December 29, 2010

Confronting the Language Barrier: Spanish for Mental Health Professionals

While I absolutely love my internship experience thus far at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, there is one skill I lack that immensely takes away from my ability to be a competent social worker on the inpatient milieu: I struggle with my ability to communicate with Spanish speakers.

Even though I studied Spanish in both high school and college (for a combined total of 5 years!), I can barely hold a conversation with patients. To say I am embarrassed is an understatement. Lucky for me, a good friend and classmate found a local Spanish class that is designed for psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals. The class meets every Friday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. at the Family Services of Santa Monica.

Unlike my grammar-focused Spanish classes in high school and college, the class is much more conversational. There are about eight social workers who attend the class, at varying degrees of Spanish competency. We spend a lot of time learning and talking to each other about Latino culture, in addition to practicing words that are helpful in a mental health setting. As a result, I no longer have to rely on the word "triste" to describe my patients' sad moods or affects. I now know words like aguitado (kind of depressed), desatendido (disregarded), depreciado (depreciated) and desilusionado (disappointed). Additionally, the teacher, Eugenio, is very laid back and very patient with all of us novice speakers. We also use the following text book: Spanish for Mental Health Professionals. I highly recommend the class to anyone who is looking to improve their Spanish-speaking skills. See the flyer below for contact information.
Spanish Class for Mental Health Professionals

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