Hola desde Guayaquil, Ecuador!
It’s Elena here, checking in. It’s been a whirlwind of clinical and cultural growing experiences for the past 4 weeks, and it’s hard to believe that they are shortly coming to a close. This past week, my group members and I have been working with the team at Tecnológico Bolivariano on both therapy cases and charlas (talks) presented to their students and those at a local school. At the beginning of the week, we had the privilege of briefly lecturing and then discussing “cases” in which students applied cultural and local values. I was impressed by the professionalism, critical thinking processes, and public speaking skills within the youths in the program at Tec.
The majority of our work at this site has consisted of observations of clinical sessions with Tecnológico Bolivariano’s psychologist. This rotation has really challenged my understanding of practicing therapy in different cultural settings and in ways that I had not been previously accustomed. Where I had felt like I had been flexible in the past in working with Latino clients in a community mental health setting, this experience encouraged me to open my mind even further. As there is a different education system in Ecuador, my group members and I found ourselves playing the role of cultural ambassadors in that we had to explain that while we have Masters degrees and/or are enrolled in a doctoral program, we are not in fact psychologists (as we were being introduced to the clients). Since Ecuador uses neither the DSM nor ICD system of classifications, there was some confusion as to some of the presenting issues, and how we could go about understanding them. However, the aforementioned issues encouraged crucial dialogue between the psychologist and us that was really helpful in bridging the gap. Additionally, while meeting with the client, I felt like the conditions were not ideal; there were often five professionals in a small corner office, intense light, lots of noise from the city streets, and we were at times asked to jump in with questions and thoughts, which I felt could be intrusive. My “knee-jerk” reaction was to think that “we’re not doing this right!” and feeling like the session could possibly be damaging to the client at most, and not helpful at the least. However, today while at a local school, we sat in sessions with clients ages 9 and 17 in a room with loud noise coming from recess, and we were interrupted three times during the session by school staff. After an enriching discussion today with my group members, I realized that while I felt like the conditions were not conducive to good work with the client, I was missing the point; it was apparent that the clients were responding, felt heard, expressed gratitude, and were looking forward to the next time we would meet.
I myself am looking forward until tomorrow, in which we will be at the same local school giving another charla (we’ve gotten pretty good at them by the end of this trip!) about drug prevention. We spent the latter half of the morning in their auditorium space envisioning, planning, and organizing the presentation.
Lastly, I would like to thank la familia Lucero for their incredible hospitality, generosity, and sharing this unforgettable experience with us.