Pro Bono Counseling Project - Terapias Para Familias

For more than 25 years, the Pro Bono Counseling Project (PBCP) has been working to ensure that Marylanders with limited resources in need of mental health care are linked with licensed mental health professionals who provide care on a volunteer ba-sis at no cost. Through the PBCP’s Terapias para Familias, Parejas e Individuos program (Therapy for Families, Couples and Individuals), PBCP reaches out to Maryland’s low-income, uninsured/underinsured Spanish-speaking families, couples and individuals of all ages and matches them with therapists throughout Maryland who can conduct free sessions in Spanish.

PBCP developed this program two years ago in response to increased demand from underserved, at-risk Latinas. Many of the Latina women seeking services through the PBCP spoke of abuse, anxiety, depression, family dysfunction and grief/transition as the reasons for requesting counseling. As a result of this need, Terapias para Famili-as, Parejas e Individuos developed a special focus on women and children who have experienced domestic/sexual violence. To overcome the language and cultural barri-ers that posed obstacles to properly treating these Latina women and children, though, PBCP urgently needed more Spanish-speaking therapists.

Funding from the Circle allowed PBCP to expand the roles of Terapias para Famili-as, Parejas e Individuos' two part-time social workers, enabling them to reach out to both professionals and the Latina population. PBCP’s goal was to recruit 10 new bi-lingual therapists who would be able to serve an additional 60 Latina women and their families. PBCP is well on target to reach and even exceed this goal.

A few examples demonstrate the efficacy of this program:

A young single Latin a mother felt depressed and stagnant. She contacted PBCP and was provided no cost counseling sessions with a Spanish-speaking therapist. After completing several counseling sessions, she described not only a marked improvement in her functioning and behavior but an increase in her earnings.

A Latina woman, depressed and with suicidal thoughts, struggled with homesickness and acculturation issues. Through Terapias para Familias, Parejas e Individuos, she was able to access free mental health counseling and later said of her Spanish-speaking therapist "he is helping me, I'm making progress.”

One couple was referred to Terapias para Familias, Parejas e Individuos by their child's school. Staff at the child’s school felt that problems between the parents were affecting the child. During the intake process with Terapias para Familias, Parejas e Individuos, the husband revealed that he had been sexually abused as a child, infor-mation he had never disclosed to anybody. Terapias para Familias, Parejas e Indi-viduos referred the couple to couple's counseling with a Spanish-speaking therapist and connected the husband to social services to address the trauma he had experi-enced as a child. The whole family emerged strengthened from this process.

Today, Terapias para Familias, Parejas e Individuos has no waiting list. Every new client can be matched with a therapist. For those clients who need services in addi-tion to counseling, Terapias para Familias, Parejas e Individuos can connect the cli-ent with an extensive network of resources that runs the gamut from crisis hotlines to pro bono legal professionals to reduced-rate medical and psychiatric services, hous-ing assistance and more. Terapias para Familias, Parejas e Individuos also provides transportation vouchers to clients with transportation problems in order to ensure that all clients can access their services.

Terapias para Familias, Parejas e Individuos' two social workers perform all of the intake interviews, which are done by phone. The two also attend and participate in meetings of mental health professionals and distribute materials about Terapias para Familias, Parejas e Individuos to groups that serve Latinas. By giving talks to men-tal health majors at all area universities, the two try to interest the students in volun-teering at PBCP. Periodically, Terapias para Familias, Parejas e Individuos hosts happy hours for bilingual therapists in order to introduce them to PBCP in addition to workshops such as "Meeting the Needs of Second-Generation Immigrants” that was held in March.