Undocumented Latinx Immigrants' Experiences with Self-compassion and Stressors

Maria Boero-Legge, Tennessee State University


In the last three decades, the size of the immigrant population in the United States (U.S.) has quadrupled from 9.6 million to 42.4 million (U.S. Census Bureau’s, 2014). As these numbers continue to rise, so does the urgency for appropriate mental health treatment concerning immigrants as they are well documented to suffer from mood and anxiety difficulties, as well as significant trauma (Keyes, 2000). Considering the traumas undocumented Latinx immigrants (ULIs) may experience during their journey to the U.S., (rape, exploitation, capsizing in rafts, witnessing deaths), it is no surprise that this group is at high risk for the development of mental health problems (Keyes, 2000). Derived from Buddhist contemplative psychology, self-compassion was first defined by Kristen Neff, Ph.D. (2003), as three separate and unified core components: self-kindness, recognition of common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-compassion serves as a protective factor against the development of serious mental health illness (Germer & Neff, 2015; Beaumont, Galpin, & Jenkins, 2012; Hiraoka, Meyer, Kimrel, DeBeer, Gulliver, & Morissette, 2015), as self-kindness may help reduce autonomic hyperarousal often experienced by trauma survivors (i.e. fight, flight, freeze). Further, increased self-compassion has also been associated with decreased levels of anxiety and depression (Warren, Smeets, & Neff, 2016). Although there has been over three decades of research concerning mindfulness interventions, few studies have focused on Latinxs (Ortez, 2015). Similarly, studies of self-compassion have few Latinx participants. (Neff & McGehee, 2010; Raes, 2010). This study aims to describe if and how self-compassion may influence symptoms of their reported psychological distress or whether their symptoms influence their level of self-compassion. A case study was completed utilizing 6 ULIs in order to gather data on, describe, and understand their personal experiences with self-compassion. The study contributes to the limited knowledge concerning ULIs understanding of self-compassion and its role in mental health. Focusing on ULIs is especially valuable, as few studies have examined the impact of self-compassion in ethnically diverse communities. By describing and understanding this population’s experiences with self-compassion, providers will be better equipped to cultivate and increase self-compassion and potentially decrease symptoms concerning poor well-being.

Subject Area

Counseling Psychology

Recommended Citation

Maria Boero-Legge, "Undocumented Latinx Immigrants' Experiences with Self-compassion and Stressors" (2019). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI13814127.