Latino therapists who work primarily with Mexican or Mexican-American clients in the United States are more likely than their counterparts in Mexico to have doctorates, to practice a wide range of therapy types including psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral therapy, and to see self-disclosure as an important aspect of the therapy alliance, according to qualitative research by Miguel Gallardo, PsyD, of Pepperdine University and colleagues.
By contrast, the Mexican psychologists in this study were more likely to have master’s degrees, to practice psychoanalysis, and to view self-disclosure with caution, noted the research team, whose members included Pepperdine graduate students Raquel Tovar Goodwin and Laura Zamora, and Washington State University graduate student Nahal Kaivan. They shared their results in a skill-building session Friday called “Tailoring Psychotherapy to Latino/a Communities.”
Apart from those differences, though, psychologists in both the United States and Mexico reported similar approaches to working with clients, who tended to be poor and either Mexican or Mexican-American. For one thing, both groups—19 psychologists in the United States and 21 in Mexico City—recommended making strong, egalitarian connections with these clients, who often feel disempowered.
“Building a business is not the way to build a business,” as one study participant put it. “That’s not the way to make a client trust you.”
They also suggested promoting clients’ psychological comfort by validating their culture, they told the team. One psychologist painted her walls a rich mango color; others talked about the importance of respecting religious practices that might differ their own, such as praying to saints.
That said, it’s also wise to beware of cultural stereotypes with this or any other ethnic group, Gallardo emphasized. For instance, families are important in Mexican culture, but they’re also important in other cultures. However, there are high rates of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Mexican families.
“What ultimately matters is that the client feels you understand where they’re coming from,” no matter where that is, another participant told the team.