Dr. Lisa Fortuna will present on work with Latino/a patients as part of the symposium panel “Religion and Spirituality in Vulnerable Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Populations” on May 24th from 2pm-5pm: This symposium addresses religious/spiritual (R/S) aspects of youth and families deemed to be “vulnerable,” including those who are autistic, from a sexual minority, in foster care, or an immigrant to the U.S. Many faith communities now include autism and others with developmental disabilities in their work. The inherent interpersonal, social and cognitive deficits in autism challenge understandings of abstract religious thought and traditions. These are often addressed with many of the same techniques used in public school resource rooms and in behavioral programming. Congregations have focused on making the physical place and meeting space safe and obstacle free for the disabled and often shorten and simplify rituals and worship services as adaptations to impulsivity and short attention spans. Religious communities also serve as resources for caregivers, including spiritual, financial, transportation, food, shelter, respite care, or other needs. Psychiatrists can recognize R/S needs when expressed by their autistic patients and assist faith communities serving those with autism. R/S is important to sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth and their caregivers/families. Tension may arise between R/S beliefs and sexual/gender identities among youth and/or their caregivers. Research about the intersection of R/S with sexual orientation and gender identity concerns will be reviewed. Special attention will be directed toward clinical implications derived from the literature, as well as recent public health efforts to address health disparities among SGM youth in non-affirming faith communities. Current controversies, such as the use of conversion therapy, will be discussed in regard to clinical implications, legislative activity and efforts to ban such practices within the medical community. Issues related to R/S are important to foster youth, providing a framework for daily life as well as helping youth cope with issues particular to their world, including abuse and abandonment by authority figures who should have cared for them—all leading to difficulties trusting adults. These troubled relationships can be mirrored in the spiritual lives of these abused youth. The importance of R/S in diagnosis and ongoing treatment may not be recognized or emphasized by providers who treat this population. R/S is important to immigrant children and adolescents. Studies of Latino immigrant youth, PTSD and pastoral care will be discussed. The blending of hope and resilience that both practical theology and appropriate mental health care can contribute will be emphasized, as well as how R/S may be experienced by children in the face of adversity and in a sociocultural context. Closing discussion will emphasize common elements of R/S helpful in the assessment and treatment planning of these and other populations of vulnerable youth, their families and systems of care.
A poster will also be presented on “Addressing Treatment Needs for Dually Diagnosed Men in a Residential Recovery Program for Latinos” on Tuesday May 23rd from 10am-12pm.