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NMSU Regents Professor Luis Vazquez addresses multicultural issues in counseling

Having an open dialogue about multicultural issues such as ethnicity, language, color, gender and minority status is important for the American people according to Luis Vazquez, New Mexico State University Regents Professor and Associate Vice President for Research Integrity.

Man sits at a table with a notebook.
Luis Vazquez, New Mexico State University Regents Professor and Associate Vice President for Research Integrity, believes an open dialogue on multicultural issues is needed in the U.S. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

?We in America have an issue with race, language, ethnicity, gender, and we need to have a frank discussion about what we are doing to ourselves as the demographics are changing in this country, and how we are going to learn to work together,? he said. ?Issues in society and across the U.S. are related to how people develop their own biases from perceptions learned throughout their life history, and how they use these biases toward race, language, ethnicity, gender and color.?

An expert in diversity and multicultural issues, Vazquez, a discussant on a panel with psychoanalytic therapists presenting issues regarding women of color, was approached by the panelists at the American Psychological Association convention in August 2013, about writing an article evaluating the multicultural issues in three case studies.

His article, ?Integration of Multicultural and Psychoanalytic Concepts: A Review of Three Case Examples with Women of Color,? was published in the July issue of the Psychoanalytic journal, which is published quarterly by the American Psychological Association?s Division of Psychoanalysis.

Vazquez reviewed ?Cultural Identity in the Context of Trauma and Immigration from a Psychoanalytic Perspective? by Pratyusha Tummala-Narra, ?Ethnic Invisibility, Identity, and the Analytic Process? by Frank Summers and ?Toward Formulation of Ethnic Identity Beyond the Binary of White Oppressor and Racial Other? by Kris Yi. Each therapist wrote a case study detailing the relationships and struggles with a female patient of color.

?In the article, I discussed that the major thing missing in the counseling profession is how to become strong social justice advocates in the integration of multicultural issues,? Vazquez said. ?Counselors and therapists always thought that you could deal with the problem one-on-one, behind closed doors in a therapy session.

?When you think about advocacy and social justice, it?s about giving voices to those who don?t have one, and it?s about bringing up issues that people don?t want to talk about.?

Vazquez mentioned that recent events such as the turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., or the immigration issues regarding the influx of people from Central America should highlight the need for discussions on multicultural topics.

?We need to sit down and have good challenging discussions about issues of minority status, and what that means,? he said. ?Not just because that?s our history and past, but how that impacts people?s perceptions, how that has impacted our treatment of each other, how that has impacted making things different for each other, because for me an injustice for one is an injustice for all.

?It is only through the diversity of these differences of ideas and opinions that we can reach a way to find better solutions to the issues we are struggling with right now,? Vazquez said. ?In the U.S., we should be beyond having these struggles by challenging ourselves to participate with an open mind and a good heart.?