Bilingual Psychotherapist Provides Critical Care

UMKC School of Education selects Lucero Garibay to receive Alumni Award

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni with an awards celebration. UMKC is honoring Lucero Garibay (M.A. ’16) with its Class of 2022 School of Education Alumni Achievement Award.

While it would have been natural for Lucero Garibay, a Chicago native, to stay closer to home to pursue her graduate degree in mental health, she chose to attend UMKC. Although she knew no one at the university when she applied, the school’s mission, that includes “meeting the varied psychological, social, and educational needs of individuals, couples and families in diverse urban communities,” aligns with her personal mission of giving back to her own community.

Garibay returned to Chicago and is a successful psychotherapist with Pilsen Wellness Center, an organization that focuses on culturally sensitive approaches in their services to support family relationships, community empowerment and economic development.

How has your cultural heritage and being bilingual impacted your career working so closely with people?

Being bilingual is a beautiful part of my identity in and of itself, but it also serves as an invaluable resource in the mental health field. There already exists a shortage in mental health services across the field. There is an even more severe shortage of mental health providers that are able to fully comprehend the cultural and language barriers faced in so many of our communities. Visibly being witness to the ease that clients exude when they are paired with a provider whom, not only shares their cultural heritage but also speaks the language they are most comfortable with, is an experience truly difficult to put into words. I am inherently grateful.

How do you manage the challenges of working with individuals going through trauma?

Holding space for others’ trauma and emotional pain on a daily basis is not something one becomes accustomed to. I have worked hard towards learning how to take care of myself in order to provide the best possible care for my clients. One of the most difficult lessons faced in the early days of my career was learning not to take certain things home with me. Some days are heavier on the heart than others. I check in with myself on my way home from work, ask for space if I need it, and do something kind for myself.

What is your favorite UMKC memory?

Most of my favorite UMKC memories can be attributed to the home I found within UMKC Residential Life. I served as an assistant residential life coordinator at Johnson Hall for two years. Being part of the team at Residential Life granted me a support system that I would have otherwise felt lost without in Kansas City. I remain friends with many of the colleagues I worked alongside with to this very day. I could never thank them enough for the emotional support they and the department provided me with as I pursued my graduate degree, far from the comforts of Chicago.

What advice do you have for students who’d like to follow in your footsteps?

Keep your mind and options open. Some of us continue working within the settings and populations that call out to us when we are in school. However, many of us will find an entirely different setting or population to pour our passions into. Second, compassion fatigue is a very real thing. Don’t let your pursuits in the healing of others take you along with it. Take care of yourself. Your clients will thank you for it.

About the Alumni Awards

Join us in honoring Garibay and the other Class of 2022 awardees at an in-person celebration at 6 p.m. April 29, at the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center. To register, visit UMKC's Alumni Association website. If you are unable to attend the event but would like to donate to student scholarships, contributions can be made online.

Published: Feb 14, 2022
Posted In: Honors and Awards

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