Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version


Document Type



Hinojos, B. (2013). Stressors and coping strategies of undocumented Latinos in therapy. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychological Studies in Education (Counseling Psychology), Under the Supervision of Professor Neeta Kantamneni. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Belinda Hinojos


Undocumented Latinos are diagnosed with higher levels of anxiety, adjustment disorders, alcohol abuse, and other psychological problems compared to documented immigrant Latinos and U.S. born Latinos (Perez & Fortuna, 2005; Ramos-Sanchez, 2010). In addition, undocumented Latino immigrants may experience worries about their legal status and preoccupation with disclosure and deportation may increase the risk for emotional distress and impaired quality of health (Cavazos-Rehg et al., 2007). Currently, both state and proposed federal laws have become increasingly aggressive in regards to immigrants and immigrant rights. This may increase the amount of stress and anxiety undocumented individuals experience and may contribute to their reasons to seek therapy. However, there is little research that examines the impact of undocumented status on mental health, and how undocumented immigrants cope with these stressors. The current qualitative study was designed to further understand the experiences and coping strategies of undocumented Latino immigrants. Ten undocumented Latino immigrants (e.g., 8 women, and 2 men) who were participating in therapy were interviewed about their experiences with undocumented status. Participants were asked about the stressors they experience due to their undocumented status and the ways in which they cope with these stressors. Additionally, participants were asked about their experiences in therapy and how therapy might be utilized to offset these stressors. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using CQR, a qualitative data analysis procedure, and revealed ten domains about the experiences of undocumented Latino immigrants which include: the purpose for coming to the United States, belonging, perception of undocumented immigrants, challenges/barriers, impact on family, security, coping, therapeutic experience, policy, and future outlook. Furthermore, an additional domain “other” was used to capture the experiences of two participants and their difficult journey to the United States. Ways in which psychologists can intervene and work effectively with undocumented Latinos are highlighted. Suggestions for future research with undocumented Latinos in therapy are discussed.

Adviser: Neeta Kantamneni