Case Study Questions


Amalia is an 18-year-old Mexican American adolescent who is in her senior year of high school at an elite magnet school in a Midwestern city. Amalia is the older of two children in her family. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico when they were young adults hoping to create a better life for the children they wanted to have. Although both parents have had to work multiple jobs throughout Amalia’s life, they have achieved their goals of providing opportunities for their children and have a great deal of pride in the accomplishments of their daughter, who will be the first person in her family to graduate from high school. Amalia is in the process of making decisions about her future. She is an excellent student who has opportunities to attend well-respected universities, but she is feeling very anxious about what such a decision might mean for her family.
As an oldest daughter in her family, Amalia has assumed a lot of caretaking responsibility, in particular for her younger brother since her parents are often working and unable to monitor what is happening at home. Amalia often walks her brother home from school, prepares food, and makes sure that he does his homework. She worries that if she enrolls in college, in particular at a university that will require her to move, her brother will suffer. Furthermore, she feels the need to help out financially and ponders whether it might make more sense for her to enroll in a community college and work full time.
Amalia is very much influenced by her identities as a female and as a Mexican American child of immigrants. She has individual aspirations but cannot prioritize them above the needs of her family.
This example demonstrates how identities not only shape one’s sense of self but may in fact play a role in important decisions such as educational or vocational planning. Hence, understanding the impact of identity is critical for mental health professionals.
  1. Imagine an adolescent with whom you work professionally. What concepts from this chapter are especially useful in understanding this individual’s process of identity development?
  2. Consider the multiple social identities of the individual you chose in question 1. Which identity or identities are most salient for this individual? How might this affect how this adolescent views himself or herself?
  3. How do the identities of the above individual intersect? How might this inform the work you do with this adolescent?
  4. What questions or areas of exploration with this adolescent client would help you get a better sense of where he or she is in the identity development (racial, gender, sexual orientation) process?
  5. What are some obstacles (e.g., racism, sexism, internalized oppression) this adolescent may face in developing a positive self-concept and achieving a positive identity with respect to race, gender, or sexual orientation? How might you work with this client to prepare for or overcome these obstacles?
  6. What professional challenges can you anticipate as a counselor in fostering the racial, gender, or sexual orientation identity development of the clients with whom you work? What additional information or resources will you need to effectively face these challenges?