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Sacco, F.C. Rivera, V. Betances-Olivieri, E.M. Lugo, J. Rogers, S. Sacco-Dion, C. (2018). Building Bridges between Puerto Rican Psychology Students and Massachusetts Mental Health Clinics: Analysis of a Workforce Crisis. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 15(1):52-60.

(2018). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 15(1):52-60

Building Bridges between Puerto Rican Psychology Students and Massachusetts Mental Health Clinics: Analysis of a Workforce Crisis

Frank C. Sacco, Veronica Rivera, Eric M. Betances-Olivieri, Jose Lugo, Susan Rogers and Cristen Sacco-Dion

The purpose of this article is to describe a field experience that used an applied psychoanalytic approach to discover potential unconscious barriers to attracting qualified Puerto Rican psychologists to work in western Massachusetts. The field experience involved a series of lectures at two Puerto Rican universities that train doctoral-level psychologists. This field experience was conducted by Anglo internship professors and Puerto Rican doctoral psychology interns trained in Puerto Rico but interning on the mainland. Currently, there is a workforce crisis impacting mental health clinics that treat traumatized Puerto Rican families referred from child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The interns were training in the western Massachusetts city of Holyoke, which is 43% Puerto Rican. Holyoke is experiencing a crisis in its school system, which is 80% Puerto Rican students and is now under state receivership. This area in Massachusetts is in desperate need of Puerto Rican psychologists. The public schools are always seeking to work with outside agencies that can offer bi-lingual and bi-cultural clinicians.

An applied psychoanalytic lens was utilized to analyze a cross-cultural recruiting experience as a step in understanding the underlying dynamics that may contribute to a critical workforce shortage of Puerto Rican psychologists. The goal was to explore the fantasies and possible unconscious barriers of Puerto Rican doctoral students to move to the US mainland to practice in community mental health. The experiences analyzed two rounds of yearly discussions with (a) psychology students from two universities in Puerto Rico, (b) Anglo internship professors and (c) Puerto Rican interns who were already training on the mainland. Informal discussions with staff and recruited students after lectures provided the experiences to analyze. In the spirit of applied psychoanalysis this project used ideas from two psychoanalytic theories to explore concrete options to help improve the psychological journey of psychologists from Puerto Rican universities to the streets of Massachusetts. Barriers included fantasies about language, lack of experience with the “tools” of psychology (Electronic Health Records), weather, and inadequate planning for the migration experience. Areas for building bridges included offering courses to island training, such has electives for island psychology students thinking of migrating, shared internships with mainland and island universities, and collaboration in researching prevention models. The goal of this project was to uncover students' fantasies about migration and develop an outline for discussion and training curricula of island psychology graduate students and mainland universities.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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