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Healing Ethno-Racial Trauma in Latinx Immigrant Communities: Cultivating Hope, Resistance, and Action

  • Jessica Perez

Abstract and Figures

Latinx immigrants living in the United States often experience the negative effects of systemic oppression, which may lead to psychological distress, including ethno-racial trauma. We define ethno-racial trauma as the individual and/or collective psychological distress and fear of danger that results from experiencing or witnessing discrimination, threats of harm, violence, and intimidation directed at ethno-racial minority groups. This form of trauma stems from a legacy of oppressive laws, policies, and practices. Using an intersectionality framework, this article discusses the complex ways in which interlocking systems of oppression (e.g., racism, ethnocen-trism, nativism, sexism) and anti-immigrant policies impact Latinxs individuals, families, and communities. The article also presents a framework to stimulate healing from ethno-racial trauma titled, HEART (Healing Ethno And Racial Trauma). Grounded in the principles of Liberation Psychology and trauma-informed care, the framework is composed of four phases. Each phase is accompanied by a goal to assist clinicians in helping individuals, families, and communities to achieve growth, wellness, and healing. The main objective of each phase is for Latinx immigrants to find relief, gain awareness, and cope with systemic oppression while encouraging resistance and protection from the external forces that cause ethno-racial trauma. Overall, our intention and hopeful expectation is that the content presented in this article serves as a call to action for psychologists to make psychology a Sanctuary Discipline by using and integrating intersectionality theory, trauma-informed care, and Liberation Psychology into policy, research, and practice with Latinx immigrants.
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Healing Ethno-Racial Trauma in Latinx Immigrant Communities:
Cultivating Hope, Resistance, and Action
Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology Hector Y. Adames
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and Private
Practice, Chicago, Illinois
Jessica G. Perez-Chavez
University of Wisconsin-Madison Silvia P. Salas
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Latinx immigrants living in the United States often experience the negative effects of systemic
oppression, which may lead to psychological distress, including ethno-racial trauma. We define
ethno-racial trauma as the individual and/or collective psychological distress and fear of danger
that results from experiencing or witnessing discrimination, threats of harm, violence, and
intimidation directed at ethno-racial minority groups. This form of trauma stems from a legacy of
oppressive laws, policies, and practices. Using an intersectionality framework, this article dis-
cusses the complex ways in which interlocking systems of oppression (e.g., racism, ethnocen-
trism, nativism, sexism) and anti-immigrant policies impact Latinxs individuals, families, and
communities. The article also presents a framework to stimulate healing from ethno-racial trauma
titled, HEART (Healing Ethno And Racial Trauma). Grounded in the principles of Liberation
Psychology and trauma-informed care, the framework is composed of four phases. Each phase is
accompanied by a goal to assist clinicians in helping individuals, families, and communities to
achieve growth, wellness, and healing. The main objective of each phase is for Latinx immigrants to
find relief, gain awareness, and cope with systemic oppression while encouraging resistance and
protection from the external forces that cause ethno-racial trauma. Overall, our intention and hopeful
expectation is that the content presented in this article serves as a call to action for psychologists to
make psychology a Sanctuary Discipline by using and integrating intersectionality theory, trauma-
informed care, and Liberation Psychology into policy, research, and practice with Latinx immigrants.
Keywords: intersectionality, immigration, Latinos, racism, trauma
Without ceasing to be ‘the others’ in a white nation, Latinx
carry one of the most heroic and unknown histories of this
century: that of their color, hurt and worked until it is made
hope. Hope that cafe [Brown] will be one more color in the
rainbow of the races of the world, and it will no longer be the
color of humiliation, of contempt, and of forgetting.(Marcos,
2004, p. 434)
Around much of the world, the United States is often
called A Nation of Immigrants, a phrase that seeks to un-
To include and center the broad range of gender identities present
among individuals of Latin American descent, the term Latinx is used
throughout the article.
Editor’s note. This article is part of a special issue, “Racial Trauma: Theory,
Research, and Healing,” published in the January 2019 issue of American Psy-
served as guest editors with Anne E. Kazak as advisory editor.
Authors’ note. Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas, Department of Counseling
Psychology, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology; Hector Y.
Adames, Department of Counseling Psychology, The Chicago School of
Professional Psychology, and Private Practice, Chicago, Illinois; Jessica G.
Perez-Chavez, Department of Counseling Psychology, University of Wis-
consin-Madison; Silvia P. Salas, Department of Counseling Psychology,
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
We thank Yvette N. Tazeau, Claire R. Manley, Anita O’Conor, and
Nancy Chavez for their reviews of earlier versions of this article. We
dedicate this article to Dr. Joseph L. White, the Godfather of Black
Psychology, whose teachings, mentoring, and love transformed our
lives. We also dedicate this article to undocumented immigrants who
carry the burden of unjust laws and oppressive policies on their back.
We stand with you!
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nayeli Y.
Chavez-Dueñas, Department of Counseling Psychology, The Chicago
School of Professional Psychology, 325 North Wells Street, Chicago IL,
60654. E-mail:
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
American Psychologist
© 2019 American Psychological Association 2019, Vol. 74, No. 1, 49– 62
derscore the history of foreign-born populations in the coun-
try. This notion is expressed in many facets of American
society, including history books, visual arts, and politics. In
his 2014 speech on immigration, President Barack H.
Obama stated that
. . . we know the heart of a stranger—we were strangers once,
too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation
of immigrants...Since the founding of our nation, we’ve
weaved a tradition of welcoming immigrants into the very
fabric of who we are. (Obama, 2014, para. 1)
While it is factually accurate to say that the United States has a
long history of immigrants coming to its borders, this phrase
renders invisible the contributions and experiences of Native
American and African populations who were colonized, enslaved,
and oppressed. The phrase also hides the experiences of violence,
racism, ethnic oppression, and criminalization faced by many
immigrant populations (e.g., people of Middle East and North
African descent, Asia/Pacific Islanders, individuals of Latin Amer-
ican descent). Individuals and communities whom experience vi-
olence, racism, and ethnic oppression are at risk of experiencing
psychological harm, including trauma (Blanco, Blanco, & Díaz,
2016;Comas-Díaz, 2007). For instance, Helms, Nicolas, and
Green (2010) posits that
reactions to racism or ethnoviolence alone or combined with
other traumatic events may pose threats to the person’s psy-
chological and physical well-being that may be as psycholog-
ically debilitating as reactions to natural disasters or other
types of physical and psychological engagement. (p. 16)
An assertion that is empirically supported (Ong, Fuller-Rowell, &
Burrow, 2009).
The purpose of this article is twofold: (1) to examine the
implications of ethno-racially oppressive immigration poli-
cies on Latinx immigrants as causes of, or contributors to,
ethno-racial trauma, which we define as the individual
and/or collective psychological distress and fear of danger
that results from experiencing or witnessing discrimination,
threats of harm, violence, and intimidation directed at
ethno-racial minority groups. (2) to present a framework of
healing for Latinx immigrants affected by ethno-racial
trauma that considers interventions at the individual, family,
and community levels. Intersectionality theory, which was
first introduced by Black feminists and Women of Color
social justice activists and scholars (Grzanka, Santos, &
Moradi, 2017), focuses on the ways in which systems of
oppression (e.g., racism, ethnocentrism, nativism, sexism)
impact individuals who hold membership in multiple so-
cially constructed groups (Crenshaw, 1989), and provides a
more nuanced understanding of ethno-racial trauma in Lat-
inx immigrant communities, serves as the theoretical fram-
ing for the article. While intersectionality theory has pri-
marily been used in critical legal studies, sociology, and
Black Women’s studies, a growing body of psychological
literature is beginning to integrate this framework into the-
ory, research, and practice (Adames, Chavez-Dueñas, &
Organista, 2016;Cole, 2009;Lewis & Neville, 2015).
Aligned with the three major formulations of intersection-
ality as (1) field of study, (2) an analytic disposition, and (3)
a critical praxis of social justice proposed by Moradi and
Grzanka (2017),Figure 1, provides a model of ethno-racial
trauma that considers the ways in which Latinxs are im-
pacted by racism, ethnocentrism, nativism, and other
“isms.” The model also depicts how ethno-racial trauma
extends beyond individuals and families, with its impact
also persecuting immigrant communities. Consistent with
intersectionality theory, which posits that laws and policies
help maintain systems of oppression (Crenshaw, 1989), the
model integrates the ways in which crimmigration, that is,
anti-immigrant laws and policies (Stumpf, 2006), contribute
to ethno-racial trauma in Latinx immigrant communities.
Interlocking Systems of Oppression Impacting
Latinx Immigrants
Othering is the process by which individuals who are
perceived as “different” in a given society are rejected and
oppressed. In the United States, Latinxs are “othered” for
multiple reasons, including differences in race, ethnicity,
and immigration status. While race and ethnicity have his-
torically been used interchangeably, the consensus among
scholars in the social sciences is that they are distinct yet
closely intertwined concepts (Alvarez, Liang, & Neville,
2016;Helms & Cook, 1999) that have an impact on the
physical and psychological well-being of individuals and
communities (Bryant-Davis, & Ocampo, 2005;Perilla, Nor-
ris, & Lavizzo, 2002). Thus, nativism, racism, and ethno-
centrism contribute to ethno-racial trauma among Latinx
Nayeli Y.
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immigrants, families, and communities (Blanco et al., 2016;
Comas-Díaz, 2007;Helms et al., 2010;Salas, Ayón, &
Gurrola, 2013). However, given the vast diversity that exists
within the Latinx population (e.g., skin-color, ethnicity,
immigration status), their experience is not universal.
Nativism and Immigration Status
Nativism. Nativism refers to the opposition toward eth-
nic minorities based on the belief that foreigners are “un-
American” and are a threat to the purity of the national
culture (Chavez, 2008). It also suggests a preference for
those considered “natives” and antipathy to everyone else
(Perea, 1997). Individuals with nativist ideologies hold sev-
eral cultural stereotypes about Latinxs, including percep-
tions that they: (a) are immigrants who refuse to assimilate,
(b) make little effort to learn English, (c) bring with them
their inferior cultural values and practices, (d) contribute to
budget deficits and higher taxes, (e) take jobs away, (f)
abuse public social services, and (g) reside in the country
without authorization (Anti-Defamation League, 2008;
Chavez, 2008;Cornelius, 2002). Notwithstanding these
commonly held stereotypes, the majority of Latinxs (65% or
36 million) are born in the United States. The remaining
35%, or approximately 19 million, are foreign-born (Migra-
tion Policy Institute, 2013). Out of the 19 million Latinxs
who are immigrants, approximately half, or 8.8 million,
reside in the country without documentation (i.e., have not
been granted permission by to work/reside in the United
States). Moreover, there are approximately 5.5 million Lat-
inx children with at least one undocumented parent.
Undocumented immigrants. As a result of their immi-
gration status, undocumented immigrants confront a host of
challenges that their documented counterparts do not often
experience (Migration Policy Institute, 2013;Passel &
Cohn, 2015), including susceptibility to exploitation, abuse,
and deportation (Adames & Chavez-Dueñas, 2017;Na-
tional Council of La Raza, 1990). Moreover, in recent years
undocumented immigrants have become vulnerable to in-
creased ethnocentrism and nativism in legislation, marked
by aggressive and excessive enforcement of immigration
policies (Migration Policy Institute, 2013). Such changes
further contribute to the fear of deportation. Anxiety pro-
duced by the possibility of being forcibly removed from the
United States may also lead Latinx immigrants to experi-
ence a diminished sense of psychological trust, safety, and
security (Rojas-Flores, Clements, Hwang Koo, & London,
Racism and Ethnocentrism
The concepts of race and ethnicity have evolved over
time, contributing to the divergent ways in which they are
used in the literature. In some instances, ethnicity has been
used as a proxy for race (Helms & Cook, 1999). This
conundrum is particularly evident when considering the
U.S. Census Bureau’s history of categorizing Latinxs. For
instance, in the 1960s Latinxs were classified as “Spanish,”
in the 1980s as “Hispanics,” and in the new millennium as
“Hispanics/Latinos” (Gomez, 2007). Latinxs were grouped
as one race until the 2000 Census when, for the first time in
U.S. history, individuals were allowed to classify them-
selves as belonging to any or more than one race (Taylor,
Lopez, Martinez, & Velasco, 2012). The ways in which
Latinxs have been categorized is an example of how race
and ethnicity were used synonymously to classify this ra-
cially heterogeneous population, thus contributing to the
erroneous notion that ethnicity equates to race. While race
and ethnicity are different sociopolitical constructs, they
both contribute to the othering of racial and ethnic minority
individuals, resulting in racism and ethnocentrism (Carter,
2007;Smedley & Smedley, 2012).
Racism. Racism is an ideology used to justify harmful
practices of inequity based on the belief that one race is
superior to another based on skin color and phenotype
(Carter & Pieterse, 2005). Conversely, ethnocentrism is a
belief that one’s own ethnic group’s beliefs, values, and
practices are superior to all others (Bizumic, Duckitt, Po-
padic, Dru, & Krauss, 2009). Hence, racism is associated
with a belief in racial superiority, while ethnocentrism refers
to the ideology that the culture (e.g., shared customs, values,
language) of one group is superior. Beliefs about racial and
ethnic superiority are detrimental to Latinxs; however, not
every Latinx is impacted equally. Latinxs who are visibly
othered (e.g., skin color, phenotype) are the most vulnera-
Hector Y.
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Skin color and phenotype. Latinx individuals can trace
their racial heritage to three different racial groups: Indigenous,
Black, and White (Chavez-Dueñas, Adames, & Organista,
2014). The mixing of these three groups in the period follow-
ing the colonization of the Americas is often referred to as
Latinx descent were racially mixed (Adames et al., 2016).
Thus, Latinxs are socialized to not identify as racial beings and
are implicitly encouraged to adopt Mestizaje Racial Ideologies
(Adames et al., 2016;Adames & Chavez-Dueñas, 2017)de-
spite living and experiencing the effects of the established skin
color hierarchy in Latin America and in the United States.
(Bonilla-Silva, 2014;Montalvo & Codina, 2001). A review of
the few available empirical studies examining the effect of skin
color differences among Latinxs suggests that being darker and
having less European-phenotypic features can negatively im-
pact mental health (Montalvo & Codina, 2001), educational
attainment, and income (Arce, Murguia, & Frisbie, 1987). The
pattern in the extant literature reviewed strongly suggests that
individuals with darker skin and less European-phenotypic
features also experience more racial oppression and psycho-
logical distress (Araújo & Borrell, 2006;Telzer & Vazquez
Garcia, 2009).
Crimmigration: The Criminalization
of Immigrants
Evidence of ethno-racially motivated practices affecting
Latinxs are abundant throughout U.S. history. From the
lynching of Mexicans by White mobs throughout the South-
west (Gomez, 2007;Massey, 2007), to the segregation of
Latinxs during the Jim Crow Era (Chavez, 2008) and the
Zoot Suit riots in Los Angeles, people of Latinx descent
have a history of oppression and rejection that has extended
to nativist laws, practices, and immigration policies. For
instance, while immigrants from Latin America were not
subjected to immigration quotas, they were specifically
targeted by several pieces of legislation (e.g., Repatriation
Act of the 1930).
Many individuals in the United States continue to hold the
belief that they have the inherent right to live in the country
because “their ancestors came ‘the right’ way [and] they
assume that their ancestors ‘went through the process’”
(Chomsky, 2014, p. 1). However, this belief ignores the fact
that many immigrants settled in the United States before the
current immigration laws were established, and that the
concept of “illegality” was created and applied to unauthor-
ized foreign-born individuals (Chomsky, 2014). The term
crimmigration, coined by Professor Juliet Stumpf (2006),
helps to illustrate the intersection between criminal and
immigration laws. In the United States, crimmigration can
be traced to several legislative acts, including The Immigra-
tion and Nationality Act of 1965,Immigration Reform and
Control Act (IRCA), and the Illegal Immigration Reform
and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA; Chomsky,
2014). Together, these programs became the foundation of
the Criminal Alien Program (CAP), designed to identify,
detain, and deport immigrants with criminal convictions
within federal, state, and local prisons (Ewing, Martínez, &
Rumbaut, 2015). Overall, these laws and policies have
served as additional legal structures that further contribute
to the othering of Latinx immigrants by eroding feelings of
stability, predictability, safety, and hope, leaving Latinx
communities vulnerable to ethno-racial trauma.
Impact of Racism, Ethnocentrism, and Nativism
on Individuals, Families, Communities
Sociohistorical Context
Currently, Latinxs are living through one of the most
anti-immigrant periods in modern U.S. history, with a sig-
nificant increase in laws and policies that disproportionately
target this community. In 2005, there were approximately
300 anti-immigration bills in Congress; by 2015, this num-
ber had increased to 1,500 (American Immigration Council,
2015). Moreover, the number of anti-immigrant legislative
acts enacted increased 500%, from 38 to 222, during that
same 9-year period (American Immigration Council, 2015;
Ewing et al., 2015). In addition to the CAP program, the last
two decades have witnessed a rise in collaboration programs
between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
These programs are used as strategies to enforce immigra-
tion laws using ethno-racial profiling and to identify and
criminalize immigrants who often have only committed
minor offenses (e.g., traffic violations, urinating in public,
Jessica G. Perez-
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forgery, receipt of stolen property). In addition, Immigra-
tion and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employs a variety of
methods to arrest, detain, and deport thousands of docu-
mented and undocumented immigrants each year (American
Immigration Lawyers Association, 2011). The tactics used
by ICE range from workplace raids to driving checkpoints,
along with house arrests, all of which contribute to widespread
fear of deportation within the Latinx community (Adames &
Chavez-Dueñas, 2017). Scholars posit that ICE purposefully
tries to instill fear in immigrants; in other words, to terrorize, to
make them voluntarily deport themselves to their countries of
origin (Sladkova, Garcia Mangado, & Reyes Quinteros, 2012).
These fears were exacerbated by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of
the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign and the promises made by
then-Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump that included the
construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico
and an increase in ICE officials, and more aggressive enforce-
ment of immigration laws (Chavez-Dueñas, Adames, & Or-
ganista, 2016). During the first month of his presidency,
Trump signed an executive order giving federal immigration
agents freedom to arrest and detain practically any undocu-
mented immigrant with whom they come in contact (Kopan,
2017). The increase in immigration enforcement is evident in
the number of immigrants arrested (22,000) during the first
few months (January through mid-March 2017; Hesson & Min
Kim, 2017). These numbers represent a 32% increase in im-
migrant arrests from the same period in 2016. During the same
timeframe, the Southern Poverty Law Center (2016) reported
315 hate crime incidents against immigrants. Threatening, anti-
immigrant rhetoric, coupled with the increase in both anti-
immigrant policies and hate crimes, has cultivated a climate of
fear and terror which can lead to negative psychological effects
for immigrants (Salas et al., 2013).
Ethno-Racial Trauma
The American Psychological Association (APA) pub-
lished a Presidential Task Force Report that explains how
some immigrants may fair well while others are faced with
a myriad of challenges (American Psychological Associa-
tion (APA), 2012;Casas, 2014). The few available studies
examining experiences of trauma among Latinx immigrants
in the United States indicate that they are prone to experi-
encing traumatic events throughout the three different
stages of the immigration process (Foster, 2001;Salas et al.,
2013). For instance, while in their countries of origin, Lat-
inx immigrants are likely to experience extreme levels of
poverty, political persecution, natural disasters, kidnapping,
rape, and sexual violence (Bowen & Marshall, 2008). Dur-
ing their journey to the United States, immigrants are at
further risk of experiencing extortion, rape, robberies, kid-
nappings, physical injuries, and exposure to extreme tem-
peratures resulting in hypothermia and hyperthermia. After
their arrival onto U.S. territory, immigrants often encounter
additional incidents that threaten their physical and psycho-
logical well-being such as poverty, exposure to community
violence, racism, ethnocentrism, nativism, isolation, and
fear of deportation (Aranda & Vaquera, 2015;Dreby, 2012;
Foster, 2001). Exposure to traumatic events prior to their
immigration and during their journey, along with the high
levels of stress related to racism, ethnocentrism, and nativ-
ism in the United States, may result in and/or exacerbate
ethno-racial trauma among Latinx immigrants, affecting
their health, mental health, and everyday functioning.
Impact on individuals and families. Fear of a family
member or close friend being deported is common among
Latinx, with over half (i.e., 68%) experiencing worries
related to immigration (Lopez & Minushkin, 2008). In
addition to fear of deportation, studies indicate that at the
individual level, immigrants report fear about being de-
tained and treated like criminals while in detention (Pot-
tinger, 2005). These fears are indeed justified. For instance,
in a study by Sladkova and colleagues (2012), detained
immigrants reported being denied their medication and ac-
cess to basic human needs. Recent reports also indicate that
being detained by immigration officials make immigrants
feel more vulnerable and that they experience anxiety, iso-
lation, and fear of going out in public (Mark, 2017), all of
which impact occupational, educational, and interpersonal
functioning. Fear of detention and deportation is also keep-
ing immigrants from driving, taking their children to school,
seeking medical care, and reporting crimes (Mark, 2017).
Empirical studies suggest that immigrants who are ra-
cially othered are at greater risk of experiencing race-based
discrimination (Berry & Sabatier, 2010;Liebkind &
Silvia P. Salas
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Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000), which sequentially has a signifi-
cantly negative impact on health and well-being (APA,
2012). For instance, Latinx (regardless of immigration sta-
tus) who are visibly indistinguishable from European Amer-
icans (i.e., European phenotype) benefit from light-skin
privilege, whereas Latinx immigrants that are visible ethno-
racial minorities (e.g., darker-skin, Indigenous phenotype)
are increasingly associated with illegality by law enforce-
ment (Aranda & Vaquera, 2015;Downs, 2017). Hence,
Latinx immigrants with European phentoype are less likely
to be racially profiled and have a lower probability of being
detained and deported (Aranda & Vaquera, 2015). The
aggressive and excessive enforcement of immigration pol-
icies targeting Latinx immigrants can also have negative
psychological repercussions on families, including fear of
deportation, family fragmentation, individual and family
symptoms of trauma, and economic hardship (Chaudry et al.,
2010;Dreby, 2012). Unfortunately, children often bear the
burden of anti-immigrant policies by experiencing increases in
anxiety, fear of being separated from their parents, and post-
traumatic symptoms (Brabeck & Xu, 2010). Such fears can
negatively impact their functioning in school by making it
difficult to concentrate and complete assignments (Brabeck &
Xu, 2010;Dreby, 2012). Among Latinx children of parents
who have been detained and deported, significantly higher
externalizing behavior and posttraumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) symptoms have been reported by parents and clini-
cians, compared with children of parents without prior contact
with immigration enforcement (Rojas-Flores et al., 2017).
These symptoms may be exacerbated for children who witness
their parents being arrested by immigration officials (Sladkova
et al., 2012;Thronson, 2008), which may contribute to chil-
dren’s fear of the police (Brabeck & Xu, 2010). Fearing law
enforcement, and experiencing the stigma associated with im-
migration, have been associated with children distancing them-
selves from their cultural heritage (Dreby, 2012).
Impact on the larger community. Immigrant commu-
nities are also negatively impacted by anti-immigrant rhet-
oric, policies, and practices leading to widespread fear and
mistrust of government officials and agencies (e.g., police,
health care providers). A qualitative study on a Latinx
immigrant community from Lowell, Massachusetts, con-
ducted by Sladkova et al. (2012) exemplifies how commu-
nities are negatively affected by workplace raids. Partici-
pants described that information about the raids had quickly
dispersed, leading people to: (a) live in fear, (b) be more
vigilant, and (c) have difficulties carrying on with everyday
activities. For example, parents did not want to send their
children to school, and many avoided seeking essential
health services because of the fear and belief that health care
Figure 1. An intersectional model of ethno-racial trauma in Latinx immigrant communities. The model
explicitly considers the ways in which intersecting historical and structural systems impact the well-being,
health, and resources available to Latinx individuals, families and communities, underscoring social inequities,
aggressive immigration policies, and power dynamics. The model can also be applied to other immigrant groups.
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
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providers would report the family to ICE (Sladkova et al.,
2012). Studies have also reported that fearing the police
decreases the likelihood that immigrants will report crimes
and collaborate with law enforcement (Silka, 2007;Tahirih
Justice Center, 2017). For instance, immigrant Latinas who
are survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence are
uniquely impacted by interlocking systems of oppression
including sexism, ethnocentrism, nativism, and racism, sit-
uating Latina women in a place where they fear being
arrested and deported if they make a police report. These
realities of women in immigrant communities are exempli-
fied by a survey conducted in April 2017, wherein 78% of
legal advocates and attorneys who work with survivors
reported that their immigrant clients had expressed explicit
worries about calling the police because of fear of deporta-
tion (Tahirih Justice Center, 2017). Moreover, police chiefs
in Los Angeles and Houston conveyed that Latinx survivors
were reporting sexual assaults at lower rates because of the
hostile, anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies targeting un-
documented immigrant communities in their respective cit-
ies. The Houston City Police Chief indicated that the num-
ber of Latinxs reporting rape had decreased by 42% in 2016
from the same period in the previous year (Lewis, 2017).
Given the unique ways in which Latinx immigrants are
impacted by interlocking systems of oppression, healing
from ethno-racial trauma requires them to have a sense of
control over their own liberation.
The HEART Framework: Healing
Ethno-Racial Trauma
Healing from the fear of danger that results from experi-
encing or witnessing discrimination, threats of harm, vio-
lence, and intimidation directed at ethnic and racial minority
groups requires that individuals, families, and communities
create and hold some level of control and power over the
ways in which they are internally and externally oppressed
(Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). Thus, healing ethno-racial
trauma requires a focus on both the symptoms of the trauma
(internal) and the interlocking systems of oppression (ex-
ternal) that cause and maintain psychological distress. At-
tending exclusively to internal symptoms of trauma and
utilizing psychological interventions focused on the individ-
ual may drive clinicians and researchers to predominantly
tend to subjective experiences, symptoms, and signs, hence
missing the opportunity to consider and address how dif-
ferent systems of oppression (i.e., intersectionality) impact
clients’ presenting concerns. As an alternative, focusing
solely on the impact of oppression on the lives of clients
may miss the more nuanced and variable personal experi-
ences related to psychological trauma. The combination of
treatment models and interventions designed to address
trauma (e.g., trauma-informed care), along with literature on
systemic oppression (Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2006) such
as Liberation Psychology, may serve as a viable integrative
framework to promote healing.
Trauma informed care seeks to understand, identify, and
respond to the impact of trauma on the lives of survivors. It
highlights the need to address: (a) physical, psychological, and
emotional safety; (b) trustworthiness, (c) choice, (d) collabo-
ration, and (e) empowerment (Fallot & Harris, 2009). Healing
focuses on establishing safety, symptom stabilization, repro-
cessing, and reconnecting clients to self and others (Herman,
1992;Peck, 2012). Liberation Psychology, grounded in the
work of Martín-Baró (1996) and Freire (1968),underscoresthe
need to understand and address the sociopolitical structures
that negatively impact the lives of oppressed and impoverished
communities. Liberation Psychology draws upon the need for
communities to (a) recover [rich] historical memory,” which
helps oppressed communities revive and employ methods used
by their ancestors to survive, resist, and organize, and (b)
strengthen cultural pride and traditions (Martín-Baró, 1996).
Healing entails an explicit focus on active resistance rather
than solely reactionary resilience. Thus, Liberation Psychology
embodies four main acts of resistance: first, that members of
oppressed groups view their oppression as a collective assault
requiring a unified response (e.g., social organizing). Second,
that clinicians conceptualize problems and interventions within
designed to promote self-determination. Finally, action toward
change explicitly targets institutions and systems that create
and maintain oppression (Utsey, Bolden, & Brown, 2001).
trauma-informed care and Liberation Psychology, titled the
HEART (Healing Ethno And Racial Trauma) Framework,is
proposed (Figure 2). The acronym spells the word HEART,
which in the Indigenous Aztec culture symbolizes the center of
life—where the spirit and seed of humanity is housed (Davies,
1973). Similarly, the ancient African Kemet believed that the
heart, rather than the brain, was the source of human wisdom,
memory, and emotions (Parham, 2002). The integration of
Indigenous and African beliefs represents an approach to heal-
ing from ethno-racial trauma that centers on cultivating and
promoting self-determination which fosters hope and resis-
tance. HEART is also grounded in the premise that healing
results from individuals reconnecting, strengthening, or staying
connected to their ethno-racial roots (Adames & Chavez-
Dueñas, 2017;Parham, Ajamu, & White, 2010). HEART is
designed to take place in spaces where ethno-racial minorities
can feel heard, affirmed, and protected from external invalida-
tion, threats, and hate that often contributes to psychological
distress. Given that ethno-racial groups live in a society where
their humanities are constantly under assault, the notion of
“safe” spaces are unrealistic. Instead, the HEART Framework
envisions healing taking place in spaces that have been de-
signed as “sanctuaries.” The word and concept of “sanctuary”
derives directly from the immigrant community and describes
places created to offer protection, affirmation, and validation to
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those who live in fear. “Sanctuary” evokes the sense of coping
with hate on a community level.
More recently, the sanctuary movement in the United States
has sought to create spaces of solidarity, affirmation, and
security for undocumented individuals, families, and commu-
nities threatened by immigration laws and policies founded on
ethno-racial hate. Sanctuary spaces allow for Latinxs to (a)
authentically express themselves, be affirmed, and acknowl-
edged; (b) reprocess and mourn the losses associated with
ethno-racial trauma; (c) integrate experiences of ethno-racial
trauma and connect to cultural elements and practices that heal;
and (d) create strategies for protecting, liberating, resisting, and
organizing for social action. Together these four phases are the
foundational pillars of the HEART Framework. The first three
phases are informed by the widely accepted principles (i.e.,
safety, grieving, reconnecting) of trauma care (Peck, 2012).
The last phase is grounded in the work of Fanon (1967) and
Martín-Baró’s (1996) Psychology of Liberation. Each phase is
accompanied by a goal. Overall, the HEART Framework aims
to promote healing from ethno-racial trauma for individuals as
well as families and communities. Below, we outline the goal
of each phase and provide recommendations to stimulate heal-
ing for Latinx individuals, families, and communities.
Phase I: Establishing Sanctuary Spaces for
Latinxs Experiencing Ethno-Racial Trauma
Speaking and listening is how humanity learns to walk. It is
the word that gives form to that walk that goes on inside of us.
Speaking, we heal the pain. Speaking and listening, we ac-
company each other. (Marcos, 2002, p. 76)
Working with survivors of ethno-racial trauma requires that
providers develop an in-depth understanding of the phenome-
nological experience of Latinx people in the United States,
including the impact of racism, ethnocentrism, nativism, and
additional forms of othering on individuals, families, and com-
munities. Mainstream, trauma-informed care suggests that cli-
nicians working with survivors of trauma “must believe
strongly that recovery from traumatic experience cannot take
place without sufficient stability to be able to remember the
Strengthen and Conne ct Individuals,
Families, And Communities To
Survival Strategies And Cultural
Traditions That Heal
Assist individuals, families, and
communities to connect to the Latinx
culture, learn and utilize collective cultural
strengths, and engage in traditions that are
Liberation And Resistance
Develop a social justice orientation
through collective action and
resistance to foster psychological
Establish Sanctuary Spaces
For Latinxs Experiencing
Ethno-Racial Trauma
Assist with immediate relief from the
effects of ethno-racial trauma.
Acknowledge, Reprocess,
And Cope with Symptoms
Of Ethno-Racial Trauma
Help clients develop an awareness of
how systems of oppression impact the
self, family, and community; reprocess
traumatic experiences and provide
support to cope with emotional stress and
symptoms associate d with ethno-racial
Phase I
Phase II
Phase IV
Phase III
Figure 2. HEART Framework: Healing Ethno And Racial Trauma Framework. The HEART Framework
addresses the impact of racism, ethnocentrism, nativism, and other systems of oppression (e.g., sexism,
heterosexism) on the Latinx immigrant community. The Seven Psychological Strengths of Latinxs identified and
described by Adames and Chavez-Dueñas (2017, p. 29) mentioned in Phase III include: (1) Determination: the
endless drive and courage to do what is necessary to survive, (2) Esperanza: faith, even during the most difficult
situations, that things will turn out for the best, (3) Adaptability: the ability to adapt and thrive in a variety of
different contexts, (4) Strong Work Ethic: valuing the importance of working hard, producing quality, and taking
pride in one’s work, regardless of occupation, (5) Connectedness to Others: need and enjoyment of being
emotionally, physically, and spiritually connected with others, (6) Collective Emotional Expression: the ability,
need, and desire to share strong emotions with others, and (7) Resistance: the willpower and courage to stand
firmly for one’s beliefs, ideals, and practices.
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past without becoming overwhelmed by it and thus re-
traumatized” (Fisher, 1999,p.1).Inadditiontostability,
trauma-informed care also describes physical and emotional
safety as a central component in the treatment of survivors of
any kind of trauma. However, “sufficient stability” may not be
attainable for survivors of ethno-racial trauma who experience
insidious and ongoing attacks on their personhood. Moreover,
developing a sense of physical safety among undocumented
Latinx immigrants and their families is complex and may also
be unattainable given the reality that they could be detained
and deported at any time and for any reason.
While creating a sense of physical and emotional safety in
society may not be possible, a sanctuary space can be created
by developing a sense of physical safety within the context of
treatment. Organizations and providers can ensure that in their
spaces, the experiences and stories of Latinxs immigrants are
respected, validated, and affirmed. Overall, while safety and
complete stabilization may not be feasible for Latinx immi-
grants, focusing on assisting individuals, families and commu-
nities gain immediate relief from the effects of psychological
distress caused by ethno-racial trauma is possible. Phase I in
Table 1 describes some recommendations to help providers
and organizations achieve this goal.
Phase II: Acknowledge, Reprocess, and Cope
with Symptoms of Ethno-Racial Trauma
We need to bear witness to what we have lost: our safety, our
sense of belonging, our vision of our country. We need to
mourn all these injuries fully, so that they do not drag us into
despair, so repair will be possible. (Diaz, 2016, para. 4)
Vast amounts of research exist regarding effective treat-
ments for symptoms of psychological trauma, with Trauma-
Focused Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) being the
intervention recommended most (Seidler & Wagner, 2006).
TF-CBT utilizes various techniques (e.g., visualization, talk-
ing, thinking about the traumatic event) to help clients process
traumatic experiences in an environment they deem safe. How-
ever, trauma-informed interventions have not been empirically
investigated for symptoms related to ethno-racial trauma
(Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2006). Instead, models of treatment
adaptations are proposed by scholars to explicitly address
trauma resulting from experiences of racism, ethnocentrism,
and oppression (Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2006;Comas-Díaz,
2007;Dunbar & Blanco, 2014). Following a treatment adap-
tation practice, Phase II seeks to integrate elements of TF-CBT
with the process of concientización,acoreelementofLiber-
ation Psychology. Concientización is the process whereby in-
dividuals locate their experiences within a historical context of
oppression and marginalization, which serves as a way for
clients to give themselves permission not to self-blame for
experiencing symptoms that result from living in an oppressive
environment. This approach also helps clinicians shift their
conceptualization of trauma by explicitly considering the con-
textual factors that may be contributing to the problems that
Latinx immigrants experience. In general, Phase II aims to help
clients to (a) acknowledge the impact of ethno-racial trauma,
(b) process the experience in a sanctuary space (consistent with
TF-CBT), (c) develop culturally responsive ways of coping,
and (d) contextualize their distress by challenging assumptions
about the source(s) of their difficulties (e.g., racism has been
part of this country since its foundation, many of the problems
that Communities of Color face are structural and not internal
to the individual). Recommendations on how to assist Latinx
immigrants to acknowledge, reprocess, and cope with ethno-
racial trauma are provided on Phase II of Table 1.
Phase III: Strengthen and Connect Individuals,
Families, and Communities to Survival Strategies
and Cultural Traditions That Heal
And while we’re doing the hard, necessary work of mourning,
we should avail ourselves of the old formations that have seen
us through darkness. We organize. We form solidarities. And,
yes: we fight. To be heard. To be safe. To be free. (Diaz, 2016,
Developing a healthy racial and ethnic identity grounded in
cultural strengths is important across the life span. To this end,
Phase III focuses on assisting Latinxs to strengthen their con-
nection with their culture, or build a connection if one does not
exist. Evidence suggests that a negative relationship between
racial identity status and race-based traumatic stress exists
(Carter et al., 2017), underscoring how developing a more
mature racial identity status could serve as a protective factor
against ethno-racial trauma. Similarly, being anchored in tra-
ditional cultural values, practices, and strengths can help Lat-
inx immigrants build psychological armors to survive, cope,
and heal from the ongoing attack on their humanity (Alvarez-
Rivera, Nobles, & Lersch, 2014;Rumbaut, 2008). This goal is
particularly important for Young Immigrants of Color who are
susceptible to internalizing racist and ethnocentric messages.
While Latinx immigrants are currently facing numerous
challenges related to nativism, ethnocentrism, and racism,
which can result in psychological distress related to ethno-
racial trauma, they are also the descendants of remarkably
resilient groups of people who, despite being colonized, dehu-
manized, and oppressed, have developed strategies to survive,
resist, and thrive (Adames & Chavez-Dueñas, 2017). From the
combination of their history and collective survival strategies,
Seven Latinx Psychological Strengths have been identified by
Adames & Chavez-Dueñas (2017,p.29),whichinclude:De-
termination, Esperanza, Adaptability, Strong Work Ethic, Con-
nectedness to Others, Collective Emotional Expression, and
chological strengths to aid in developing a strength-based
treatment approach to help clients cope and heal from ethno-
racial trauma. Recommendations for how to assist clients in
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Table 1
Recommendations for the HEART: Healing Ethno-Racial Trauma
Phases Community Family Individual
Phase I • Create a mission statement that underscores
nondiscrimination related to immigration
• Make materials available in languages
spoken by Latinxs
• Train staff to demonstrate care and empathy
• Participate and lead organized activities to
advocate for immigrants’ rights
• Provide “know your rights” workshops for
• Administer information about psychological
and behavioral symptoms associated with
ethno-racial trauma
• Provide resources and referrals for mental
health treatment
• Provide crisis intervention teams in-house or
on-call for clients to stop by in times of
need (e.g., following raids), or inquiry
• Strengthen, maintain, and/or repair attachment
disruption caused by ethno-racial trauma by
assisting immigrant caregivers in:
(a) maintaining stability in the home by
creating a regular schedule
(b) having consistent expectations and limits
for children
(c) dedicating family time for children to
express their emotions in ways that are
prosocial through their expressive
preference (e.g., verbal, nonverbal, drawing,
(d) building networks with other families for
• Develop safety plans in the event of
deportation including:
(a) identifying a guardian for minors who
may be left behind
(b) communicating the plan to all members of
the family, including children
(c) openly discussing fears and reactions
related to the possibility of deportations
(d) connecting clients with legal resources
• For families where a member has been
(a) assist families with immediate needs, such
as finding the detention center where a
family member has been sent; the online
Detainee Locator System provides
information about people who are in ICE’s
(b) connect family members to legal
representation at low or no cost
(c) provide psychological First Aid to
children who witnessed detainment
(d) help family make decisions and plan for
the future
• For immediate short-term relief of symptoms,
implement traditional methods of crisis
intervention. The following questions may be
(a) Has the client just experienced a racist
(b) Are they in immediate risk of deportation?
(c) Has someone in the family been detained?
• Connect with the client by integrating Latinx
cultural values while communicating (e.g.,
respect, personalismo/simpatía [caring, pleasant,
harmonious interactions], and dignidad [treating
the person with dignity])
• Demonstrate empathy and care in ways that are
culturally congruent, for instance:
(a) offer water or tea
(b) engage in small plática [small talk],
utilizing active listening skills
(c) use welcoming and friendly nonverbal
• Normalize, address, and challenge self-blaming
statements; correct cognitive disortions (e.g., I
deserve to be treated this way)
• Assist client in developing a self-care plan to
cope with intense traumatic emotions
(a) Include high-energy activities s uch as
(b) Promote lower energy activities (e.g.,
meditation) that can help decrease
• Teach grounding, centering, and other body-
focused coping skills
• Help clients learn when and how to take breaks
from talking about traumatic experiences
• Provide psychoeducation regarding the
biological and psychological impact of
psychological stress
Phase II Create psychoeducational programs where
members of the community can learn about
the history of different oppressed groups
• Provide creative ways (e.g., workshops,
presentations, panels, art exhibits, and
movie screenings) to disseminate
information about White supremacy,
oppression, and its impact on communities
of color
• Create and open sanctuary spaces designed
for Latinxs to reprocess traumatic
experiences related to immigration (e.g.,
crossing the border, being detained by ICE)
• Establish access to mental health
professionals to provide emotional
assistance and support when necessary
• Provide concrete information to members of
the community that will help them become
aware, process, and cope with symptoms
related to ethno-racial trauma, such as fact-
sheets, toolkits in various languages and
mediums (e.g., fotonovel as, infographics),
describing information about symptoms of
trauma, and how to seek additional
resources (e.g., psychotherapy)
• Provide psychoeducation regarding the
symptoms and impact of trauma on families
• Assist the family unit in proce ssing the
effects of ethno-racial trauma
• Re-label survivor behaviors such as
opposition, aggressiveness, and passivity as
examples of people’s determination to
survive and endure challenges resulting from
systemic oppression
• Assist the family unit in learning prosocial
and culturally-congruent ways to modulate
and cope with the range of emotions a nd
distress associated with ethno-racial trauma
• The Latinx culture offers a variety of ways
for families to cope with stress including:
(a) connecting with spiritual guides and
traditional healers (e.g., curanderas,
sobadores, yerberos)
(b) seeking social support from extended
family and friends
(c) expressing emotions through art
(d) watching and playing sports as a family
(e) attending social events that promote
collective emotional expression such as
singing, dancing, and/or laughing
on Latinx psychology, oppression, liberation
psychology, and psychological trauma
and aid in their acquisition of additional skills that
will help them identify, modulate, and cope with
the intense emotions that result from ethno-raci al
trauma in healthy ways
of emotions and experiences that may be
described by clients in therapy
clients share their stories
provide detailed accounts of their traumatic
narratives of traumatic experiences:
(a) allow them to do so without rushing or asking
too many questions
(b) accompany the client through their journey
while providing comfort
(c) remind the client to take breaks
may wish to process their emotions in the
language in which the trauma took place; hence,
the assistance of a translator may be necessary
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developing or strengthening their connection to the Latinx
traditional culture are provided in Phase III of Table 1.
Phase IV: Liberation and Resistance
We know that by fighting, against all odds, we who had
nothing, not even our real names, transformed the universe.
Our ancestors did this with very little, and we who have more
must do the same. (Diaz, 2016, para. 7)
Phase IV focuses on promoting a social justice orientation
among Latinx immigrants and is guided by a Liberation Psy-
chology paradigm, which encourages oppressed groups to
view their struggles through a collectivist lens, thus requiring
collective social action. From this perspective, healing takes
place when people (a) gain awareness of the systemic roots of
the challenges, and (b) learn strategies to act in ways that resist
oppression and lead to social change. From the perspective of
Liberation Psychology, healing that incorporates a social jus-
tice component prepares individuals “to confront pressing
community problems and shift from individual blame to a
consciousness of root and systemic causes of personal prob-
lems” (Ginwright, 2010,p.16).Engagementinsocialjustice
work has been associated with positive mental health and faster
recovery from presenting problems for People of Color
(Comas-Díaz, 2015;Szymanski & Lewis, 2015). To this end,
the primary task for social justice-oriented organizations and
providers is to help assist in “restoring liberty to the oppressed”
(Utsey et al., 2001,p.326)sotheycanactontheirownpower
in ways that promote liberation for themselves and others.
Alleviating oppression through social justice work becomes a
vital compass that collectively heal. Phase IV on Table 1
Table 1 (continued)
Phases Community Family Individual
Phase III • Organize events for the community to learn
about experiences of ethno-racial trauma
(e.g., lynching of Mexican Americans,
segregation, the Zoot Suit riots) endured by
the group to which they belong. Such
events ca n include:
(a) Documentaries, and movie screenings
(e.g., Zoot Suit, the Head of Joaquin
(b) testimonies from members of the
community who have experienced ethno-
racial trauma
(c) Reading books written by people who
have experienced ethno-racial trauma or
have written about it (e.g., The Brief
Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot
Diaz, Dying to Cross by Jorge Ramos)
(b) Following events, community leaders
and/or experts can facilitate discussions
regarding how the Latinx community
coped, survived, and resisted ongoing
(c) Facilitators are encouraged to be
familiar with the Psychological Strengths
of Latinxs (see note in Figure 2 for
descriptors of strenghts)
(d) Encourage the community to reflect on
the strengths they already utilize and ways
to incorporate additional ones
• Connect communitites to their culture by
planning events that celebrate the richness
and beauty of the Latinx heritage
• Invite traditional healers to describe and
discuss holistic strategies of healthcare
• Assess how each member of the family
system copes with stress associated with
ethno-racial trauma
• Suggest/teach additional coping strategies that
may be practiced individually or as a family
Utilize case studies from historical events
and/or Latinx figures to help families identify
the challenges members of their communities
have fac ed and how they have surivived
• Encourage families to utilize dinners or other
meals as a communal space where daily
discussions reduce stress while strengthening
relationships in the family system, modeling
in action the traditional value of familism to
• Encourage and reinforce famili es’ maintaince
of their cultural traditions (e.g., quinceañeras,
aguinaldos, carnavales, desfiles, Dia de Los
Reyes, Day of the Dead)
• Assist families in learning and integrating the
psychological strengths o f Latinx by:
(a) suggesting that families identify, name,
discuss, and celebrate their cultural strengths
(b) helping families internalize the strengths
of their culture, which may buffer the
effects of ethno-racial trauma
• Assess client’s stage/status of racial and ethnic
• Examine which specific aspects of the client’s
presenting difficulties are associated with
ethno-racial trauma
• Create opportunites to dialogue about the impact
of external and systemic factors on the client’s
current symptoms
• Help clients contextualize the challenges and
symptoms they face
• Role model appreciation and importance of
maintaining a connection to culture of orgin
• Crea te treatment goals designed to help clients
develop an appreciation of their race and
culture by:
(a) teaching c ultural knowledge
(b) practicing cultural traditions
(c) learning about and celebrating cultural
strengths to abate effects of ethno-racial
(d) encouraging healthy cultural distrust
(suspicion of white supremacy and the people
and systems that reincorce it)
Phase IV • Assist individuals, families, and communities to develop a social justice orientation by:
• engaging in power-analysis which in turn produces critical thinking and generates ways of organizing, solving problems, and identifying decision-
• exploring causes they are passionate about and where they would like to create change
• identifying ways to engage and contribute to systemic change
• finding activities and roles that engage in social action such as:
(a) volunteering in social agencies that advocate for the rights of immigrants
(b) participating in marches and rallies
(c) becoming active on social media as a way to raise awareness about the challenges experienced by Latinx in the United States
(d) running for different leadership positions within their communities (e.g., parent-teacher association, public office)
Note. The recommendations outlined in this table were generated by integrating a number of sources including the following: (a) authors’ clinical
experience with immigrant communities, (b) consultation with immigration advocacy groups and organizations, and (c) elements of trauma-informed care
and Liberation Psychology.
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describes some ways to assist in these endeavors. Overall,
social justice work provides ways for Latinx to create meaning
from their struggles while nurturing the strength of hope
to have at last, the opportunity to decide our [their] own
destiny. The hope that democracy, liberty, and justice become
more than the subject of speeches and textbooks. The hope
that they become reality for everyone, but above all, for those
who have nothing. (Marcos, 2004, p. 81)
Future Considerations: Making Psychology a
Sanctuary Discipline
In this article, we examined the implications of oppressive
immigration policies on Latinx immigrants and provided a
framework that integrates intersectional theory, trauma-
informed care, and Liberation Psychology to address ethno-
racial trauma. Overall, our intention and hopeful expectation is
that the content presented serves as a call to action for psy-
chologists to use research, policy, and clinical practice to make
psychology a Sanctuary Discipline. As a discipline, psychol-
ogy’s largest organization, the American Psychological Asso-
ciation, can engage in various actions that demonstrate support
for and solidarity with immigrant communities. Such activities
can include (a) the development of a rapid response team
dedicated to writing and publishing position statements related
to laws and policies that negatively impact the wellbeing of
immigrant communities; (b) making immigration issues a top
lobbying priority; (c) applying psychological knowledge to the
development of reports, social media campaigns, and informa-
tion sheets that highlight the mental health implications of
aggressive immigration policies across the life span.
Attention also needs to be paid to psychological research
with immigrant communities. For instance, while intersection-
ality theory focuses on understanding the effect of both the
interlocking systems of oppression as well as how individuals
and communities resist and engage in social action, research on
immigrants has predominately focused on the impact of op-
pression at the exclusion of understanding how communities
survive their subjugation. We encourage scholars to integrate a
sanctuary research framework whereby the voices, wishes, and
expert opinions of the people who have survived and resisted
dehumanizing and aggressive immigration policies are intri-
cately woven into all phases of research. In closing, it would be
fruitful for psychologists to collaborate with colleagues from
across the sciences (e.g., anthropology, sociology, nursing,
medicine) and internationally to test the effectiveness of the
HEART framework and other models that address ethno-racial
trauma in immigrant communities.
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Received September 15, 2017
Revision received November 9, 2017
Accepted December 5, 2017 !
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... Although the scientific literature has become more focused on race-based trauma, few studies have been devoted to treatments that can adequately address these issues (Chioneso et al., 2020;Metzger et al., 2021). Nevertheless, the literature contains many attempts to develop treatments for racial trauma (Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2006;Chavez-Dueñas et al., 2019;Chioneso et al., 2020;Comas-Díaz, 2016;Markin & Coleman, 2021;Metzger et al., 2021). Bryant-Davis and Ocampo (2006) underlined a combination of factors that traditional therapies should integrate before being able to address instances of racial trauma that their clients have dealt with in an appropriate way: acknowledgment (therapists must recognize that their clients have to face the reality of the racist instances that they have dealt with); sharing (creating a supportive and compassionate environment to help clients share their experiences without shame); safety and self-care (creating a secure and stable environment to help clients protect themselves against new occurrences of racist aggression without blaming them for a situation that they did not create and to provide them with resources for self-care); grieving/mourning the losses (helping clients identify the dimensions of the loss and to define a new representation of self); shame and self-blame/internalized racism (helping clients to question the cognitive distortions that lead them to feel shameful, blame themselves, or to develop internalized racism and work with them to move past this stage); anger (being nonjudgmental and supportive, therapists are supposed to address clients' anger, which is crucial in the case of racial-trauma therapists of the same race as the perpetrators who must be careful not to defend the perpetrators or become defensive); coping strategies (helping clients identify their own personal adaptation strategies that will allow them to acquire adaptive skills and stress management); and resistance strategies (inspired by liberation psychology, empowering the client to improve their life and the lives of those around them; Comas-Díaz, 2020; Quiñones-Rosado, 2020). ...
... This approach makes it possible to address both racial trauma and stress based on race by empowering survivors to render themselves more capable of expressing and transforming their reality. Chavez-Dueñas et al. (2019) developed the Healing Ethno-Racial Trauma (HEART) framework that aims to create a culturally adapted treatment to address racial trauma for people with Latin origins living in the United States. He stated: ...
Racial trauma refers to experiences related to threats, prejudices, harm, shame, humiliation, and guilt associated with various types of racial discrimination, either for direct victims or witnesses. In North American, European, and colonial zeitgeist societies, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) experience racial microaggressions and interpersonal, institutional, and systemic racism on a repetitive, constant, inevitable, and cumulative basis. Although complex trauma differs from racial trauma in its origin, the consistency of racist victimization beyond childhood, and the internalized racism associated with it, strong similarities exist. Similar to complex trauma, racial trauma surrounds the victims’ life course and engenders consequences on their physical and mental health, behavior, cognition, relationships with others, self-concept, and social and economic life. There is no way to identify racial trauma other than through a life-course approach that captures the complex nature of individual, collective, historical, and intergenerational experiences of racism experienced by BIPOC communities in Western society. This article presents evidence for complex racial trauma (CoRT), a theoretical framework of CoRT, and guidelines for its assessment and treatment. Avenues for future research, intervention, and training are also presented.
... In a wider context, racial trauma has the impact of socially, economically, and politically marginalizing Asian people by limiting the places where they can live, their access to high-quality education and jobs, and their degree of civic participation. Such phenomena have also been identified among Hispanics (Chavez-Dueñas et al., 2019), Black Americans (Bird et al., 2021), and American Indians (Skewes & Blume, 2019). Therefore, being born in the US and earning a college degree provide no guarantees against the possibility of experiencing widespread discrimination in health care, education, and other areas of life. ...
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Racial trauma among Asians, including Indonesians, has increased dramatically in the United States. While many studies have been written about the significance of recurring race-related traumatic incidents, the broader meaning of the unexpected and dark side of racial trauma experiences among Indonesians who reside in the United States is under-reported. This study aims to explore the meaning of experience dealing with racial trauma among Indonesians living in the United States using a qualitative phenomenological approach. We conducted in-depth interviews via the Zoom platform with a nationally representative purposive sample of 16 adults aged 26 and older. In analyzing this phenomenological study, all stages of phenomenological reduction were used. The findings demonstrate that racial trauma among Indonesian Americans can be categorized into three themes: 1) feeling sad and angry, 2) being exhausted, and 3) suffering physically. Therefore, the myth that Asian Americans are immune to racism and its effects is not necessarily true. This study also offers implications for future research on racial understanding and discussion.
Four first-generation Latinxs use their personal lived experiences and the experiences that they bear witness to as mental health practitioners to provide a critical lens on the decolonization of intergenerational trauma (IGT) in the Latinx community. The authors acknowledge that IGT is rooted in systemic oppression and colonization. They explore the systemic, cultural, interpersonal, and intrapersonal bidirectional impact that these areas have on the well-being of Latinxs. They highlight the inherent resistance and resilience skills that Latinxs have to survive and thrive from trauma. The authors share culturally responsive interventions that reclaim the cultural values of Latinxs to promote holistic healing and end the transmission of trauma.
The terms religion and spirituality are used interchangeably and often shown as symbols of strength, resiliency, and resistance among Latinxs with intersecting identities who are impacted by various forms of oppression in their daily lives. The authors will explore the shifts that have taken place in the Latinx population, moving away from predominantly Catholic practices and returning to practices pre-colonization and more Spiritual practices. The authors will weave intersectionality throughout this chapter, highlighting the diversity that exists within the Latinx community, focusing on cultural strengths, resiliency, and decolonization. The chapter will focus on central aspects of spirituality that include the return to indigenous healing practices, coping, and recommendations and implications focused on training through a multicultural lens and highlighting the strengths and growth areas of available interventions and research.
The authors of this book are part of a diverse network of scholars and practitioners with expertise in various aspects of Latinx psychology and mental health. They share a similar purpose of expanding the pipeline of Latinx counselors and psychologists to collectively create a just and healthy society for all Latinxs. This chapter reflects on the common linkages and underdeveloped areas among the chapters. Future directions for Latinx mental health are presented and include but are not limited to the incorporation of liberatory frameworks and interdisciplinary approaches.
The mental health of men has recently become a topic of interest to social scientists and mental health professionals. The chapter presents a strength-based and culturally informed understanding of the interrelated factors associated with the mental health of Latinx men. Concepts such as masculine ideologies, gender socialization, help-seeking behaviors, as well as relevant trends within higher education and the mental health fields. The authors engage readers in an adapted version of the Latinx oral tradition of testimonios. The authors incorporate personal and professional experiences throughout the chapter that are relevant to the topics and to facilitate a deeper connection and appreciation with the experiences of Latinx men and their mental health.
This chapter will focus on cross-border ties that Latinx immigrants maintain with their countries of origin. The authors discussed factors related to ethnic identity, language, and biculturalism/multiculturalism and explored issues associated with navigating changes faced when returning to their native countries, such as shifts in roles and social identities. The authors also engaged in reflecting about the significance of support and finding symbolic ways for individuals to uphold a connection with their roots. Finally, the chapter ends with a discussion on the importance of representation and advocacy for the Latinx immigrants.
The deleterious impact of parental detention and deportation on children's development is a matter of urgent concern. This chapter documents the effects of parental detention and deportation on a growing population of children of immigrants in the US. It is critical that we approach this complex social problem from a broad public health perspective, addressing all of the determinants of health and bearing in mind the threat and deprivation associated with growing up in anti-immigrant society. Using a developmental approach that is informed by social determinants of health and expanded models of adversity, we provide analyses of a myriad of short- and long-term psychological, social, and health challenges faced by children of immigrants, particularly among those who experience the detention and deportation of their parents. Recommendations for clinical and community interventions, and policy advocacy are framed using a public health approach to prevention.
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This study explores how Multifamily therapists create a context for group cohesion between monolingual and multilingual family members and what they might inadvertently do to hinder it. Group cohesion has been found to enable processes of change. I examine the intersection between group cohesion and language which is underrepresented in psychotherapy, MFT process research. Qualitative research methods were used to address the following research questions: 1) What do Multifamily therapists do in dialogue to create a context for horizontal (between multilingual and monolingual families) and vertical (between family members and therapist) group cohesion?; 2) What do Multifamily therapists do in dialogue that inadvertently hinders the horizontal and vertical group cohesion between monolingual and multilingual families?; 3) What is the intersection between Multifamily therapy, group cohesion and language, including interpreters' roles? Two types of analysis, Dialogical Investigations of Happenings of Change (Seikkula, Laitila and Rober, 2012), and Thematic Analysis, were carried out on three data sources– 2 MFT sessions, a focus group with group participants, and an interview with therapists.
Multiple social movements (e.g., Black Lives Matter, The Combahee River Collective, Musawah, and #MeToo) have highlighted the systems of oppression (e.g., racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and classism) in this country and globally that have targeted different marginalized groups. The traumatic experiences of gender-based violence (GBV) are compounded by the trauma of a long history of structural violence and the unique experiences of different social identities, including race, religion, and gender. One example in the Muslim American context is how Oyewuwo (2019) analyzes the unique experiences of Black Muslim women seeking help for GBV. Her work illustrates the ways in which these women, growing up in a system of oppression and injustice, shaped their response to GBV by creating patterns in which they endure violence and pain. As a South-Asian-American and an Arab-American researching GBV and working within the field, we ask: how do we, members of the Muslim community, become allies for Muslims experiencing GBV within the context of systematic oppression (in ways that prevent privileged groups from reproducing and maintaining patterns of inequality)? In this paper, we aim to envision possibilities for our role as allies by looking into the intersection of Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and domestic violence within Muslim communities. We present a theoretical background to some of the existing literature on intersectionality and allyship and provide a framework to combine them. The resulting framework will build off existing social movements and apply these learnings to the context of GBV within the Muslim context. Finally, this framework gives community allies, including faith leaders, activists, and community members, a guideline on the role they play in this critical social issue.
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This article introduces the special section on intersectionality research in counseling psychology. Across the 4 manuscripts that constitute this special section, a clear theme emerges: a need to return to the roots and promise of intersectionality theory. Importantly, the 2 empirical pieces in this special section (Jerald et al., 2017; Lewis et al., 2017) are studies of Black women’s experiences: a return, so to speak, to the subject positions and social locations from which intersectionality emanates. Shin et al. (2017) explore why this focus on Black feminist thought and social justice is so important by highlighting the persistent weaknesses in how much research published in leading counseling psychology journals has tended to use intersectionality as a way to talk about multiple identities, rather than as a framework for critiquing systemic, intersecting forms of oppression and privilege. Shin and colleagues also point to the possibilities intersectionality affords us when scholars realize the transformative potential of this critical framework. Answers to this call for transformative practices are foregrounded in Moradi and Grzanka’s (2017) contribution, which surveys the interdisciplinary literature on intersectionality and presents a series of guidelines for using intersectionality responsibly. We close with a discussion of issues concerning the applications of intersectionality to counseling psychology research that spans beyond the contributions of each manuscript in this special section.
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The increasing popularity of the concept of intersectionality in the social sciences, including in psychology, represents an opportunity to reflect on the state of stewardship of this concept, its roots, and its promise. In this context, the authors aim to promote responsible stewardship of intersectionality and to tip the momentum of intersectionality’s flourishing toward fuller use and engagement of its roots and promise for understanding and challenging dynamics of power, privilege, and oppression. To this end, this article provides a set of guidelines for reflection and action. The authors organize these guidelines along three major formulations of intersectionality: intersectionality as a field of study, as analytic strategy or disposition, and as critical praxis for social justice. Ultimately, the authors call for expanding the use of intersectionality toward fuller engagement with its roots in Black feminist thought, its current interdisciplinary richness and potential, and its central aims to challenge and transform structures and systems of power, privilege, and oppression.
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To understand the impact racial experiences have on people of color, it is important to consider both whether there are any race-based traumatic stress symptoms (RBTS) and within-group psychological differences as reflected in one’s racial identity status attitudes (RISA). Moreover, if the combination of RBTS reactions and racial identity status attitudes are related to their psychological functioning? The current study explored the relationships between a person’s reactions to memorable racial encounters as assessed by the Race-Based Traumatic Stress Symptoms Scale, their racial identity status attitudes measured by the People of Color Racial Identity Attitude Scale, and psychological functioning (i.e., distress and well-being). Data from 282 adult community-based participants were used to examine the combined associations between RBTS, racial identity status attitudes, psychological well-being and psychological distress. A hierarchical cluster analysis was conducted to examine the relationships between race-based traumatic stress reactions and racial identity status attitudes. A two-cluster group solution was found that showed associations between externally defined or less mature racial identity status attitudes and higher RBTS symptoms and psychological distress. Internally defined or more mature or differentiated racial identity statuses were related to decreased psychological distress and RBTS symptoms. The findings were not expected in that lower racial identity statues were associated with higher levels of RBTS. Clinical implications and future research directions are discussed.
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Objective: This study examines posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and psychological distress among 91 Latino U.S.-born children (ages 6 to 12), living in mixed-status families with a least 1 undocumented parent at risk for detention or deportation. Method: Multiagent (child, parent, teacher, clinician) and standardized assessments were conducted at baseline to assess for child trauma and psychological distress. Results: Analyses indicate that PTSD symptoms as reported by parent were significantly higher for children of detained and deported parents compared to citizen children whose parents were either legal permanent residents or undocumented without prior contact with immigration enforcement. Similarly, findings revealed differences in child internalizing problems associated with parental detention and deportation as reported by parent as well as differences in overall child functioning as reported by clinician. In addition, teachers reported higher externalizing for children with more exposure to PTEs. Conclusions: These findings lend support to a reconsideration and revision of immigration enforcement practices to take into consideration the best interest of Latino citizen children. Trauma-informed assessments and interventions are recommended for this special population. (PsycINFO Database Record
This sweeping work traces the idea of race for more than three centuries to show that ‘race’ is not a product of science but a cultural invention that has been used variously and opportunistically since the eighteenth century. Updated throughout, the fourth edition of this renowned text includes a compelling new chapter on the health impacts of the racial worldview, as well as a thoroughly rewritten chapter that explores the election of Barack Obama and its implications for the meaning of race in America and the future of our racial ideology.
The current immigration enforcement regime embodies a colorblind racial project of the state rooted in the racial structure of society and resulting in racism toward immigrants. Approaching racism from structural and social process perspectives, we seek to understand the social consequences of enforcement practices in the lives of undocumented immigrant young adults who moved to the United States as minors. Findings indicate that although legal discourse regarding immigration enforcement theoretically purports colorblindness, racial practices such as profiling subject immigrants to arrest, detention, and deportation and, in effect, criminalize them. Further, enforcement practices produce distress, vulnerability, and anxiety in the lives of young immigrants and their families, often resulting in legitimate fears of detention and deportation since enforcement measures disproportionately affect Latinos and other racialized immigrant groups in U.S. society. We conclude that policies and programs that exclude, segregate, detain, and physically remove immigrants from the country reproduce racial inequalities in other areas of social life through spillover effects that result in dire consequences for these immigrants and their kin. We argue that immigrant enforcement practices reflect the nation’s racial policy of our times.
Volume Focuses on: Race, Skin-Color, Immigration, Gender, History, Racial & Ethnic Identity Advancing work to effectively study, understand, and serve Latino/as, the fastest growing U.S. ethnic minority population, this volume explicitly emphasizes the racial and ethnic diversity within this heterogeneous cultural group. The focus is on the complex historical roots of contemporary Latino/as, their diversity in skin-color and physiognomy, racial identity, ethnic identity, gender differences, immigration patterns, and acculturation. The work highlights how the complexities inherent in the diverse Latino/a experience, as specified throughout the topics covered in this volume, become critical elements of culturally responsive and racially conscious mental health treatment approaches. By addressing the complexities, within-group differences, and racially heterogeneity characteristic of U.S. Latino/as, this volume makes a significant contribution to the literature related to mental health treatments and interventions.