importance to show the patient that the counselor is a professional who always directs their ambitions to successful ending of treatment.
The above-mentioned suggestions highlight the essence of cultural competence. However, it is also paramount to raise the topic of the characteristics that a professional counselor should possess. Bearing in mind the previous points of the prejudice irrelevance, successful and experienced counselors possess three criteria, namely they are scientifically minded, they have skills in dynamic sizing, and they are proficient in a particular cultural group of patients (Sue, 1998). The elements serve as the components of cultural competence as well as insure the effectiveness of psychotherapy or counseling. In the case of Latinas, the counselor should make different hypotheses for the sake of clarity. Apparently, helping Latinas or any other cultural subgroups means the absence of stereotypes, as people encounter them in the daily routine. It would be reasonable to learn about the stereotypes beforehand that correspond to Latinas. Therefore, it is paramount to focus on the above-mentioned successful tactics. However, the last characteristic feature is the most comprehensible. According to Sue (1998), “culturally skilled helping professionals are able to use culturally based interventions and have the ability to translate interventions into culturally consistent strategies” (p.446). These characteristics are crucial in handling any culture. As a matter of fact, counselor growth as well as the development of personal and professional identities are a continuous process. The two dimensions, namely interpersonal and intrapersonal, should be both taken into account as personal attributes and professional training determine the identity that affects the counseling profession.
Counselors should expect continuous learning as they ought to have an individual approach to each particular patient. Patients make the counselor’s learning, frustrations, and struggles worthwhile by means of making mental efforts in order to recover. Progress in counseling is dependent on the endless development of skills by means of getting knowledge from professionals as well as socializing with the patients. However, it is reasonable to consider confidence and freedom of choice as the main features that are helpful in counseling. It is impossible to separate the counseling profession from everyday life activities and daily routine due to the reason that any professional counseling skills integrate into the daily life of one’s family. Therefore, it is reasonable to confirm that professional experiences affect personal life.
In addition, I can admit that my identity, personal as well as professional, have a great impact on my interactions with the patients. Nowadays they affect all the spheres of my life and seem to closely relate to my actions. Moreover, my moral values and beliefs determine the decision-making process. Thus, it is not a secret that ethnicity plays a crucial role in identity dimensions, and it has indirect influence on the counseling profession that I have entered.
To summarize, Latin American women are exposed to the high level of stress because of the acculturation problem defined by their immigrant status. They are the victims of discrimination and different types of abuse. Due to this reason, there are multiple implications for human service helpers and counselors in particular that put emphasis on the significance of the underlying profession and determine its main peculiarities. Therefore, one may admit that the counselor should be culturally competent to handle Latinas or any other cultural group in order to provide them with effective treatment.
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