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November 7, 2017

The Stories We Tell: Exploring the Professional Narratives of Latino/a Psychologists

Cover of Journal of Latina/o Psychology (small)In a recent publication in the Journal of Latina/o Psychology, counseling psychologists Edward Delgado-Romero, Erin Unkefer, Cristalis Capielo and Candice Crowell (now Hargons) explored the published narratives of Latina/o psychologists.

The authors found 18 published narratives between the years of 1999 and 2014, and as a team examined the narratives using thematic analysis.

The published life stories of Latina/o psychologists are important: the large number of psychology undergraduate and graduate Latina/o students coupled with the relatively stagnant number of Latina/o psychology faculty means that there are few available cultural/ethnic role models for a growing number of students.

The themes derived can help provide mentoring to future generations and can be critically evaluated for potentially negative or discouraging messages.

After reading the narratives, the researchers identified these themes and subthemes:

  • Personal and Professional Development
    education and educational barriers; mentorship; professional identity development; multicultural competence and social justice; and visibility and invisibility
  • Cultural Identities
    experiences of racism, discrimination and cultural oppression; racial and ethnic identity development; gender roles and identity; and religion and spirituality
  • Collective Identity
    family and ancestry; social support of minority colleagues
  • Intercultural Shifting
    acculturation and assimilation; language; migration, immigration, movement and travel

For example, in the first theme under the subtheme mentorship, the authors were able to examine the mentoring relationships of two Latina/o psychologists from the perspective of the mentee and mentor in narratives written years apart. Yolanda Flores wrote about meeting Amado Padilla and the inspiration that he provided. Padilla wrote about the surreal experience of being a mentor and about needing a mentor himself!

Narrative authors identified the main role of mentors as advocates, navigators of systems, and encouragers. Unfortunately, the lack of mentors was also often cited as a factor for leaving a university.

Many of the psychologists included in the publication are pioneers in multicultural psychology: Padilla, Melba Vasquez, Lillian Comas-Diaz, Patricia Arredondo and Manuel Casas. Their stories are balanced by early and mid-career Latino/a psychologists.

Collectively, the narratives represent a testament to cultural commitment and resiliency. They highlight the struggles and barriers that Latina/o psychologists have faced and overcome.

Delgado-Romero and colleagues critically questioned the focus on barriers and wondered if the emphasis on overcoming barriers might unintentionally limit the types of stories told and deter young Latina/o graduate students from pursuing careers as faculty since the majority of narrative authors were faculty.

However, at the conclusion of the study the authors were left awestruck and indebted to the courage of the Latina/o psychologists who added their unique voices to mainstream psychology.


  • Delgado-Romero, E. A., Unkefer, E. N. S., Capielo, C., & Crowell, C. N. (2017). El que oye consejos, llega a viejo: Examining the published life narratives of U.S. Latino/a psychologists. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 5(3), 127–141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/lat0000071

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Note: This article is in the Social Psychology & Social Processes topic area. View more articles in the Social Psychology & Social Processes topic area.