By KATIE BORKOWSKI, Communications Specialist

Republished with the permission of Dawn Prosser, Director of Communications, Diocese of Sioux City, Lumen Media

With the addition of a new bilingual therapist, the Sioux City Catholic Charities office now has three therapists providing mental health services for Spanish and English-speaking clients.

Sarayh Gutierrez recently joined Gaby Valdovinos, LMSW, and Denys Azpeitia, MSW, at the Sioux City office.

“We want anyone who contacts us to have access to services,” said Amy Bloch, executive director at Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Sioux City. “We continue to see an increase in the number of Latino families – adults, children and couples. They often hear our name and feel like we are an agency they can trust.  We have a bilingual secretary and make sure our environment is also welcoming with Spanish words and inspirational sayings on the walls.”

Newest therapist

Gutierrez returned to her hometown of South Sioux City from Omaha where she worked as a family and community engagement specialist in the Omaha Public School system.

Prior to that, Gutierrez was a family partner at Cedars Youth Center in Lincoln. She received her undergraduate degree from University of Nebraska at Lincoln and her Master of Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is in the process of transferring her professional licensure from Nebraska to Iowa.

“Sarayh has wonderful experience working with youth and adults and a compassionate approach to therapy,” said Bloch. “Our agency is truly blessed to have her providing mental health care and helping to reduce the negative stigma of mental health disorders among Spanish-speakers. Having access to the best of care in your own language greatly puts people at ease in reaching out for help.”

Bilingual mental health

Valdovinos has been working at Catholic Charities for three years. As a therapist, she focuses on making “sure clients understand the process of therapy and how important this is to get the full benefits of therapy.”

She said the number of clients requesting or needing bilingual services has grown because “people are more open to seeking therapy services after the pandemic started. Many lost family members/close friends and others had a difficult time when they had COVID-19 as a result depression and anxiety increased.”

Azpeitia has been working at Catholic Charities for a year and a half.

“I did my internship with the agency and was very lucky they offered me a job,” said the therapist, who is also a school-based therapist in the rural Catholic schools in the diocese. “I am happy to be part of this great agency providing services to my community.”

Azpeitia explained about 80 to 90% of her clients prefer to communicate in Spanish. Some of the parents of the students she sees in the schools “are happy to communicate with me in Spanish.”

Positive feedback

The therapists at Catholic Charities pointed out they have received a lot of positive feedback about their services.

“Personally, I had a social worker from SCHC come to my office to meet me in person because he said clients who he referred to our office had positive feedback about their referrals,” said Valdovinos. “According to the worker, clients reported to him that the referral process and intake process was easy to follow. They also reported to him that they were content with the services because they were able to fully express in their language, they felt validated and understood. They felt motivated for treatment because they did not have to rely on another person to communicate.”

Valdovinos has also had other adults who can communicate well in English, but when it comes “to feelings, emotions or processing trauma they reported that they are not able to find a correct way to express or process issues in English because everything comes to them in Spanish.”

“One of these adults saw another therapist but transferred to see me because she noted that when she was frustrated, angry, anxious or depressed, she had a difficult time communicating in English,” she said.

Feedback about having bilingual therapists available has been very positive, said Azpeitia, who added a couple of clients have decided to switch to a bilingual therapist.

“They said they feel more comfortable speaking their native language,” she said.

Help for many situations

In addition to mental health therapy, the team at Catholic Charities is committed to helping individuals and families in crisis situations. Staff is available to assist with identifying needs, providing encouragement and making connections to local community resources.

Athough the satellite offices in the diocese do not offer bilingual services, Azpeitia is currently working with a family from Fort Dodge.

Valdovinos has clients from Le Mars and Estherville, who take advantage of the bilingual services. In the past, she had clients from Storm Lake and Alton who would drive to the office to be seen in person.

Bloch mentioned Catholic Charities is able to offer Spanish-speaking services through telehealth, as well as providing an interpreter, if needed.

To schedule an appointment at the Sioux City office, call (712) 252-4547 or email info@cathchar.com. To learn more about Catholic Charities, visit cathchar.com.