Community Mental Health Professionals’ Perceptions About Engaging Underserved Populations

  • Alayna L. ParkEmail author
  • Maya M. Boustani
  • Dana Saifan
  • Resham Gellatly
  • Andrea Letamendi
  • Cameo Stanick
  • Jennifer Regan
  • Gina Perez
  • Debbie Manners
  • Michael E. J. Reding
  • Bruce F. Chorpita
Original Article


This study explored mental health professionals’ perceptions about barriers and facilitators to engaging underserved populations. Responses were coded using an iterative thematic analysis based on grounded theory. Results revealed that many professionals endorsed barriers to engaging ethnic minorities and families receiving social services. Client-provider racial and linguistic matching, therapy processes and procedures (e.g., nonjudgmental stance), and implementation supports (e.g., supervision) were commonly nominated as engagement facilitators. Many professionals felt that an organizational culture focused on productivity is detrimental to client engagement. Findings shed light on professionals’ perceived barriers to delivering high-quality care to underserved communities and illuminate potential engagement strategies.


Community mental health Engagement Underserved populations Mental health disparities 



We thank the participating service organization, agency leadership, UCLA research staff and volunteers (Jennifer Gamarra, Alejandra Torres Sanchez, Wendy Chu), as well as the many providers who participated in this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Approval by the institutional review board of the University of California, Los Angeles was obtained before the study was conducted. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alayna L. Park
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maya M. Boustani
    • 2
  • Dana Saifan
    • 1
  • Resham Gellatly
    • 1
  • Andrea Letamendi
    • 1
  • Cameo Stanick
    • 3
  • Jennifer Regan
    • 4
  • Gina Perez
    • 3
  • Debbie Manners
    • 3
  • Michael E. J. Reding
    • 5
  • Bruce F. Chorpita
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Loma Linda UniversityLoma LindaUSA
  3. 3.Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family ServicesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Los Angeles County Department of Mental HealthLos AngelesUSA
  5. 5.Icahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA

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