Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Counseling Latina/o Students from an Ecological Perspective: Working with Peter

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Counseling Latina/o Students from an Ecological Perspective: Working with Peter

Article excerpt

This case study describes the experiences of a Mexican American college student addressing difficulties with academic motivation and social adjustment to college. The authors present a counseling intervention that is ecologically focused and designed to help the student develop critical consciousness regarding ethnic and social class identity.


Latinas/os are quickly becoming the largest ethnic group in the United States (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000), and as such, demands in cultural, linguistic, and social services have increased in response to this changing demographic. This trend points to a critical need to ensure that young Latina/o people in the United States graduate from postsecondary institutions to meet the growing needs of an ever-changing U.S. demographic (Cerezo & McWhirter, 2009).

Unfortunately, there are substantial challenges to increased Latina/o enrollment in higher education. In fact, between the years of 1999 and 2001, Latinas/os received only 6% of all bachelor's degrees awarded in the United States (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). Thus, graduation rates are significantly disproportionate to the general Latina/o population and pose significant challenges to the social and economic development of Latinas/os in the United States. Furthermore, according to Pew Hispanic Center (2002), Latinas/os who do attend college are likely to be the first in their families to do so, usually contend with financial stressors related to going to college, and disproportionately drop out. Most Latinas/os are actually making a "generational leap" as they begin attending postsecondary institutions. Many students are initiating this challenge with no prior knowledge of how to successfully navigate systems of higher education and have limited experience with or family information about how to deal with academic and social stressors unique to college students.

Latinas/os confront many challenges to social and academic success. These include not only typical developmental demands facing all college and university students generally, but also cultural, economic, and political challenges uniquely experienced by students of color (Hernandez, 2002). For example, Reid (2003) examined the impact of campus climate on a set of psychosocial variables and found that, compared with other students, Latina/o students reported more negative perceptions of campus climate that were associated with poor academic performance and low self-esteem. Campus climate is an important consideration regarding students' social adjustment to college because universities comprise ethnic/racial climates that affect psychological processes, intergroup relations, and group cohesion among ethnic/racial minority students (Hurtado & Carter, 1997). Thus, Latina/o students often experience considerable stress as a result of their perceptions of an unwelcoming university environment; in turn, this stress can affect their social and academic success (Castillo et al., 2006; Gloria, Castellanos, Lopez, & Rosales, 2005; Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pederson, & Allen, 1996; Reid, 2003). We believe that using an intervention framework that attends to these multiple stressors is critical.

Ecological Model of Human Development

Ecological perspectives have received increased attention in the research literature explaining individual development and the social, historical, and political influences exerted on human development (Chronister, McWhirter, & Kerewsky, 2004). More recently, researchers have also used ecological perspectives to explore the experiences of immigrant populations (Serdarevic & Chronister, 2005; Yakushko & Chronister, 2005), women (Thurston & Vissandjee, 2005), and gay men (Alderson, 2003), among other populations. According to the Ecological Model of Human Development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; hereinafter referred to as the Ecological Model), human experiences occur within multiple, embedded, ecological contexts. …

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