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Louisville nonprofit leader says Hispanic and Latinx residents need culturally sensitive counselors

A woman smiles while standing in front of a sign that says "LA CASITA CENTER"
Karina Barillas
/
Facebook
Grant funding from the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods could help La Casita Center expand some of its trauma services.

Members of Hispanic and Latinx communities can find it hard to ask for support and find counselors who empathize with culturally specific traumas and challenges, according to a Louisville nonprofit leader.

La Casita Center, which serves Hispanic and Latinx communities, is getting a boost as it joins the city’s Trauma Resilient Communities Healing Project. The city recently awarded the center $834,000 in grants to expand its counseling and trauma assistance services.

WFPL’s Divya Karthikeyan spoke to Karina Barillas, executive director of La Casita Center, about what culturally specific trauma assistance looks and sounds like, and why it’s important to meet Hispanic and Latinx communities where they are when they need support. This interview was edited for clarity and length.

Could you tell me about how trauma assistance and trauma informed care as part of this program has been specifically tailored for Hispanic and Latino immigrants? What are those unique challenges that they're facing?

It’s not one trauma or the other. You know, the trauma of being exploited by my employer, the trauma of having a being a witness of of murder in front of me, the trauma of of surviving racism and profiling on the daily basis, the trauma of the transition from my home country to here, the trauma that I face back home, the trauma of domestic violence - it is not one or the other. So because eurocentrically speaking, you have to separate all of them. But in some cases, they are so intertwined that you cannot separate them.

Could you talk to me about the stigma, and also the logistical challenges that keep Hispanic and Latinx immigrants from really asking for that psychological help, because I understand that this is a culture that's built on collectivism? 

In our communities, asking for support is very hard. It is not a matter of pride. It’s a matter of dignity. And it's a matter of values. So being there already is very stressful.

There are a lot of people in our communities that don't read and write in any language. There are a lot of people in our community that don't speak English. And some of them don't even speak Spanish as their first language. The lack of digital literacy is, you know, it's a reality for us. So there are so many of these factors.

When we talk about culturally specific, that's what we're talking about. We're talking about using platforms and strategies, using what the person has access to, and in the way that he will make sense to them.

What's the best way to meet immigrant communities where they are so they can get the help that they need?

A lot of families prefer services over the phone because of transportation. If you don't have a car in Louisville, it is very difficult to get from one place to the other. If you have five children, can you imagine traveling one hour for an appointment with five children? It is insane.

People prefer the phone because time is money. If you don't work, you don’t have what it takes to pay your bills.

Karina, you are a Guatemalan immigrant and you're a licensed therapist as well. When we talk about culturally specific and culturally sensitive counseling, what does that look like for Hispanic and Latino immigrants when you're sitting there in the office or on the phone with them? 

The person usually tells us their whole story and while the person is telling us their story, it cannot be just like how regular Eurocentric mainstream psychology practices go. “Okay, I can talk to you only for 20 minutes.”

But a person will tell us a story from beginning to end, or what happened 20 years ago or 30 years ago, and having the patience of and the love and the kindness to listen to this while getting the information without asking questions helps. because of the trust we have and the way that the conversation is being handled.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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