Student Experience: Global Study in Cuenca, Ecuador

begin quoteI absolutely came away with a better understanding of cross-cultural work, as well as a deep seated appreciation for how much there is left for me to learn and experience.

About the Course: MFTS 563i Collaborative Care

This course introduced students to various models of collaborative care and the unique set of clinical skills MFT's need to work successfully on integrated care teams. Students examined psychological aspects of illness, approaches to assessment and treatment of common mental health, psychosocial, and health behavior issues in primary care settings. 

MFTS 579i Bilingual Therapy

This was a global course with students traveling to Cuenca, Ecuador. A new partnership with La Universidad de Cuenca allowed students to participate in an introductory workshop on collaborative care for university faculty in both the MFT program and medical school. Students participated in both the instructor and learner role as they explored the challenges (and benefits) of establishing collaborative care models of service in a developing economy. Students had opportunities to visit current MFT training sites and primary care clinics that could serve as testing sites for collaborative care initiatives. 

Student Experience:

Group photo in Cuenca, Ecuador

What is something you learned that was unexpected?

Gloria Saldana: We came to Cuenca to learn how the health care system worked and to see how they integrated behavioral mental health into primary care. This experience was very rich, but we also spent a good amount of time learning about the history and people of this beautiful city. It was unexpected but I am so happy we had this opportunity. And we learned that Panama hats are not from Panama!

Jessica Keane: I learned from the course sessions abroad that bilingual therapy is a social justice issue. Our exposure to the complexities of providing therapy in another language while in a country in which I did not speak the language fluently really highlighted the necessity of providing services in a person's preferred language. The conversations we engaged in surrounding bilingual therapy were valuable and necessary to have among bilingual and monolingual students. I did not anticipate learn so much about the necessity to develop therapist who will not only serve their clients well, but support their colleagues well - particularly their bilingual colleagues who are tasked with a unique workload.

Barbara Morett: I learned how doctors are trying to integrate traditional medicine and healers from their rural communities to make medical care more accessible and less intimidating for their patients.

Landscape in Cuenca, EcuadorBuilding in Cuenca, Ecuador

Which moment provided your greatest memory?

GS: My favorite part of the trip was when we went to the health fair and were able to witness how the indigenous people made a ceremony to bridge together medical health with natural remedies. The ceremony helped the people of the town tie the health of the earth with their own health and how it is important to keep ourselves healthy in order to be able to keep the world healthy. It was beautiful.

JK: There was a moment in our visit at an urban clinic when we saw the powerful impact of the availability of a mental health professional in a medical setting. The patient sought support from her doctor and was very receptive and impacted by her ensuing conversation with the mental health professional. It was really exciting, and inspired renewed confidence in this career choice.

BM: A classmate and I were able to shadow a doctor in a clinic for a day and that gave us an opportunity to interact with the patients. In the moments the doctor would step away, we were able to talk to patients about their cases a little further and help them get referred to the psychological services available in their clinic.

Fruit stand in Cuenca, Ecuador

Did you come away with a better understanding of cross-cultural experiences? If yes, in what way?

GS: I really think that I did. I learned a lot about how the health care system works in other countries but I also walked away with a better understanding of the people of Cuenca and the rich history they have. The people are so friendly and care a lot about the well being of their city and its people. I learned that how important it is to stay curious about other cultures and to be open to new experiences.

JK: I absolutely came away with a better understanding of cross-cultural work, as well as a deep seated appreciation for how much there is left for me to learn and experience. I was impressed both by the importance of humility and curiosity both in life and in the therapeutic relationship.

Hut in Cuenca, Ecuador


Corinna Lewis


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