Multicultural Counseling Success with Hispanic Families
Mike Smith, Ph.D.
December 16, 2009
There are many characteristics and commonalities among immigrants coming into the United States such as language, values, tradition, religion, and culture. They come to the United States from many different countries and yet American culture puts them into one large melting pot and calls them Latino or Hispanic without understanding their heritage or background. The individuals arriving in America from different cultures take different approaches to adjusting and adapting to American society. This paper will create awareness as to the challenges that the Hispanic population experiences living amongst a dominant American culture. There are important roles mental health professionals can play in regard to social justice and speaking out for culturally diverse families in the United States. This paper will explore the statistics surrounding the Hispanic population in the United States, Hispanic values, culture and traditions, family roles, religious influences, acculturation topics, educational challenges, the counseling process and language issues, counselor responsibilities and overcoming barriers, and psychotherapeutic approaches for multicultural counseling.
The importance to provide psychotherapy effectively with culturally diverse populations is increasing more every year as the demographics are changing dramatically in the United States. In 2006, Hispanic Americans were estimated at “44.3 million, which is 14.8 percent of total population of 299 million” in the United States. In 2010 it is estimated to increase to “47.8 million and 102.6 million by 2050.” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006) In January 2006, unauthorized immigrants were estimated at “11.6 million with 6.6 million.” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2006) Hispanic families move into cities that offer job opportunities, education, and reasonable housing for their families. The highest Hispanic populations are in California (13,074,156), Texas (8,385,139), Florida (3,646,499), New York (3,139,456), and Illinois (1,886,933). They are also in all but two of the 50 United States. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006) They often occupy the “lowest rung” of employment across American cities. They have lower incomes, higher unemployment, and higher poverty rates than the dominant Caucasian culture in the United States. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006)
Spanish-speaking people in the United States are referred to or identified by many different names—some positive and some negative. The word “Hispanic,” comes from the Latin word for Spain which is most often referring to people of a Spanish-speaking origin. “Latino” which in Spanish means "Latin" which is sometimes referencing a person that is Latino-American; meaning they are from a Latin American country. Mexican or Mexican-American is used most often when someone is from Mexico or their heritage is Mexican. There is understandably sensitivity regarding which term should be utilized.
As Hispanic parents have moved to the United States from Latin or Hispanic cultures with children or their children were born in the United States, the traditions and values from their home country may be fading over time and their “cultural values” may be challenged by American societal and cultural expectations. (Sue & Sue, 2010, p. 379) Traditional Family Structure and Values
The Hispanic family is traditional and they have “respect and loyalty” for their family. They are a strong and close family unit in which relationships are very important. The relationships are made up of traditional hierarchical authority with “special respect for elderly, parents, and males.” The Hispanic family includes parents, children, extended family, and close friends. Within most Hispanic family units, the father is the “provider for the...