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CETYS and The Chicago School pose in Irvine, CA Community Impact

A cross cultural collaboration between CETYS University in Mexico and The Chicago School

Traveling to Tijuana and other border cities in Mexico has been a favorite destination for many who live in Southern California. The beaches are beautiful, food is fresh and you can get a big bang for your buck while you get a taste of the Mexican culture. But, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) looks beyond the tourist relationship between the U.S. and Mexico and recognizes the importance of cultural competency between the two countries and more importantly, between professions.

For the second year in a row, TCSPP brought the Mexican culture to the Irvine Branch Campus by hosting close to a dozen psychology students from CETYS University, a nonprofit private university with several campuses throughout Baja California, Mexico. Together, CETYS and TCSPP students celebrated their diversity and learned how their respective cultures impact the views and practices in their field of work.

While cultural diversity can be taught in the classroom and from a textbook, coexisting with students from a different country for an entire weekend is like bringing the lesson to life. After participating in a CETYS-TCSPP faculty exchange in 2013, Jennifer DeFeo, Ph.D., Interim Associate Department Chair Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) Program at The Chicago School decided to coordinate the weekend exchange for the first time in 2014.

“I thought it would be great to have their students visit our campus to learn about our culture and what psychology looks like here, and for us to learn from them what psychology is like in their country,” said Dr. DeFeo.

The weekend started with welcome remarks from Dr. DeFeo, Campus Dean Matt Nehmer, and President Dr. Nealon, who took the opportunity to address the importance of globalization and cultural competency. “We embrace that we are all different and that we are better together because of our diversity. We acknowledge that our students, and the professionals that they will be, are going to change lives because we acculturated them into working with multiculturally diverse populations,” said Dr. Nealon.

CETYS and The Chicago School studentsAssociate Professor in Clinical Psychology, Dr. Gerard Canul, gave a presentation on Mexican American Religion and Culture. This topic proved to be an engaging one among the students and touched on the rising Latino population in Southern California and the need for providers to be trained in Latino Mental Health—a certificate program that offers continuing education units at the Irvine Branch Campus. “Fifty four-million Latinos make up 17% of the U.S. population,” said Dr. Canul during his presentation. “The better understanding I have of my client, the better I will be able to diagnose my client.”

While TCSPP students learned about the Mexican American culture, CETY’s students were able to add to the discussion by contributing stories about their clients in Mexico, talking about the stigma of mental health in their culture, and how trust and credibility play a role when choosing a provider. Ingrid Dallet, a CETYS student, addressed the discussion by saying her clients do not open up to her on the first visit, “Sometimes it could take months for them to trust me. And it doesn’t matter how many degrees I have on my wall, what matters are personal references,” she said.

“Fifty four-million Latinos make up 17% of the U.S. population,” said Dr. Canul during his presentation. “The better understanding I have of my client, the better I will be able to diagnose my client.”

Other presentations given by faculty and students included lectures on self-care, sex addiction, Jung’s approach to spiritual experience, sexual offenders and the law, military sexual trauma, and neuropsychological assessment. Students were also invited to participate on a panel discussion to answer any questions from the CETYS students including internships, licensing and curriculum requirements. “Finding out what their process is versus our process, and to also see the breadth of their knowledge and differences is interesting,” said Tina Rice, a student in the Applied Clinical Psy.D. Program.

The Chicago School is dedicated to educating professionals whose practices exemplify a commitment to understand and respect individual and cultural differences. The Chicago School continues to promote its commitment to diversity by offering many study abroad programs and grants from TCSPP’s National Center for International Studies, which support professional and cross-cultural collaboration exchanges like this one.

In the spirit of really embracing globalization, we hope the participating students will form partnerships and professional relationships that will help advance them as individuals to help the communities that they will end up serving through their professions, said President Nealon.

“I felt very privileged to be a part of this. I think deepening the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico in education, is a big deal. This is just one step we can take to making more partnerships with a lot of schools around the world,” said Rice.