When Azara Santiago-Rivera, PhD, launched her psychology career more than 20 years ago, training programs paid little attention to the Latino population. The research was scarce, as well: In 1990, for example, journals published only 11 articles related to Latino mental health.
By contrast, 70 such research articles were published in the last year — a reflection of a rapidly growing population that psychologists cannot ignore, says Santiago-Rivera, who chairs the department of counseling psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Washington, D.C.
To consolidate that research, the National Latina/o Psychological Association (NLPA) and APA's journals program are debuting the Journal of Latina/o Psychology this spring. Santiago-Rivera serves as founding editor of the journal, which aims to advance knowledge of the Latina/o population, promote the education of psychologists who work with them and address social justice, advocacy and policy issues relevant to the Latina/o community.
"Twenty years ago, it wasn't on the radar screen for people to think about the life circumstances that Latinos have when, for example, they first arrive in this country," Santiago-Rivera says. "But the significant growth of the population makes it increasingly important to address their specific mental health needs."
She is particularly interested in research that can lead to the development of culturally appropriate treatment approaches and assessment tools. The journal will also feature research looking at the psychological effects of immigration, the physical and mental health issues that disproportionately affect the Latino population and the challenges sexual minority Latinos face.
Neuropsychology and cognitive psychology research have a place in the journal, too, says Santiago-Rivera, such as work that helps psychologists understand how languages are stored in the brain.
"We need more research on bilingualism and identity, and how to bring that into therapy," she says.
Santiago-Rivera has more than two decades' experience researching and practicing multicultural training and bilingual therapy, as well as leading national Latina/o advocacy organizations. She credits the journal's development to NLPA's advocacy, APA's support and her associate editors — Andrea J. Romero, PhD, of the University of Arizona; Loreto R. Prieto, PhD, of Iowa State University; and Esteban V. Cardemil, PhD, of Clark University.
"This journal is going to do great things for anyone who wants to work with this population," she says. "It's going to stimulate more research and influence training. It's really going to advance the field."