Asians have the same number of mental health issues as any other culture in the world, including Americans. However, many Asians aren’t quick to adopt the ways of Western culture and many of its practices. This includes things like therapy. For Asian-Americans, this can be a struggle. There is not only a sense of pride and tradition that comes into play, but there is a stigma that goes along with therapy for Asians, and the current generation of Asian-Americans are having to deal with it.
The Problems Asian-Americans Have With Therapy
Asian cultures aren’t typically known for expressing their feelings in any way, not even in the privacy of their own home. So being able to share innermost thoughts, feelings, and concerns can be a struggle for those who grew up in an Asian family with those values. Sometimes, however, Asian-Americans may not even be able to fully understand the emotions and feelings they’re having, because they’ve had to ignore them for so long. Some may think it’s ‘normal’ to feel depressed, have anxiety, etc. A recognition of emotion is necessary when it comes to taking the first step toward help.
Secondly, Asian-Americans have to deal with cultural differences, from language barriers, to the stereotypes that come with both American therapy, and Asian culture as a whole. It can be difficult for an Asian-American to find a bilingual therapist in the United States who is sensitive to the Asian community and understands the culture enough to tread lightly until a comfort level is achieved.
Utilizing Therapy As An Asian-American
Unfortunately, many Asian-Americans won’t even consider going to a therapist (for various reasons) until perhaps the problem has simply become too much to handle, whether it’s depression, OCD tendencies, etc. When it becomes a hindrance in everyday living seems to be the most common reason many Asian-Americans will finally seek therapy.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. The stigmas that have long been attached to therapy in the Asian culture continue to fade away with each new generation, and with Asian-Americans being such a large part of the U.S. population, the stereotypes and concerns over therapy will continue to fall away. In the meantime, if you are an Asian-American who feels as though you may be struggling, and have been cautious about getting help, know that you are not alone in what you’re feeling, and you should be encouraged to get the right kind of mental health attention, instead of shoving your concerns under the rug.
The future of therapy in America is here, and with it, stereotypes and cultural differences are becoming less and less important. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of what therapy can offer you as an Asian-American.
Kin Leung, MFT, providing Therapy for Asian Americans in San Francisco, CA. I also have over a decade of experience working with adolescents and their families as a psychotherapist and supervisor in the San Francisco and Peninsula area. Originally from Hong Kong and bilingual in Cantonese, I have the personal experience of living in 2 very different cultures and understand the struggles many Asian American families go through. It is my goal and dedication to provide therapy service that is suitable for each family in need.