Chicago Campus student Maria Guevara has spent the last eight years at Lawndale Christian Health Center, working with Medicare, Medicaid, and uninsured patients in a variety of roles. Her work in health care has helped her realize the importance of mental health care and the need to treat the whole patient.
At Lawndale Christian Health Center, Guevara has served many roles, including medical assistant and interpreter for Spanish-speaking patients, a lab assistant, and part of a mobile health team and a substance abuse program.
“It has been clear to me in my roles that physical, mental, and public health, and social services are all very important and need to be incorporated,” said Guevara, who is completing a Master of Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree. “Mental health is a part of everything and needs to be a part of everything to treat the whole person.”
Establishing Trust and Inclusivity for Better Patient Care
As a lab assistant, one of Guevara’s favorite parts is be able to comfort patients while they are scared and vulnerable. She also enjoys talking to her patients about the importance of taking care of themselves in a holistic manner. Providing education, assisting patients in navigating the clinic and their relationship with their healthcare provider is essential for Guevara in creating a safe environment for her patients.
In addition to her love for working with her patients, Guevara appreciates being able to learn from and support her teammates, who are primarily women of color. Guevara hopes that this inclusiveness and intersectionality will continue throughout her counseling career.
“As a woman of color, having diversity in counseling and diverse perspectives in counseling is important to me,” Guevara said. “I want to be someone who adds to the profession in a way that is representative, more inclusive and speaks to intersectionality.”
Breaking Down Systemic Barriers and Stigmas
Guevara came to Adler University because of the focus on social justice. As an undergraduate student, she struggled with learning in a white dominated environment that was embedded in white supremacy. Now as she continues her education at Adler University, Guevara has been able to realize her value and worth as a person, and wants to help others do the same.
“We, as a society, haven’t been trained to see things as a part of bigger issues. When we care about people and justice, eyes open to greater systemic problems,” Guevara said. “Everything we experience in the world affects how we are and how we understand ourselves.”
In the Latinx community, Guevara has found that some only experience counseling through drastic circumstances, which can cause unaddressed trauma. “We need to address stigma and barriers that leave people feeling unwelcome,” Guevara said. She also stressed the importance of needing multiculturally informed counselors so our communities can be better served.
Helping Patients Address the Mind, Body, and Spirit
One of the most important aspects of providing good healthcare to her patients is addressing the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. Guevara feels encouraged when she sees counselors work hand-in-hand with physicians and mental health work to address the whole person.
“Most of the time, people don’t think about how physical health is connected to mental health and their state of life,” Guevara said. “We [her team at Lawndale] continue to look for the overlap and connect and work as a team to be comprehensive and holistic practitioners.”
Guevara believes that the world would be “kinder if we normalized hurt and pain the same way we take care of a scraped knee or a stomach pain.” For under resourced populations, she emphasizes how problematic it is that medical health care and mental health care are not always accessible.
“I hope to use my degree to provide care for people and make the world better on a person-to-person level, but also to use knowledge, resource, and education to advocate for a different way of doing things. To advocate for change,” Guevara said. “I want to help clients of color heal from trauma caused by systems that are still very much in place. This work is not complete until we are seeking to understand the root of what is going on in people and in society.”
Continuing Holistic Care During a Global Pandemic
Amidst the pandemic, Guevara has continued her work in the lab and has also worked with patients living in shelters, assisting those with COVID-19 in quarantine and getting them to safety in a smooth transition to a hotel once they were cleared. “It has been scary and surreal working in healthcare during the pandemic,” Guevara said. “But it’s also an important time to look out for each other and care for each other.”
Guevara stresses the disproportionate impact of the virus on BIPOC communities. “We are all connected, and society looks at and support the people who are doing the best, which isn’t a good representation of the true health of society,” Guevara said. “It’s really important that we take care of everyone. We need to see how we have made mistakes and use this time as an opportunity to learn and to heal – and that is far overdue.”