Samantha Davila, LCSW here joined by Alma Mena, LCSW-S, we are both therapists at Austin Therapy For Girls and love working with Latinas! September 15th, is the start of Hispanic Heritage Month and us being Latinas, we decided to speak about our own experiences and quick tips for how Latinas can improve their mental health this month. Culture goes beyond race or skin color and for anyone reading this we challenge you to examine your own cultural norms, past and present and the impact it’s made on your mental health. I think some of what we share may resonate with a wide variety of people from varying backgrounds. While there are commonalities as Latinas there is unique and individual experience within our cultural group.
My story starts when my parents immigrated from the beautiful country of Peru and built a home in Connecticut. I am the middle child of five siblings and we are first generation native born in our family. I grew up with a mixture of Peruvian and American culture and this is how I have a shared experience with my clients. I enjoy using my knowledge about being a part of two cultures, in the work I now do with the Latinx youth. I definitely have had some laughs and wholehearted conversations with my clients about the Latina experience.
Sam is still accepting new clients : Click Here to learn more about Sam.
As a woman of color and a Latina therapist, I reflect on my childhood, how I was raised and parented, and meaningful experiences and events that have formed me. While I cherish and have such pride in my Mexican background, I can’t deny the challenges connected to it as well. From a young age I grew aware of the stigma around mental health, colorism, cultural and religious judgment tied to shame, sexism, and other unhealthy generational patterns. However, our storytelling is rich, it does not get lost over time. I value the knowledge I have about my ancestors down to my Mayan roots. There is Familismo – a central Latino cultural value. that involves dedication, commitment, and loyalty to family. The vivid memories of family get togethers with tamales, mole and flan, events, rituals, and celebrations like Dia De los Muertos, Christmas Eve dinner and midnight mass, the language, the art. All of this is beautiful and it should be welcomed, celebrated, and applauded and passed onto future generations. This sense of identity fortifies my self image and worth today. One of my biggest tasks as a mother is to make sure I interrupt the unhealthy and pass on all the richness in our culture, our worth and strength.
Alma is still accepting new clients:: Click Here to learn more about Alma
Sam here, in my household growing up, we didn’t speak about mental health, the way I now speak about it as a therapist. The stigma of seeking mental health treatment, in my opinion, is one of the biggest barriers for Latinas. It is the idea that going to therapy is seen as a “sign of weakness” or “inability to take care of yourself”. For anyone, it is hard to be vulnerable and ask for help. It is terrifying to ask for what you need and know that it might go against the social norms. For all Latinas out there, don’t be discouraged to ask for what you need when it comes to your wellbeing.
Here are four tips from Sam and Alma about living your best life as Latina.
1. Embrace Who You Are
As Jennifer Lopez says in her song I’m still Jenny from the block :
“I’m still Jenny from the block Used to have a little, now I have a lot
No matter where I go, I know where I came from (from the Bronx)”
Let’s use our cultural gifts in our work and healing. Consider a cultural approach to increasing pleasure and meaning – this could be cooking that family recipe, time with Abuela.
2. Find your tribe
It is a positive experience to find others who can totally and completely get your experiences as a Latina. Being a part of the community and getting involved can help you be more connected with others and yourself. Here in Austin, there is a rich community for young Latinas! There are so many opportunities to connect with individuals from all diverse cultures of the Latinx population. Here are a couple of our favorite organizations: Latinitas, Girls Empowerment Network, Sana Yoga, and Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.
You can also build relationships with Latinas here at ATFG within our groups! Click Here!
3.Don’t apologize for who you are
We can’t emphasize this enough, be brave with yourself. As Latina therapists, we have also struggled with asking for what we need. The courage to ask for what you need especially when it comes to your mental health is not weakness, it is very courageous. Alma loves this book and highly recommends it for 13 and above.
4.Open Up and Share Your Story
Our ability to grow and transform by sharing our very unique experiences is amazing. Opening up is the key to healing regardless of the messages you received as a child. Finding a safe space to process, gain insight and understanding of self is a valuable step to take towards reaching your goals, whatever those may be. A healing relationship with a therapist that inspires hope will be life changing. Don’t be discouraged if it takes time to find the right one! Ask yourself what is important to me in this therapeutic relationship?
We hope we were able to provide insight and encouragement in this blog. Even though Hispanic Heritage Month ends on October 15th, it does not mean we need to stop bringing awareness to our population. That goes for all cultures and backgrounds! When you find yourself feeling lost and alone in your mental health journey, know that you have an entire community behind you and supporting you along the way.