Counseling in Mexico History, Current Identity, and Future Trends

By Portal, Eloisa Lara; Suck, Antonio Tena et al. | Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Counseling in Mexico History, Current Identity, and Future Trends


Portal, Eloisa Lara, Suck, Antonio Tena, Hinkle, J. Scott, Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD


The origins of counseling in Mexico are associated with the development of similar disciplines concerned with the general improvement of mental health and the treatment of its disorders, namely, disciplines such as medicine and psychology. Historically, the classical cultures of Mesoamerica had specific methods for understanding the human psyche, as did the Indians, Chinese, Babylonians, Egyptians, and Greeks of other cultures. Mexico, like many societies, has historically attempted to explain and understand the essential components of the human condition.

* Historical Perspective

Prior to modern-day counseling, many pioneering mental health activities were achieved in Mexico. As early as 1557, with the publication of Physica Speculatio by Brother Alonso de la Veracruz (Robles, 1942), Aristotelian psychology was referenced. The first mental hospital in the Americas, the Hospital of San Hipolito, was founded by Bernardino Alvarez in 1567 in Mexico City. In 1774, Benito Diaz de Gamarra published Elementa Recentioris Philosophiae, echoing the worldview of Descartes along with the science of Newton. During this time, Jose Ignacio Bartolache, a professor of medicine, conducted the first experiment on hysteria in Mexico and, according to Robles (1942, 1950), possibly on the entire continent.

In 1835, Jesus R. Pacheco published Summary Account of the Phrenologic System of Doctor Gall. At the end of the 19th century, Ezequiel Chavez introduced a high-school-level psychology course (Robles, 1950). Later, in 1916, Enrique C. Aragon, a psychologist as well as psychiatrist, founded the first psychology laboratory in Mexico. Following his death in 1942, two posthumous publications were released: Works in Neurology and Psychiatry (1942) and History of the Soul (1944), both of which still influence present-day counseling in Mexico.

Thus, counseling in Mexico has its beginnings in psychology as well as psychiatry. Thirty years ago, influences from the United States and Europe began to increase in Mexico. Graduates from training programs in Mexico began to pursue master's and doctoral degrees in other countries. Consequently, significant advances in mental health took place in Mexico. At this time, it was observed by Mexican practitioners that in the United States, the predominant professions covering mental health needs were psychiatry, psychiatric nursing, psychology, social work, and psychological counseling (or counseling). According to Neukrug (1999), psychological counseling arose in the United States from the fusion or integration of various mental health professions. The same phenomenon was occurring in Mexico.

With the advent of these trends in Mexico, modern psychology underwent a change in emphasis and eventually widened its scope to include so-called normal behavior. This included psychological problems resulting from physical illness, exposure to changing environmental conditions, family and career stress, and social strife. Today in Mexico, these historical precursors reflect what is known as psychological counseling.

* Current Identity of the Mexican Psychological Counselor

The inclusion of normality in counseling and psychotherapy helped to further develop counseling in Mexico. Given that Mexico is currently in a process of transformation aimed at improving its standards of living, the need arose to train professionals to respond to the challenge of helping detect, analyze, understand, and resolve mental health problems in the different strata of Mexican society.

Because of various socioeconomic issues confronting Mexico, it has become necessary to train more professionals to meet the country's needs. For the same reason, interest has increased in developing an eclectic and integrative helping practice that is open to possibilities of alternative ways of providing assistance. In this respect, a solid academic background and training are necessary to exercise an integrative helping model. …

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