Read the following vignette about Melody and Miguel and develop a 1-2 page strategy on how you would best work with Miguel and what issues may come up for Miguel. Include at least 1 reference from your own independent research.
Although people often think that Melody is a Latina counselor because of her dark hair and brown skin, actually she is biracial: Asian (Filipino) and white. Melody took Spanish in school, but she never thought that she would have any practical use for it. Times have definitely changed; her Midwestern hometown has seen a tremendous growth in the immigrant Latino/Latina and Spanish-speaking population. Melody works as an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment counselor, and Latino/Latina clients have begun to enter the system. Melody knew it was a matter of time before she would be assigned a Spanish-speaking client, and she dreaded putting her Spanish to the test. That client was Miguel. Miguel entered her office and Melody noticed an expression of relief come across his face as he asked her, “¿Hablas español?” Melody hated to let him down and answered “un poco”-a little bit. Miguel smiled. Melody was sure he could tell from her accent that she was already struggling. Miguel told Melody that he was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. He entered the United States “by climbing and running” over a border fence. Miguel married a woman in a Texas border town and moved his family to the Midwest with the hope of finding a better job. He presented to counseling because he was addicted to cocaine and alcohol and was physically abusing his wife and three children. Miguel was concerned that if he were caught abusing substances or if the police were called on a domestic abuse call to his home, he would be deported.
As Melody listened to his story, she knew that she would need to be aware of the stereotypes that she had already formed about Latinos. One positive stereotype was her belief that Latino men were dedicated to their family and were hard working and community oriented. At the same time, she also believed that Latinos were domineering and macho. As Miguel’s counselor, Melody knew that these stereotypes would have the potential to affect the entire counseling relationship.
Other factors that Melody considered when working with Miguel included her comfort level with her own culture and ethnic identity, as well as her own acculturation status. Because her monolingual and monocultural supervisor wasn’t much help, Melody sought supervision from a former professor. In the process, she read all that she could about counseling Latino/Latina clients. Through supervision and research, Melody realized that she had to broach the relationship between acculturation struggles and substance abuse with Miguel, as well as help Miguel find a way to recognize and foster his cultural strengths.
Furthermore, due to her lack of expertise as a bilingual counselor and the facility’s lack of bilingual resources for clients from different ethnic backgrounds, Melody did not feel that she had the necessary personal or professional supports to ethically work alone with Miguel, who wanted to speak Spanish exclusively in the sessions. Coming to this conclusion enabled Melody to have a trained bilingual interpreter brought in to assist them with the counseling process. Rather than seeing the interpreter as a sign of Melody’s ineptitude, Miguel reported that he appreciated her attempts to be culturally sensitive and understand him.