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Local therapist discusses importance of bilingual mental health services after Texas shooting

A nationwide survey by the American Psychological Association in 2018 found that just 5.5% of psychologists could provide services in Spanish.

DENVER — If you step into the building where Vida Nueva Counseling is located in Denver, you'll be greeted by the soothing sound of a fountain in the lobby, with not another person in sight. 

Not only is a quiet space before a therapy session important, but founder and owner Adriana Figueroa said so is culturally responsive service. 

"In our Latino communities, there's a lot of - we're born into a lot of adversities, a lot of challenges," she said. "And seeing that in the community and acknowledging our own family dynamics and our own adversities, this is how I went about the calling of mental health and providing a service for those that need it, that are in crisis."

This week, a tragic shooting killed 19 students and 2 teachers in Uvalde, Texas - a community that is predominantly Latino.

What happened there has impacted Latinos across the country, but also has opened the conversation around mental health and why local resources want to have that conversation in multiple languages. 

"What do we see in the aftermath of of these situations? Increased anxiety, depression, trauma, bereavement, crisis -- and the accessibility to mental health services is very critical," she said. 

Figueroa handles around 28 clients on average, she says, half of which are Latino or Spanish speakers. 

Bilingual herself, she says providing bilingual mental health services can make a difference. 

"Sometimes lack of understanding of certain customs or cultures can be a boundary for successful therapy," she said. "So identifying with your own culture, your own language will provide a deeper sense of safety to really engage and open up to the fullest and feel safe about your personal issues."

Credit: Luis de Leon
Adriana Figueroa, owner and therapist at Vida Nueva Counseling in Denver, stands in the lobby of the building where her office is located.

Since the shooting, Figueroa said she's already had several clients leave voicemails reaching out on behalf of their teenagers. 

But she says the amount of clinicians out there, especially those that are bilingual, is not keeping up with the increasing demand. 

A nationwide survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2018 found that just 5.5% of psychologists are Hispanic or another race or ethnicity that could provide services in Spanish.

As of 2019, the APA said just 7% of psychologists in the country were Hispanic. 

The nonprofit Mental Health America ranked Colorado 21st for access to care this year. 

"We have a lot of work to do," said Figueroa. "We have a lot of education to do out in our communities, and we have to sort of encourage people to feel safe in reaching out for services."

Servicios de la Raza recently opened their behavioral health lines to help anyone struggling to process what happened in Texas. 

If you or someone you know needs help, call 720-410-7108 to be directed. The line will be open for the next few weeks.

WellPower in Denver also launched a new free virtual therapy service that gives Denverites three free sessions with a WellPower clinician. They also have Spanish-speaking clinicians, including through their Spanish service, El Centro de las Familias.

RELATED: Mother of a teenage gunman who shot and killed 21 people speaks out

RELATED: These are the names of the 19 children and 2 teachers killed in Uvalde school

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