OLLU Researcher Receives Grant to Evaluate Bilingual Training for Mental Health Workers
June 16, 2011
AUSTIN, Texas – Dr. Ezequiel Peña, an assistant professor of psychology at Our Lady of the Lake University, has received a $17,500 research grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to examine how additional Spanish language training and feedback for bilingual counselor trainees improves their ability to provide mental health services to Spanish speakers.
His proposal was selected from a pool of 48 applicants from 17 universities across Texas. The foundation awarded one-year grants totaling $226,770 to 13 tenure-track assistant professors exploring different aspects of mental health in Texas.
“I believe heritage speakers of Spanish are this state’s greatest workforce resource for meeting the mental health needs of underserved Spanish-speaking communities in Texas. This grant will support my research on the educational needs of bilingual therapist trainees,” Peña said.
According to Peña, many bilingual counselors, even native speakers, cannot effectively serve Spanish-speaking consumers because the counselors are trained solely in English. Also, no evidence-based standards exist for training Spanish-language mental health professionals and few programs are available to provide that support.
“We must move beyond the assumption that just because a mental health professional is bilingual, she or he will be fluent in providing mental health services,” said Peña. With the grant, he will measure the effectiveness of specific components of a comprehensive program at OLLU that trains bilingual counselors to conduct therapy in Spanish.
“Dr. Peña’s study highlights the importance of evaluating how we train bilingual counselors. His results will have the potential of ensuring that our mental health professionals have truly acquired cultural and linguistic competency skills,” said Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., executive director of the Hogg Foundation.
The Hogg Foundation was created in 1940 by the children of former Texas Governor James S. Hogg, and is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. The foundation advances recovery and wellness in Texas by funding mental health services, policy analysis, research, and public education.