Final Reflections on the Costa Rica Experience

Posted on August 21,2012 by latinomentalhealth

This is Eleonora, Carla and Oren reporting final reflections on the Costa Rica experience.

Eleonora, 2nd Year Advanced Standing, Psy.D:

Thank you to MSPP for providing the opportunity to go on this trip! It was a fascinating month, full of cultural, linguistic and clinical knowledge. Never having been to Costa Rica, I had the stereotypical and touristy mental image of the country and although the places we traveled to on the weekends (Puerto Viejo, Arenal, Manuel Antonio) fit my expectations, the areas in which we resided (around San Jose) took me by surprise. In short, while parts of Costa Rica are beautifully maintained, catering to tourists, more residential areas starkly contrast the manicured appearance of the touristic hot spots and differences in socioeconomic status (SES) are immediately and visibly apparent. This observation gave me some insight on how SES affects the quality of life of many Costa Ricans, a topic which they may reference in a clinical session and of which I can now have a better understanding. Linguistically, I was able to experience the effects of not knowing a language fluently and how struggling with a foreign language can affect the way you function in a society that speaks the language you are learning. Likewise, I experienced how the linguistic struggle affects your linguistic competence and confidence and how that feeling of inadequacy starts to permeate your overall competence and confidence as a person. Latinos entering the US or who have been living in the US and are struggling with learning English may also experience similar feelings of inadequacy, affecting their self-esteem; this may be an area of discussion in therapy sessions with Latinos and other immigrants. Clinically, especially after visiting the school, I was able to see why it was easy for children to fall behind in Costa Rican schools and it saddened me that schools did not have the resources or structure to actualize recommendations in testing evaluations for students with learning disabilities. On the other hand, the frequently scheduled short breaks for the students seemed beneficial and something I had not seen nor experienced in schools in the United States; such breaks would be very beneficial for students with ADHD. Overall, I am thankful to have gone to Costa Rica and for all the knowledge I obtained along the way. It was an enriching experience and I look forward to applying it in my work with Latinos and other immigrants who may be struggling with similar issues of culture, language and the navigation of the clinical world.

Carla, 2nd Year, M.A:

La experiencia fue definitivamente excitante y llena de muchas cosas positivas que definitivamente me acompañaran por mucho tiempo. Me encanto el poder contrastar como la psicología se ejerce en Costa Rica versus Estados Unidos, creo que fue muy interesante verlo. De hecho el haber visto de cerca y experimentarlo yo misma me hizo re-encontrarme con la psicología y con lo que yo tenia en mente cuando comencé mis estudios. Me encanto ver la pasión y dedicación de estos profesionales en lo que hacían y como el hecho de algunas limitaciones de tiempo, los psicólogos realmente trataban de ayudar a los clientes tan pronto ellos entraban por la puerta de la clínica. Algo que me llamo mucho la atención, fue el aprender mas acerca de la hipnosis clínica y como puede ser útil cuando trabajamos con diferentes tipos de población. Como todo, hay muchas cosas que pudieron ser mas positivas en el trayecto, pero en definitiva UNIBE y Karla, la coordinadora, hicieron un excelente trabajo. Trabajar con Latinos, como en todos los aspectos de la psicologia, no es algo que se aprende de la noche a la mañana, como todo en la vida, pero definitivamente el poner de su parte e interés en la cultura definitivamente es pieza clave para adquirir esa capacidad cultural tan necesaria al trabajar con esta población. Me siento mas que bendecida por esta experiencia por que se que adquirí varias herramientas que no tenia, y aprendí muchas cosas que serán útiles para mi preparación profesional y ayudó a alimentar la pasión que tengo por trabajar con Latinos en Estados Unidos.

Oren, 2nd Year, Psy.D:

As the immersion session draws to a close, I have found that my clinical perspective has benefited a great deal from a reinforced understanding of the need for a greater role of a social-work oriented paradigm in clinical work. Many of the patients that we have interacted with are experiencing psychopathology that is compounded and complicated by the stresses of low SES and many of the social ailments that commonly accompany it such as domestic violence and reduced opportunities for employment and other forms of self-empowerment. Such situations seem to contribute to and maintain many of their psychiatric symptoms. As a result, I look forward to ways in which such a perspective can be integrated to better serve the needs of underprivileged clinical populations.