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The Psychotherapy Curriculum

CULTURAL COMPETENCE: The Immigrant Experience

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Program Description

The domain of clinical practice currently faces a crisis of competence and conscience in the treatment of those clients whose ethnicity, race, or class renders them minority groups in American society. Even with the best of intentions and belief in our own objectivity/impartiality, we unwittingly, even unconsciously impose presumptuous interpretations and interventions on clients’ lives. So, we shouldn’t be shocked to learn that ethnic minority groups are the smallest users of mental health services. Furthermore, when these groups do use treatment, they show the highest premature termination rate of any social group. Something is wrong here! Our clinical training programs need to step up to this challenge.

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this program, participants should be able to

Recognize the impact of “White Theory” and the underlying cultural assumptions of our therapeutic models on ourselves as therapists and on clinical practice with minorities

Recognize the feelings of loss and shame that many “non-regular” Americans and American migrants feel.

Identify some of America’s many broad immigration tracks and categories.

Determine the questions and processes of helping immigrants develop a shared story about their migration.


Ethnicity and Immigration - Monica McGoldrick

Dr. McGoldrick discusses the ethno-centered value presuppositions that inform theories of normal human development and related views of psychopathology.

Jumping through the hoops of Immigration - Kenneth Geman, J.D.

Family reunification has stood as a central pillar of the US Immigration system. However, immigration laws have implications that go well beyond actual admissions. These laws not only determine who is allowed to immigrate and through which channels, but they also shape the composition of immigrant families and, by doing so, they affect immigrant households’ economic opportunities and their ability to integrate into American society. In principle, our immigration law recognizes the right of US citizens and lawful permanent residents to be reunited with close family members born abroad. However, a closer look at the actual impact of current immigration laws on families reveals that many legal provisions of the laws threaten this reunification. Here to give us an overview on the complexities of our immigration system and the concomitant emotional repercussions of these laws is attorney Kenneth Geman.

Migration and Separation - Celia Falicov, Ph.D.

Latinos in the United States constitute a significant and sizable population that mental health professionals must serve appropriately. In her book, Latino Families in Therapy, our speaker in this interview, Dr. Celia Falicov, writes that, “Even when freely chosen, the transition of migration is replete with loss and disarray –there is loss of language, separation from loved ones, the intangible emotional vacuum left in the space where “home” used to be, the loss of community, and lack of understanding of how jobs, schools, banks, or hospitals work. Immigrants are rendered vulnerable, isolated, and susceptible to individual and family distress.” She states that it is impossible to do cross-cultural work without critical cultural and sociopolitical self-awareness on the part of the practitioner, and refers to the term, “Cultural Humility” to describe what this takes.

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Client Testimonials

“These programs are excellent. Barbara Alexander is very well-read and asks excellent questions.”

... Ona H.

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