Currently, the Latino population comprises the largest ethnic minority group in the U.S. yet is disproportionally underrepresented within MFT graduate training programs, both in terms of faculty and students. While existing literature has focused on how MFT training programs can become culturally sensitive, attract and retain students from ethnic minorities, and subsequently produce culturally competent therapists able to meet the needs of underserved communities, few studies have focused on the experience of Latinos specifically. Additionally, some attention has been paid in the literature to cross-cultural collaborations among students and faculty but specifics regarding what works and doesn’t work, as well as implications for developing respectful, positive, and supportive faculty-student relationships are not as prevalent.
My own personal experience as a Colombian female in MFT training led to the development of an original study that explored the lived experience of Hispanic/Latina females training in MFT in the United States. Utilizing interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), I examined the impact culture and gender had on the training experiences of 12 Latina students and professors in various stages of MFT training. The findings highlight the wide range of complex, rich, and sometimes challenging experiences of Latinas as they aim to succeed in academia. The results of the study illustrate circumstances in which Latinas struggle in environments where diversity issues are not well attended to, marginalization is experienced, and the Latino culture is discounted. Additionally, the findings bring to light the lack of crucial support and mentorship from other Latinas available in the field but also expand on the unique experiences of Latinas who are thriving in academia. These findings have implications for the future training of Latinas, including what MFT training programs, faculty, and supervisors can do to ensure the continued growth of Latina/o representation in the field. Furthermore, through the process of conducting this study, I developed a successful cross-cultural mentorship relationship with my faculty chair. The process of working together was explored during a videotaped dialogue that took place during an MFT graduate class in which the mentorship relationship was dissected to unveil elements that facilitated or impeded positive collaboration.
In the upcoming AAMFT Conference workshop entitled Building Pathways of Success for Latinas in MFT Training, participants will learn of both the successes and struggles of Latinas training in MFT and how gender and the Latino culture play a role in their academic experience. Additionally, participants will learn how training programs can better meet the needs of Latino students and discuss the importance of creating a community of Latinos and increasing collaboration across all MFT training programs in the U.S. Audience members will be engaged in a dialogue about how the field of MFT can continue to improve upon the training of future family therapists and address the lack of diversity in the field. Video excerpts will be shown in order to encourage further discussion and build upon the ideas and findings of the research and the experiences of the presenters and audience members.
» AAMFT16 is in Indianapolis from September 15-18. Register here! If you are already registered and would like to attend this session (210) call our office at 703-838-9808.
Laura Milena Ganci is the Director of Research and Evaluation for the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, where she oversees the performance evaluation of nearly 150 funded programs. She holds a Ph.D. in Family Therapy with her dissertation research focusing on the training experiences of Latinas in Family Therapy education. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Qualified Supervisor in the state of Florida.