Working with our Community

A philosophy of self-determination, community empowerment and spiritual/cultural affirmation has been at the core of our development of services and permeates all aspects of IFR. These beliefs are rooted in a strengths-based perspective and embrace several cultural and social justice concepts.

Our History

In the 1970’s, the Chicano Movement inspired a generation of Chicanos and Latinos to critically analyze their socioeconomic status, the institutions that were inaccessible to them, and the negative value mainstream society accorded Latino cultures. Within mental health institutions, there was no role for cultural communities, inclusionary practices, or culturally-based interventions. Psychologists typically ignored powerful resiliency factors that family and culture might offer. Nor did they distinguish between individual illnesses and external forces such as racism.

Historical IFR photoIt was within this context that a small group of committed Chicanos and Latinos believed it was important to build responsive self-determined community institutions. Young, idealistic, and fiercely committed to serving the Latino community, this San Francisco-based group saw that many health institutions not only denied Latinos effective treatment, but culturally illiterate practices assaulted resiliency factors that encouraged healing. Despite the importance of “familia” in Chicano/Latino culture, there were no services that assisted needy families or that promoted healthy families.

This group worked to conceptualize an entirely new framework that incorporated community-based practices. Interventions had to be culturally integrated—they had to resonate within the culture of the community served. The rich diversity of Latino cultures required something more than “one size fits all” methodologies. Indigenous traditions had to blend seamlessly with contemporary and alternative psychological approaches. Treatment plans needed to distinguish when a client’s suffering was due to external forces or from other types of mental illness. As community activists, this group envisioned more than treating illnesses; they wanted to be proactive in promoting the health and wellness of their community.

In 1978, this group became the founding members of Instituto Familiar de la Raza—the first integrated community-based mental health clinic in San Francisco. With nothing more than a fervent dedication to serving the mental health needs of the Latino community, Instituto’s founders began implementing their vision. They had no money, office space, or staff. Turning to the community for support, they implemented their own cultural intervention of sorts: they sold home-made tamales on Mission District street corners until they had enough to afford office space. Beginning with a single grant, one paid staff person, and a handful of volunteers, they created a community organization which now serves over 3,500 children, youth, adults, and families each year.

IFR’s Guiding Principles

Since its founding, IFR has been guided by three core principles that provide the inspirational framework for our work. They include:
Tú eres mi otro yo/We are one:This indigenous teaching of the Americas reflects the profound connection and interdependence that we have to each other and all that is natural around us. It binds us together as a community, regardless of our individual status in the world. Consequently, our collective health and well-being is a community responsibility. Our actions or inactions affect our well-being and that of our community.
La cultura cura:Culture is a filter through which our worldview, including health and wellness, is defined and experienced. Within all cultures, there are inherent resources—coping skills, resilience factors, healthy practices and traditions—that are essential for living a balanced life. IFR integrates culturally based approaches that promote healthy cultural identity development and resilience.
Sí se puede:First inspired by the United Farmworkers’ struggle for social justice, and the personal and collective ability to overcome adversity, this principle reflects our determined spirit as individuals and as a community.

We advocate for and commit the following to our clients:

  • Clients shall be able to obtain services for their problems without having to overcome additional problems associated with the provider’s inability to communicate in Spanish or to understand the Raza culture in the United States.
  • Clients shall be able to obtain services for their current psychological problems without being subjected to unsolicited or unconsented cultural imposition.
  • Clients with special needs associated with recent immigrant status, culture shock, intercultural conflict and/or poverty shall be able to obtain help from persons skilled in dealing with these problems.

Mural with family circle and tree roots

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