Bilingual counseling program at UTSA addresses broad shortage of Latino mental health services – UTSA Today

“This inequality in mental health service puts these communities at a higher risk for more severe and persistent forms of mental health conditions, because without treatment, mental health conditions often worsen,” said counseling professor Heather Trepal who is part of a team of UTSA faculty within the College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) who lead the Bilingual Counseling Certificate training program.

Currently there are about 70 mental health training programs across the country. UTSA is one of only four programs with full accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) that offers a specialized bilingual counseling training program for both school and clinical mental health counselors.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health in 2015, about half of Latino millennials did not receive mental healthcare. The barriers for mental healthcare became worse during the pandemic. Now it’s estimated that about six in 10 Hispanic adults with reported mental health issues have not received any treatment.

Participants seeking UTSA’s 12-graduate credit hour Bilingual Counseling Certificate must pass a Spanish language assessment, complete two courses in the Bicultural Bilingual Department focused on culture and counseling skills and complete mental health field work in Spanish, including supervised counseling sessions with Spanish-speaking clients. The program offers language assessments and remedial programs to help students strengthen their communication skills in Spanish.

Assistant professor Claudia Interiano-Shiverdecker, who co-leads the Bilingual Counseling Certificate program and teaches one of the required mental health courses in Spanish, is instructing students how to best attend to culture and language when counseling the Latino community.

“How do you translate ‘self-care’? This idea doesn’t translate too well in Spanish,” Interiano-Shiverdecker said. “We make sure that we rely on concepts that resonate with the Latino community.”

The UTSA Bilingual Counseling Certificate is part of a strong mental health curriculum at the university. UTSA currently offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs for those entering the mental health fields, including those interested in serving primary and secondary schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were an estimated 5 million bilingual learners in the U.S. public school system last year alone, yet there is a shortage of bilingual school psychologists. UTSA addresses this shortage by offering a pipeline of well-trained mental health professionals to address the needs of K-12 students.

The UTSA Department of Counseling has offered training during the most difficult times for the community. In 2017, the department received nearly $2 million to create curriculum and services to address …….


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