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Pathways Raises the Bar for Bilingual Mental Health Care

How can we best meet the mental health needs of our community, when so many of our girls speak a language other than English at home? That is the question that fueled the creation of bilingual mental health programming at Pathways Counseling Center. Since 1973, Pathways has been a vital part of Girls Inc. of Alameda County, providing mental health services to girls and boys and their families at low or no cost.  With approximately 48% of Girls Inc. families identifying as Latinx, Pathways has provided Spanish language mental health services continuously since 1991.

“In my professional experience in working with the Latino American community, similar to other cultures, there are unique challenges to address in engaging families in mental health treatment,” says Nancy Flores, bilingual mental health clinician at Pathways. “Many, if not most, of our families have never received mental health services. Mental health care is stigmatized – in their home countries psychotherapy is known to be for those who have severe mental health issues and often labeled as “locos” (crazy). To seek treatment can be bring upon shame for fear of “el que diran” (or what people may think/say). One of my moral and professional duties to the Latinx community is to help them overcome the stigma by promoting awareness so that they may experience personal growth.”

“Often parents think that clinicians will give them advice. What we do instead is empower them to make better decisions. We aim to engage the most important people involved in the youth’s life to better support their emotional and behavioral needs. Once we get everyone on board, we can hope to see positive changes: parents relating better with their children, anxiety reduction, and better conflict resolution.”

Pathways delivers services through a unique model, offering therapy of various modalities as well as case management for families throughout the community. Pathways also delivers mental health promotion services for Girls Inc. of Alameda County families. Once during the summer and twice during the school year, Pathways offers a bilingual Family Communication Workshop for girls and boys and their families participating in Girls Inc. programs.  The workshops emphasizes empathy, communication style, listening, and structured positive parenting behavior. All workshops are free of charge, and bilingual child care is provided.

Flores learns as much as she teaches. “One of the best parts of my job is when I immerse myself in the culture of my clients. I like to understand where the families are from, and what they care about. When they see I’m genuinely interested, they are more open to trying new things.  They love to teach, and I love to listen.”