Early in her practice as a clinical psychologist, Janie Hong noticed a troubling trend. With her patients’ permission, Hong had been tracking their progress in therapy — and saw a clear pattern. Compared to her white American patients, her Asian American patients often required much more time to benefit from treatment. While they eventually achieved the end goal of reduced distress, their paths took longer, and often included many more emotional ups and downs, Hong says.
For Hong, now a clinical psychologist at Stanford University, these observations demonstrated a clear disconnect: To those patients, “the interventions that I was prescribing felt so uncomfortable,” she says. Most of the widely used psychological approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), were developed largely in North American and Western European countries. These treatments, says Hong, are grounded in Western values and often concentrate on the individual’s ability to articulate their internal experiences and on exploring and identifying their true selves. But focusing on your own thoughts and emotions is not the only way to restore mental health, she says, and it may not be the best solution for people with multicultural or minority backgrounds.
The need to address the disconnect is more acute now than ever, after the stress of the pandemic and a recent surge in hate crimes and incidents directed against Asian Americans. One 2020 survey, which included more than 550 Asian Americans, found that almost half of them reported anxiety during the pandemic, and 15 percent reported depressive symptoms. Six out of 10 reported experiencing discrimination during the pandemic, and this was associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression and stress.
Read more at KnowableMagazine.org.