Elizabeth Altamirano, '15


Elizabeth Altamirano, '15





Elizabeth Altamirano was born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She received her Associate of Arts degree at Broward College and is currently majoring in Psychology. Her passion to help others by promoting education and health has led her to become the President of the Psychological Society, a Peer Educator for the Wellness and Health Promotion Services, and the Director of the UCF Resources and Empowerment Project (REP). In addition, she also interned at the Outlook Clinic for Depression and Anxiety, was a teaching assistant for "Cross Cultural Psychology and "Physiological Psychology" and a volunteer research assistant for the Health Laboratory under Dr. Jeffrey Cassisi. Elizabeth's Honors in the Major thesis consists of finding a possible correlation between depression and psychological homelessness among Latino Immigrants under the mentorship of Dr. Charles Negy. Her research interests include risk factors for ethnic minority mental health and effective treatment approaches. Elizabeth plans to obtain a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

Faculty Mentor

Charles Negy

Undergraduate Major

Ph.D. in Psychology

Future Plans

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology


Depression: An Investigation Of The Risk Factors Associated With Depressive Symptoms Among Latino Immigrants in Florida. Conducted at the University of Central Florida and Burnett Honors College through Honors In The Major Special Presentations: 95th Annual Conference of the Western Psychological Association, Las Vegas, NV. Mentor: Dr. Charles Negy, Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida Abstract: Negy and others (Negy, 2013; Negy, Reig-Ferrer, Gaborit, & Ferguson, in press) developed a scale to assess the construct of psychological homelessness for their assessment of U.S.-deported Salvadorans living in San Salvador, El Salvador. Generally, the construct of psychological homelessness refers to an array of feelings such as discomfort, detachment, and subjectively not feeling "at home" in one's own community or country. According to Negy et al., psychological homeless is similar to the construct of marginalization in that they both can entail individuals subjectively experiencing devalued or unwanted within their own community. However, they are distinct in that marginalization implies the commission of behaviors by others to push individuals to the margins of a community. By contrast, psychological homelessness implies intrapsychically generated feelings of not belonging or not fitting in with one's own group that may not stem from external rejection necessarily. Negy et al. recommended that future studies be done to demonstrate that psychological homelessness is distinct from marginalization. This study is a response to that recommendation, along with an examination of symptoms of depression and social support. Participants and Materials: 65 non-U.S. born Latino/a adult immigrants (42 females; 23 males) residing in Central Florida completed scales assessing Psychological Homelessness, Marginalization by non-Hispanic Whites, Marginalization by Latinos/as, Symptoms of Depression, and Social Support. Results: Multiple regression indicated that study variables significantly predicted psychological homelessness (multiple R squared = .53, p < .001). Marginalization by Whites achieved significance (r = .57; t = 5.12, p < .001), as well as Social Support (r = .41; t = -3.38, p < .01). Remaining variables did not correlate significantly with psychological homelessness. Discussion: Psychological homelessness did correlate significantly with marginalization by Whites, as well as with social support. Yet, the correlational coefficients in absolute terms do not reflect excessive overlap between the constructs, suggesting that psychological homelessness likely assesses a component of not belonging that is internally generated and distinct from marginalization, social support and other measured variables. Implications will be discussed.

Summer Research

"Cosa de Locos": Myths, Beliefs, and Mental Health Needs of Undocumented Latino Immigrants in San Diego. Conducted at San Diego State University/ University of California San Diego as part of a collaboration with the Clinical Psychology Department during summer research program. Authors: L. M. Garcini 1, A. Gonzalez 1, M. Ulibarri 1, E. A. Klonoff 1, J. Pena, & E. Altamirano. Abstract: For the majority of undocumented immigrants (UIs), immigration to the United States presents with multiple stressors, which may increase risk for emotional disturbance and compromise mental health. Yet, research to inform the mental health of undocumented immigrants is scant (Garcini, et al., under review), and additional information is needed to develop prevention interventions and treatments that are culture and context-sensitive. Objective: This study is part of formative research aimed to identify the mental health needs of UIs Latinos in San Diego, including exploring relevant myths, beliefs, risk and protective factors related to mental health among UIs. Methods: Qualitative data was obtained from focus groups and in-depth interviews with members of the undocumented community in San Diego, as well as from key informant interviews with researchers, health providers, community health workers, spiritual leaders, and activists knowledgeable of the needs of UIs in San Diego. Qualitative data was audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed through systematic methods outlined by Miles and Huberman (1994) using NVivo V.10. Results: Preliminary results showed that the is a lack of information and widespead stigma associated to the discussion of mental health issues in this population, and that mental health disorders are often perceived negatively as "cosa de locos" or associated to "mental retardation." Shame, guilt, and fear (i.e., rejection, isolation, functional limitation, getting labeled as unreliable, being victim of gossip) were identified as common concerns associated to the discussion of mental health issues in this community. Mixed beliefs were identified in regards to the treatment of mental health disorders, with some participants expressing support for the use of medication and therapy, while others expressed doubt regarding the effectiveness of any type of mental health treatment. Moreover, distress was identified as prevalent in this population, and it was described as presenting in the form of fear, irritability, fatigue, and somatic symptoms, with less insight as to how long-term distress may compromise mental health. Nervios was also identified as a common and normal experience, primarily among women and immigrants recently arrived, given fear of deportation, limited English proficiency, limited work, and financial hardship. Protective factors identified as useful to cope with distress included religiosity, English proficiency, family unity and communication, satisfaction related to providing financial comfort to family in the country of origin, and hope for legalization or "agarrar papeles." Conclusion: Prevention and eduational interventions aimed to address the mental health needs of UIs should focus on reducing stigma, increase education (e.g., develop an understanding of how somatization and distress are associated to mental health), and facilitate the development of coping skills that are contextually and culturally relevant to this population. Specific recommendations for the development of the aforementioned interventions will be outlined, including delivery format, relevant content, and tips for building trust and the therapeutic alliance.

Summer Research Institution

San Diego State University; University of California San Diego


Risk Taking & Attractiveness Conducted at the University of California Summer Research Opportunities Program STARS and the McNair Scholars Program Mentor: Dr. Gail Heyman, Assistant Professor – Department of Psychology, University of California San Diego. Abstract: Previous research has established that when individuals take risk it can influence how attractive they are perceived to be (Sylwester & Pawlowski, 2011). Because the types of risks that have been examined are varied, it is hard to understand the precise nature of these effects. In the present study we address this issue by focusing on the effect of physical risk taking such as willingness to run on a frozen pond. We examine the effect of physical risk taking on perceived attractiveness for both men and women at high, moderate, and low levels of risk. We also examine how risk taking influences desirability of short-term and long-term relationships. 56 participants were recruited for this study. Results showed that medium risk takers were viewed as more attractive for both men and women. In addition, individuals in this study preferred to engage in short-term relationships and long-term relationships with medium risk takers. When subjects were introduced to a new variable (i.e. medium risk takers), results seemed to yield different results then from previous studies. Implications can be drawn that individuals seem to like a balanced romantic partner in both short-term and long-term relationships. Several explanations can address these outcomes such as high risk takers can put their partners in more dangerous situations. Future research should focus on financial, health, social, and legal risk taking and its influence on attractiveness.


Clinical Psychology

Elizabeth Altamirano, '15