Understanding the lived experiences of Spanish bilingual counselors-in-training counseling Spanish-speaking clients
The skyrocketing rate of U.S. Spanish-speaking Latino population growth necessitates an increase in competent bilingual counselors. Currently, there are few resources to help prepare bilingual counselors-in-training to counsel Spanish-speaking clients. This qualitative study examined the experiences of Spanish bilingual counselors-in-training counseling Spanish-speaking clients.
Eleven participants were interviewed in person. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed using phenomenological methodology. Results from this study revealed 14 themes and subthemes. The five major themes included: Lost in Translation, The Importance of Culture, Counseling Practice with Spanish-Speaking Clients, Negative Self-Assessment, and Positive Experiences and Future Development..
Due to the different language styles among counselors and clients and unfamiliar counseling vocabulary, participants experienced challenges communicating with their clients. In order to foster better communication, participants used a variety of methods to bridge the communication gap. Participants also discussed the importance of understanding the client's culture in order to better counsel them. While language and cultural differences affected the flow and pace of the counseling session, counselors' bilingualism reportedly helped clients feel more comfortable. Despite sometimes feeling anxious and guilty about these challenges, participants offered stories of success and positive growth. Based on a synthesis of their experiences, implications for the counseling profession and recommendations for future research are discussed.