By Heather Stringer
Born and raised in a small middle-class white community in Utah, it might seem unlikely that Jason Platt, PhD, would
develop a passion for providing bilingual mental health services.
But when Platt was 8 years old, his parents added to their family
by adopting seven children from all over the globe, a decision
that would alter the course of Platt’s life. His siblings — who
were from Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and South
Korea — had started their lives amid civil unrest and violence,
and more than one had seen family members killed.
“They had significant mental health needs when they came
to the United States,” Platt says. “We sought out mental health
professionals, but none of the therapists knew anything about
their native languages, let alone the national contexts from
which these children came.”
One of his brothers continued to struggle with violence
throughout his life, and to this day has not fully shared with
counselors or family members what he witnessed as a child in El
Salvador. Now he is in prison facing the death penalty.
The struggles Platt’s family members faced ignited his desire
to train more culturally competent, bilingual psychologists. He
learned Spanish, earned his doctorate from Syracuse University
in New York in 2003, and then moved to Mexico City to
connect with local Spanish instructors. Later the same year, he
established the International Counseling Psychology program
at Alliant International University in Mexico City, which offers
a summer Spanish language and cultural training experience as
well as a more in-depth two-year curriculum.
“For me, creating a program that trains bilingual mental
health workers has been an act of social justice,” Platt says.
“The program tends to draw the kind of people who care about
(Wanted: Spanish-speaking psychologists)
With the number of Spanish-speaking clients on the rise, the demand for
culturally competent psychologists to serve this population has never been higher.
A handful of psychology programs are working to meet that training need.