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Culture in Therapy

In therapy as clients, and also as clinicians, I find it is necessary for us to be cognizant of culture in our work. As clinicians, we can sometimes make the mistake of “prescribing” or suggesting clients do things that bring forth deep conflicting feelings or cannot resonate with them. Then we miss the mark and become unrelatable. 

In a previous post, I talked about the privileged response “leave your job” to end suffering. This is one example of how a suggestion can feel alienating and unrelatable. I’ve worked with folx who have the privilege of leaving their work and staying afloat. I also work with people who cannot leave their work and need their employment to remain in our country. 

In the Latinx culture, family ties can be important. When we consider differentiation- we understand that to differentiate oneself from family (and others) means to distinguish your feelings and thoughts from another’s. This is important if we are not to have fused, symbiotic, enmeshed relationships. However, we must also take into account the folx who are caregivers taking care of su mamas, abuela/o, tias/tios, and how the importance of caring for them is in our culture. It may be tempting to dissuade a person from not caring for their relative—especially if you’re standing on the outside looking in, unaware of cultural roles and the importance of caring for the person is in this person’s life. To do so, can push people away and can also actually have the adverse affect of eliciting shame onto clients. 

It’s important we meet clients where they’re at and work with the values that are important to them. Let us not colonize our client’s values, belief systems, and practices. Let us make space for them in our work together.

Clients- ask yourself the above questions. Make sure you hold your answers close to your heart. Your family values are worth protecting- all the ones you wish to keep and resonate with you. If any values cause conflict for you- how can you tweak them to make them fit you a little better? 

Being seen in therapy, and life, is about being seen and experienced as your truest self. 

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