Maria P. Aranda

Professor and Executive Director of the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging

Research interests address interplay between chronic illness, social resources & psychological well-being in low-income minority populations

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Maria Aranda
Phone:  +1 213.740.0286
Rank:  Tenure Track Faculty
Department:  Adult Mental Health and Wellness

Maria P. Aranda

Professor and Executive Director of the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging

Research interests address interplay between chronic illness, social resources & psychological well-being in low-income minority populations

Media Contact


María P. Aranda is a professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and the executive director of the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging. She holds a joint appointment with the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and is a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience providing mental health services to middle-aged and older adults and their families. Dr. Aranda developed the first Spanish-language support group for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease. She is well-known among community leaders for establishing model support programs such as the El Portal Latino Alzheimer's Project, Programa Esperanza, and Siempre Viva for individuals and families in East Los Angeles affected by depression and Alzheimer disease. Her research specializations address the unique needs of middle age and older adults with co-occurring medical and psychiatric illnesses, and the caregiving families who provide them with love and care. She focuses on psychosocial intervention development, and evaluation of bilingual, evidence-based interventions on behalf of adults with chronic medical conditions and disabilities. She has received funding for her research from NIA, NCI, PCORI, the Southern California-CTSI, The John A. Hartford Foundation/GSA, the National Institute of Rehabilitation and Research, the Alzheimer’s Association/HRSA, the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, and the California Community Foundation. Dr. Aranda has served on four consensus committees of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on the geriatric workforce in mental health and substance use service sectors, family caregiving to older adults with functional limitations, financial capacity determination among social security beneficiaries, and functional assessment for adults with disabilities. She is also an expert on the Caregiving Advisory Panel for AARP and a fellow of The Gerontological Society of America, the oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. To reference the work of Maria Aranda online, we ask that you directly quote their work where possible and attribute it to "Maria Aranda, a faculty at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work” (LINK:



University of Southern California

PhD 1995

University of Southern California

MPA 1991

University of Southern California

MSW 1982

California State University, Los Angeles

BSW 1979

Area of Expertise

  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Dementia
  • Caregiving
  • Family Caregiving
  • Mental Health
  • Behavioral Health
  • Diversity/Cross Cultural

Industry Experience

  • Research
  • Education/Learning

Research Interest

  • Aging
  • Behavioral Health
  • Diversity/Cross Cultural
  • Health
  • Mental Health


  • Fellow, Gerontological Society of America
  • Member, American Society on Aging
  • Member, AARP
  • Member, Society for Social Work Research
  • Member, National Association of Social Workers
  • Member, Council on Social Work Education
  • Member, Association of Latino Social Work Educators
  • Member, American Association of Hispanic Psychiatrists
  • Director, Education and Engagement Core of the USC Alzheimer Disease Research Center (ADRC)
  • Co-Director, Education Core, USC Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research (RCMAR)


Member, Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of Alzheimer's Greater Los Angeles
Member, Board of Directors of St. Barnabas Senior Services
Appointed Member, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Committee on Functional Assessment for Adults with Disabilities
Appointed Member, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Committee on Family Caregiving for Older Adults
Appointed Member, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Committee to Evaluate the Social Security Administration’s Capability Determination Process for Adult Beneficiaries
Leadership and Advocacy Award, California Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Appointed Member, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Committee on Mental Health Workforce for Geriatric Populations
Summer Biomarker Institute: Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health at the Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
Social Worker Award, AltaMed Health Services Corp., Los Angeles, CA
Chair and Member, 2010 Aging Achievement Award, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging for “The State of Aging and Health Among Latino Elders"
CIBER Global Immersion Program in Social Work, University of Southern California

Articles & Publications

Discrimination, Serious Psychological Distress, and Church-Based Emotional Support Among African American Men Across the Life Span | The Journals of Gerontology

Ann W. Nguyen Linda M. Chatters Robert Joseph Taylor María P. Aranda Karen D. Lincoln Courtney S. Thomas
2017 This study tested whether church-based social support buffers the negative effects of discrimination on serious psychological distress (SPD) among three age groups—early, middle, and late adulthood—of African American men.


Descriptions of depression and depression treatment in older Hispanic immigrants in a geriatric collaborative care program | Aging & Mental Health

David Camacho, Elena Estrada, Isabel T. Lagomasino, Maria P. Aranda & Jennifer Green
2017 Findings revealed that participants used various idioms to describe their experiences with depression, and that depression had a strong impact on functioning. Other findings indicated that depression was caused by various psychosocial problems, antidepressants were helpful in reducing depression, and that bilingual psychotherapists provided a welcoming and safe environment to express emotions and find solutions to problems.


Promotora assisted depression and self-care management among predominantly Latinos with concurrent chronic illness: Safety net care system clinical trial results | Contemporary Clinical Trials

Kathleen Ell, Maria P. Aranda, Shinyi Wu, Hyunsung Oh, Pey-Jiuan Lee, Jeffrey Guterman
2017 The study evaluated depression and self-care management among patients with diabetes and/or heart disease in a 12-month randomized trial conducted in Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (LAC-DHS) community clinics. We compared LAC-DHS clinic usual care (UC) versus A-Helping-Hand (AHH) intervention in which bilingual promotoras, hired and supervised by the research project, provided 6 weekly psychoeducational sessions followed by boosters.


For Their Financial Benefit: Determination of Financial Capability for Adult Beneficiaries of Social Security Disability | Social Work

Julie Birkenmaier, María Aranda, Paul S. Appelbaum, Marc A. Norman
2017 More than 17 million disabled Americans receive financial benefits from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) through the Supplemental Security Income or the Social Security Disability Insurance programs, or both. Taken together, 3.5 million disabled adults are appointed a representative payee who receives and manages their SSA benefits because they have been determined not to be financially capable (that is, able to manage or direct the management of his or her social security funds) (SSA, 2015). Instead, an approved payee receives and disburses the SSA payments to ensure that the beneficiary's basic needs of shelter, food, and clothing are met.


Re-Engagement into Care: The Role of Social Support on Service Use for Recurrent Episodes of Mental Health Distress Among Primary Care Patients | The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research

Marissa C. Hansen, Dahlia Fuentes, Maria P. Aranda
2017 Given high rates of relapse of depression, understanding mechanisms that provide long-term benefits and optimal outcomes for depressed individuals is crucial. The current study examines social support as a relevant component in service use to manage mental health needs for individuals with recurrent depression over a 5-year period. Conducting a secondary data analysis from a randomized clinical trial titled Partners in Care, the study examines direct and moderating effects over two time points of reported 12-month social support on service use for mental health needs at 57-months for an adult sample (n = 991).


The protective effect of neighborhood composition on increasing frailty among older Mexican Americans: a barrio advantage? | Journal of Aging and Health

María P. Aranda, Laura A. Ray, Soham Al Snih, Kenneth J. Ottenbacher, Kyriakos S. Markides
2011 Respondents at risk of increasing frailty live in a less ethnically dense Mexican-American neighborhood, are older, do not have private insurance or Medicare, have higher levels of medical conditions, have lower levels of cognitive functioning, and report less positive affect.


Can the Family Still Cope? Social Support and Health As Determinants of Nursing Home Use in the Older Mexican-Origin Population | Journal of Aging and Health

Jacqueline L. Angel, Ronald J. Angel, Maria P. Aranda, Toni P. Miles
2004 The findings reveal that advanced age, being a man, activities of daily living disability, and cognitive impairment are strong predictors of institutionalization and death. Living with family, arriving in the United States in late life, and access to social support independently decreased the probability of dying in a nursing home.


El Portal Latino Alzheimer's Project: model program for Latino caregivers of Alzheimer's disease-affected people | Social Work

María P. Aranda, Valentine M. Villa, Laura Trejo, Rosa Ramírez, Martha Ranney
2003 The article describes the El Portal Latino Alzheimer's Project--a dementia-specific outreach and services program targeting Latino caregivers in the Los Angeles County area. The project is an example of an interorganizational community-based collaborative developed to provide an array of coordinated, ethnic-sensitive services to Latino dementia-affected adults and their family caregivers, using culturally specific outreach and services delivery strategies.


Research Grants

Programa Esperanza (Project Hope)
Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) $1,500,000

2014-2018 The primary aim of the study is to test the comparative effectiveness of Programa Esperanza (Program Hope) and enhanced usual care (EUC). Programa Esperanza is a short-term, culturally modified psychosocial intervention for Spanish-speaking Latino patients 55 years of age or older with depression and multiple medical conditions. Our long-term goal is to widely disseminate the results and actionable steps needed to increase the adoption and sustainability of evidence-based behavioral health practices for low-income, Limited-English-speaking geriatric populations.

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Caregiving to Diverse Families in Los Angeles County
California Community Foundation $100,000

2015-2018 Los Angeles County is home to upwards of 30,000 informal caregivers of older adults—one of the largest group of caregivers in the nation. Today, almost 30% of Los Angeles County is Latino, and 73% speak English less than “very well.” Several Los Angeles County-based non-profit organizations are funded to provide services to this target population in the form of information and referral, caregiver intervention programs, and/or respite care. The research team will test a pilot psychosocial intervention aimed at increasing family caregiver physical and psychological well-being. Based on the intervention, the team will pilot the intervention with English- and Spanish-speaking family caregivers in Los Angeles County.

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Enhanced Geriatric Depression Treatment in Adult Day Health Care
National Institute of Mental Health $452,442

2009-2012 The major goal of the project was to explore the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of adding individually administered Problem Solving Therapy (PST) to enhanced usual care as an approach for treating depression in adult day health care (ADHC) for predominantly low-income Latinos with depression and significant comorbid medical illnesses.

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