Group Work with Pulse Survivors Inspires UCF Professor’s New Research
By Victoria Villanueva-Marquez
Originally published on Nicholson School Media
After assisting Pulse survivors in a Spanish-mutual aid group, a UCF Social Work professor is now conducting a qualitative study on the factors that influenced the Orlando community’s resiliency following the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Associate Professor Olga Molina, along with UCF School of Social Work Director Bonnie Yegidis, will be interviewing social service providers to obtain their perspective on the community’s response to the shooting.
In July, Molina and Yegidis will be presenting their findings in Zagreb, Croatia.
Molina, who is of Cuban heritage, said she felt directly impacted by the shooting, as most of the survivors and the victims were Latino.
“It hit my community,” said Molina. “It also hit the LGBT community, which is a very vulnerable community within the Latino community, and so, I felt that I needed to get involved in helping in whatever way I can.”
Yegidis said the study will examine the ongoing needs of the families of the victims to ensure they continue to heal and have the necessary support to deal with the lasting effects of trauma.
“We believe that there are distinct factors that support the ability of individuals and community members healing and we will be examining these factors,” said Yegidis.
The shooting occurred while Molina was at a conference in New York City last June.
A week later Molina returned to Orlando and was informed by Yegidis that the Executive Director of the Hispanic Family Counseling, Inc. Denisse Centeno-Lamas [BSW ’00, MSW ’01] delivered a presentation to the UCF faculty regarding the shortage of bilingual social workers.
Centeno-Lamas stated that there were large numbers of non-English speaking clients seeking social services at the Hispanic Family Counseling, Inc.
“I jumped right in when I heard that they needed bilingual social workers to help out,” said Molina. “I’m bilingual and I’m a licensed clinical social worker and I have the skills to be able to help them.”
During this time, Molina said there were no Spanish-speaking therapy groups yet formed in Central Florida.
After recruiting clients from the Hispanic Family Counseling, Inc., Molina formed a short-term group.
The group consisted of six Latino men and women, who identified as either gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
“Even though I had not met them, I knew that this was a very traumatic event that they had dealt with and I was certain that they were going to deal with PTSD symptoms as a result of this incident,” said Molina.