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Iris Zavala Martínez

Distinguished Lecturer and new faculty member Dr. Iris Zavala Martínez brings to Centro a wealth of experience on Puerto Rican psychosocial health, including involvement in the clinical, academic and programmatic aspects of her field, both on the island and the mainland.  Dr. Zavala Martínez’s major areas of interest are:  subjectivity, trauma (situational, colonial), melancholia; community psychosocial health and program development; critical psychology and psychoanalysis; and writing as a therapeutic tool.

Acclaimed in her field, Dr. Zavala Martínez also is committed to a vision of social justice – participating in advocacy groups on breast cancer, producing a video on Vieques and another against the mining of Puerto Rican lands (Los Barrios se Oponen), participating in a women’s NGO (Taller Salud), and serving as mentor, facilitator and consultant to various community and professional activities.

In 2008, Dr. Zavala Martínez was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Puerto Rico Psychological Association, and in 1992 she won the American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship Program Achievement Award for Mental Health Public Service and the Puerto Rican Senate Public Mental Health Service Recognition Award. 

From 2006-2009, Dr. Zavala Martínez was Mental Health Area Director for the Western Region of Puerto Rico, covering fifteen towns.  She has been the Clinical Director of a university psychological training clinic, and from 1988 to 2002 she directed the city of San Juan’s Mental Health Program producing a video of the psychosocial service and supporting  innovative therapeutic approaches such a psycho-ballet and art therapy for the severely mentally ill. Previously, she served as a clinical director of mental health programs in Massachusetts, and lectured and trained practitioners on Puerto Rican/Latina mental health.  Throughout her career, she has held numerous academic appointments as assistant, associate or adjunct professor.

Dr. Zavala Martínez earned a Doctor and a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Master of Science in Psychiatric Rehabilitation Counseling from Boston University.  She did her clinical psychology internship at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute.

Dr. Zavala began at Centro in mid November 2009.  Her project is unique as Centro has never had a psychologist on board nor covered psychological or psychosocial issues.  Her project overall will focus on the psyche, subjectivity and psychosocial health of the Puerto Rican diaspora.   She will develop the Puerto Rican mental health collection for Centro’s library and an annotated bibliography; she will prepare a critical book of readings on Puerto Rican psychosocial health; she will engage in research  on youth and identity, trauma and melancholia, and Puerto Rican mental health profiles from public use databases and prepare seminars and/or articles as her work proceeds.   


Book Chapters

Zavala Martínez, I. (1989). A Critical Inquiry into the life and work of Julia De Burgos. In C. García Goll and L. Mattei (Eds.), The Psychosocial Development of Puerto Rican Women. New York: Praeger, 1989, 1-30.

Zavala Martínez, I. (1993). Aspectos psicohistóricos en la subjetividad de Julia de Burgos: la poesía como praxis. In E. Martínez Masdeu (Ed.). Actas del Congreso Internacional Julia de Burgos.  San Juan, P.R., Ateneo Puertorriqueño, 283-290.

Zavala Martínez, I. (1986).  En La Lucha:   Economic and Socioemotional struggles of Puerto Rican women in the United States. In R. Lefkowitz and A. Withorn (Eds.), For_Cryinq_Out Loud:  Women and Poverty in the United StatesNew York:  Pilgrim Press, 111-124.

Zavala Martínez, I. (1994). Entremundos:  The psychological dialectics of Puerto Rican migration and its implication for health. In G. Lamberty & C. García Coll (Eds.) , Puerto Rican Women and Children: Issues in Health. Growth. and Development. New York: Plenum Press, 29-38.

Zavala Martínez, I. (1992). Hacia una praxis emancipadora: Apuntes acerca de la experiencia clínica con personas Puertorriqueñas en los Estados Unidos. In I. Serrano García and Rosario Collazo, W. (Eds.), Contribuciones Puertorriqueñas a la  Psicología Social-comunitaria (1992), Editorial UPR, Río Piedras.

Zavala Martínez, I.   (1994) ¿Quién soy? Who am I?  Identity issues for Puerto Rican adolescents. In  E.Cathy Salett & D.R. Koslow (Eds.), Race, Ethnicity and Self. Washington, D.C.: NMCI Publications, 89-116.

Zavala Martínez, I. (1985). Toward an Emancipatory Clinical Practice in Human Services. In 0. Gil and E. Gil (Eds.), Toward Social and Economic Justice.  Cambridge, Ma.: Schenkman Publishing Co., 55-62.


de la Cancela, V. and Zavala, I. (1983). An Analysis of Culturalism in Latino Mental Health: Folk Medicine as a Case in Point. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 5(3), 251- 271.

Zavala Martínez, I. (1988). En La Lucha: Economic and Socioemotional struggles of Puerto Rican Women.  Women and Therapy Journal, 6(4), 3-24.

Zavala Martínez, I. (1986). Praxis in Psychology:  Integrating Clinical and Community Orientations with Latinos. The Community Psychologist, 19(2), p. 11.

Zavala Martínez, I. (1998). Reinventando a Agueda y a Las Amazonas. La Era de Ahora. Mayo, 1998;  Cuadernos Mujer Salud, 2001.

Zavala Martínez, I. (1990). Subjetividad y Praxis de Julia de Burgos: Un acercamiento a

                                la construcción social de su salud.  Puerto Rico Health Sciences Journal, 9 (1), 147-149.

Zavala Martínez, I. (1994). Subjetividad y construcción social de la violencia en Puerto

                                Rico. In L.E. Maldonado & B.E. Rivera (Eds.), Análisis, Reflexión. y Acción Psicológica Ante la Violencia y la Criminalidad en Puerto Rico. Río Piedras, P.R.: AEPPR, 7-10.