by Ali Guisto
Wow! I cannot believe my time is already up in PASEO program. My name is Ali. I am a rising 3rd year clinical psychology doctoral student who participated in the PASEO program and worked with SKIP for 4 weeks this summer.
I was initially drawn to the program for a number of reasons. Personally and clinically, PASEO provided an opportunity to improve my Spanish to be able to conduct therapy and assessments with Spanish- speaking clients. While this is an ongoing goal of mine, it has been difficult to realize given the limited opportunities for Spanish-speaking training. As an incoming low/intermediate speaker, the opportunity to take Spanish classes increased my confidence in having the language tools to get the most out of an immersion experience. Supplementing such learning with an understanding of cultural competency and adapted evidence-based practice for Latino populations seemed like an integral piece to such training that was offered by PASEO. Further, the ability to learn and train in an immersive environment abroad seemed like a dream come true (cheesy, but true!). Lastly, the program also appealed to my research interests in global mental health providing not only seminars in the topic, but the chance to actually see mental health services abroad. Really only one of these reasons would have attracted me to the program, but having so many just compounded my excitement J.
Amazingly, over my time working with SKIP and in the program, all my expectations were met and exceeded. I feel that I have a much stronger foundation in language skills that will be the starting point from which to continue my training and learning. General Spanish classes, those specific to psychology, immersion and exposure to the language all worked together to facilitate such a foundation. (I would write the next sentence in Spanish but don’t want to show offJ). Classes in cultural competency, global health, working with Latino youth and families, and working in low-resources settings enhanced my appreciation for the immersion experience, the field, the people, and the immense need. I felt that this all culminated to then being able to actually work and interact with youth and families in the area through service-learning. Teaching and working with the families themselves was invaluable. Being able to actually learn from the youth and families in the community with every interaction defined much of my experience in the program. (Also seeing the look on a child’s face when he or she does not understand you in Spanish is a quick way to really begin and try learning the language without embarrassment.) Further being able to observe and participate in groups and workshops for youth and mothers began to teach me how to use the language and clinical techniques specific to working in this community. For example, watching how the psychologist would introduce topics such as discipline strategies or suicide in a safe and effective manner was important to my clinical skill development.
While I think it should be obvious by now my feelings about this experience, there were two more aspects of PASEO and SKIP that shaped my time. That was working and learning in Peru and the people. Being in such a culturally rich, welcoming, and warm country I felt flooded by opportunities to learn from everything around me. The families at SKIP further embodied such openness and welcoming. Lastly, the people involved in the program (and outside the program) were wonderful. I left the program with a network of individuals who are all passionate about contributing to minimizing the need for mental health services for Latino youth and families. I believe that this network, along with continued supervision of my individualized goals through the program, will help me improve as a Spanish speaker, clinician, researcher and student. The amount I learned through the experiences in this program is hard to describe, but I feel very agradecido por it all. I hope to be back soon!!