A therapist sits with a young woman. The therapist is in a blue shirt, and is addressing mental healthcare barriers for Hispanic/Latinx clients inside and outside the therapy room.

Addressing Mental Healthcare Barriers for Hispanic/Latinx Clients Inside and Outside the Therapy Room

September 15, 2023

5 min.

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, Dr. Chelsi Clark, Charlie Health’s Director of BIPOC Programming, offers clinicians tips on overcoming the barriers that Hispanic/Latinx clients too often face when seeking mental healthcare.

By: Dr. Chelsi Clark, Ph.D., NCSP, LPC

Clinically Reviewed By: Dr. Don Gasparini

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Table of Contents

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s crucial to talk about the mental health and well-being of Hispanic/Latinx young people—a discussion that begins with their parent’s mental health experiences. 

We know that mental health treatment-seeking behaviors follow generational patterns, with children imitating what they learn from their parents and caregivers. Studies show that over 37% of Latinx parents experience a mental health disorder, yet only 33% of Latinx adults receive treatment compared to the U.S. average of 43%. 

To what can we attribute this disparity? In this blog post, we’ll explore the roots of mental health barriers in the Hispanic/Latinx community—including family stigma, language barriers, and immigration status concerns—and how providers can work to overcome these issues inside and outside the therapy room.

Barriers to mental healthcare faced by Hispanic/Latinx communities

As mentioned, the Hispanic/Latinx community faces disparities in access to and quality of treatment. In fact, according to a 2018 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), two in nine Americans who identify as Hispanic/Latinx face mental health challenges, yet more than half do not receive treatment. Here, we delve into several unique barriers to mental healthcare faced by Hispanic/Latinx communities:

Family stigma

While some studies indicate that the Hispanic/Latinx cultural value of family, known as familismo, can protect community members from mental health issues, other research reveals that family stigma discourages people from seeking mental healthcare (a barrier common in many communities). For instance, some Hispanic/Latinx families may have hostile attitudes toward mental healthcare or deny the presence of a mental health condition unless the symptoms are life-threatening because of cultural or religious stigmas. Unfortunately, this stigma can create a hostile and discouraging environment that prevents Latinx communities from seeking the help they need and deserve.

Language barrier

A 2015 nationwide survey from the American Psychological Association (APA) revealed that less than 6% of professional psychologists offered services in Spanish. This language barrier makes communicating with doctors and mental healthcare providers extremely difficult for Hispanic/Latinx community members who exclusively or primarily speak Spanish.

Lack of insurance

Members of the Hispanic/Latinx community are less likely than other Americans to have health insurance, according to a 2022 study from the Pew Research Center. This puts the community at significant risk of being unable to access healthcare services, including mental healthcare. 

Immigration and immigration status

There is abundant research indicating that immigrants, including Hispanic/Latinx immigrants, experience mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at higher rates than the general population in the U.S. These challenges are especially pronounced for undocumented immigrants, who may also be unable to or fearful of accessing mental healthcare services because of their immigration status. 


Cultural differences and a lack of cultural competency may lead Hispanic/Latinx clients to receive incorrect mental health diagnoses. Misdiagnosis can be exacerbated by a language barrier, which, as mentioned above, exists between many Hispanic/Latinx clients and their providers. 

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Actionable tips to overcome mental healthcare barriers faced by Hispanic/Latinx communities

Reducing mental health stigma and barriers to mental healthcare are tricky, but not impossible, challenges to overcome. Here are several tips providers can keep in mind to overcome mental healthcare barriers faced by Hispanic/Latinx communities and ensure that Hispanic/Latinx clients, especially those who are young people, can get the care they need and deserve: 

Hire bilingual providers

Effective communication is necessary for diagnosing and treating mental health conditions, so hiring bilingual mental health providers to serve Spanish-speaking Hispanic/Latinx clients is essential. Bilingual providers allow clients to communicate their needs and treatment preferences in their native language, which can be helpful since many words have no English equivalent. Using a language interpreter is a viable option, but bilingual service providers are ideal and most effective. 

Encourage family involvement

Since Hispanic/Latinx communities have strong family networks and deep familial values, family support often plays a critical role in addressing mental health concerns. Providers should encourage close family members to engage in a young person’s treatment as appropriate. A provider can also increase the family members’ understanding of mental health conditions by sharing information that allows them to support their loved one in treatment.

Offer culturally competent treatment

Consider a client’s background and how it informs their treatment. One best practice in offering culturally competent mental healthcare is to use a collaborative approach with your client to assess their preferences and beliefs. After all, they also know what has and has not worked for them in the past. For instance, one study suggests that faith-based Hispanic/Latinx communities may believe that mental health conditions are a spiritual dilemma, a form of divine justice, or attributable to demonic treatment. For these clients, it could be important to incorporate spiritual practices into treatment as applicable. 

Here are a few resources specifically aimed at offering support for Hispanic/Latinx communities:

Educate and empower Hispanic/Latinx youth about mental health 

Talking openly about mental health conditions and offering resources can encourage Hispanic/Latinx youth to recognize their symptoms and accept professional help. Gen Z is already much more comfortable discussing their mental health openly than other generations. This generation has used the internet and social media to have bold, brave conversations about their personal and collective struggles. This new, open communication among peers can lead to more healthy and transparent conversations that can end the stigma surrounding mental health struggles. Young people are taking the right steps in opening the conversation around mental health, and providers should encourage their brave resistance to the social norms of stigma and shame.

Culturally competent mental healthcare for Hispanic/Latinx clients at Charlie Health

Mental health access is a worldwide issue, but here at Charlie Health, we know that minorities and marginalized communities—including the Hispanic/Latinx community—face disproportionate barriers to mental healthcare. If you’re a Hispanic/Latinx young person looking for more than once-weekly mental health support, Charlie Health is here to help. 

Our virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) combines peer groups, individual therapy, and family therapy, all facilitated by culturally competent clinicians. Charie Health is here to listen to your needs and provide curated treatment based on your mental health concerns and life experience. 

Fill out this short form to get started today.

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