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UTEP professors create program for social workers that targets Hispanics

utep social workers

EL PASO, Texas - Social workers across the country can train under a new program created by two UTEP professors.

Professors Mark Lusk and Silvia Chavez Baray believe to effectively treat Hispanics, the social worker needs to be sensitive to the Hispanic culture. Together they created "Cultural Competency and Resilience in Social Work Practice with Hispanics," available online for free.

To see the video and learn about the program, click here. Training videos are in both English and Spanish.

In one training video, Baray is meeting with a Mexican-American girl who has an eating disorder. In another a social worker is meeting with a Hispanic woman who's been sexually assaulted.

"If a client comes to a therapist, and the therapist is insensitive to their cultural orientation, then they're likely not to come back," Lusk said.

Social workers and licensed therapists are many times the first people a veteran, abused child or a bipolar patient will see at hospital. Yet less than five percent in the country are Hispanic. This means Spanish-speakers can't use their preferred tongue, and the therapists listening can't get the client to open up.

"For example a Mexican male will never admit that he has any kind of a mental disorder," said program volunteer Joe Palomo. "That's just not done in the Hispanic culture because it's a sign of weakness."

In their new program, Lusk and Baray show social workers how to help someone steeped in the Hispanic culture. Instead of focusing on the individual, which works with many white clients, therapists will learn how to incorporate family and faith in treatment.

"There are enough obstacles facing minority clients to get access to mental health, without having therapists who are insensitive and incompetent," Lusk said.

The project has been funded by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health since 2010. The Hogg Foundation advances recovery and wellness in Texas by funding mental health services, policy analysis, research and public education. 


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