About the Center

La Paz

"Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unties your body to your thoughts." – Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese Monk, Activist and Writer)

Aliento, The Center for Latina/o Communities at Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP) is dedicated to addressing the individual and communal mental health needs of Latina/o communities. Aliento, the Spanish word signifying "breath," conveys the essence of the center. The Center's overall purpose is to "dar aliento" (give support, encouragement, life) to community members. The Center houses three interrelated components: 1) a Latina/o Mental Health Training Program; 2) Community Outreach and Education activities; and 3) a Research Institute. The Center's name and academic program were developed in collaboration with community members. Aliento faculty and staff received feedback from community members and mental health professionals on developing the academic program and its content and to validate our choice in naming the center. The mission of Aliento is to encourage community participation as an integrated component to its sustainability, relevance and to make it accessible to Latina/o communities.

The Center utilizes liberation psychology and theology frameworks as the foundation for its education, outreach and research. The Center seeks to remediate any discrepancies in historical practices and research that are inconsistent with those most in need in society. Liberation psychology and theology frameworks are integrated throughout each component of Aliento.

Liberation Psychology

Liberation psychology expands our current dogma in psychology by locating, both theory and practice, in psychology within a community framework. For more information, please visit: http://www.catedralibremartinbaro.org/html/imb.php

Liberation psychologies seek to repair the fragmentation in relationships, experience, theory, and environment inherent in oppression, through reconciliatory and transgressive practices. Liberation psychologies encourage dialogue, creative thinking, and idealistic imagination where they have not existed.

Liberation psychologists are interested in studying the dynamics of oppression and engaging in practices of listening to differences, where we can then locally situate ourselves in hopes of creating new transformations. Liberation psychologies understand the significance in giving priority to what or who has become marginalized both in psyche and society.

Liberation psychologists believe that every context, whether conscious or not, there are aspects of the situation that have been marginalized or not yet expressed. Liberation psychologies engage in practices of empowerment and participation that attempt to address disparities of status in the world and in psyche.

Our historical and current practices indicate that we continue to oppress and disempower people based on sociocultural and political ideologies. Liberation psychologies, like Community Psychology, integrate community, ecology, and individual perspectives. Liberation psychologists call into question social and economic injustices, hunger and poverty, violence and perpetuation of the status quo where one group further benefits to the demise of the other.

Liberation Theology

Liberation theology proposes to fight poverty by exploring the relationship between Christian theology and political activism, especially in terms of social justice, poverty, and human rights.

The main tenet behind liberation theology is viewing theology from the perspective of the poor and the oppressed. For example, Jon Sobrino, SJ (Jesuit Catholic priest and theologian), argues that the poor are a privileged channel of God's grace. Gustavo Gutierrez coined the phrase "preferential option for the poor," which is a slogan of liberation theology and now an official policy of the Catholic Church. For more information, please visit: americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=2755

Gutierrez further states that his definition of the term "preferential option" means, "Preference implies the universality of God's love, which excludes no one. It is only within the framework of this universality that we can understand the preference, that is, 'what comes first.'" Liberation theologists emphasize practice, or praxis, over doctrine.