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October is Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month

National Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, histories, and contributions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans. The month-long observance begins on September 15, the anniversaries of independence for several Central American countries, and ends on October 15, which coincides with Día de la Raza.

This is a time of celebration, but for mental health professionals, also a time for reflection on persistent and deep disparities in access to effective treatment.  It is essential that we increase the number of linguistically and culturally competent mental health professionals. One way we are addressing this in the Mental Health Training Program is through the expansion of the Bilingual and Bicultural specialty training program. Although there are numerous Latinx community members who have made significant contributions to the field of psychology and mental health, this month we are highlighting one professional and two Mental Health Training Program trainees who we feel have made exemplary contributions.

Dr. Martha Bernal (1931-2001) was the first Latina to receive a Ph.D. in psychology in the United States and made significant contributions to the advancement of ethnic minority psychology.  Dr. Bernal contributed significantly to the early development of two important areas in the field of psychology (Vasquez & Lopez, 2002). The first was to bring the rigors of learning theory to the treatment and assessment of children with behavior problems. This contributed to an increase in the use of empirically validated interventions in child treatment across our field.  Second, through both her scholarship and professional activities, Dr. Bernal helped to advance a multicultural psychology – one that recognizes the importance of diversity in training, recruitment, and research.  We encourage you to read more about Dr Bernal if you are unfamiliar with her work.

As we acknowledge National Hispanic Heritage Month and Dr. Bernal, we would also like to show our appreciation for all our trainees who reflect this heritage and celebrate two participants of the bilingual/bicultural (Spanish) Training Program in Oakland, Aissa Cabrales and Jorge Alvarado Grajeda.

Aissa Cabrales, is a premaster student from UC Berkeley. Aissa chose to participate in the MHTP Bilingual Specialty program to honor her identity as Mexican American. When asked about what drew her to this particular specialty training program, Aissa stated “There are not so many training programs for Social Work trainees that allow you to learn and be supervised directly in Spanish, but this particular one emphasizes this and also the importance for the care of our LatinX patients.  Including bicultural aspects when building a treatment plan, and culturally adapting evidence based therapeutic interventions to enhance their efficacy are strengths of this program. This choice brings me closer to my community, and ready to help patients who identify between these two cultures as I do. “ Although Aissa just recently began her training with MHTP, she is already contributing by co-leading a therapy group in Spanish. Jorge Alvarado Grajeda, AMFT, a post-master’s associate clinician who completed the Kaiser Permanente bilingual/bicultural training three years ago, reports that “getting a chance to own my skills as a Spanish-speaking clinician and getting real, practical experience working with Kaiser Permanente patients in the community proved invaluable.” Jorge Alvarado Grajeda is now also a presenter in the bilingual program, and he helps the new trainees to understand better cultural aspects of the Hispanic LBGTQ+ community.

Learn more about the observance of National Hispanic and Latnix Heritage month:

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

APA President Thema Bryant, Cynthia de las Fuentes, and Luz Garcini discuss the power of Latinx cultural identity, the contributions of Latinx psychologists to the field, and more.

Ways to honor and celebrate National Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month

Show support and allyship by using the Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month Teams background. September celebrates Latinx Heritage month (September 15-October 15), Rosh Hashanah (Sept 25-27) and Intergenerational Month.

Contributed by Dr. Chinue Brown and Patrizia Meunier

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