Therapy for Asian Australians: A guide

This was meant to be a joke but somehow it became genuine. An actual guide! Go forth and find therapists, Azns of Australia. Medicare will pay for it, so at least your parents won’t worry about the expense.

  1. Your therapist will be white. This is okay. They can still be of use to you.
  2. When they say ‘magical thinking’, what they mean is, that thing where your mum tells you not to say a thing out loud, because the spirit of that thing will come for you. Do not believe the therapist when they say you have to stop not saying it (but you can say it in your head. That’s okay. Name that thing) (But don’t say it out loud, come on, you don’t want the spirit of that thing to find you).
  3. Therapists almost always practice in old houses. They are probably haunted, but white ghosts can’t hurt you. Do not be afraid. The ghost will take the therapist and any other clients well before they get to you.
  4. They won’t force you to make eye contact. That’s totally a myth. If they do, find a new therapist.from angry little girls (an excellent comic)
  5. You are not the only Asian Australian with a therapist. I promise. There’s me, at least.
  6. The things that make you specifically your ethnicity are not the problem. You don’t have to become more Australian (“Australian”) to deal with your very real problems.
  7. Your parents will say: are you telling this person our private family issues? (Yes) But they’re private family issues. (Yes) Are you sick? (Your answer may vary) Does anyone you know see you? (Doesn’t matter) What do you mean, your friends know you go to therapy? (My friends know I go to therapy) Do they know there’s something wrong? (They’re my friends, Ma, Ba!)
  8. You may be struck with how some treatments seem like cultural appropriation, particularly around mindfulness and meditation. Yep.
  9. Your therapist might suggest more independence from your family. Feel free to think about the concepts suggested, but remember that you’re Azn and your therapist is not necessarily culturally appropriate.
  10. You will have to explain the following things: family context; family structure; extended family structure; your interdependence on your family; what being Asian means.

    what happens when we fail to function (thanks, haw par villa, for a lifetime of fear)
    what happens when we fail to function (thanks, haw par villa, for a lifetime of fear)
  11. Specifically on mindfulness: you will probably learn how to do this. I find mindfulness helpful. But I sit less with my emotions, because identifying individual emotions is hard, and more with paying attention to my surroundings.
  12. On emotions: I have been known to literally start conversations with ‘I need to tell you a thing and I need you not to react.’ This is probably more Chinese hyphen specific, but that’s because emotions are hard and I’ve definitely grown up not expected to share them. My therapist thinks this is because I’m hiding from my emotions, but in my context you can receive comfort without sharing specifics. Other East Asians may find a familiarity in this.
  13. UGH EMOTIONS. WHY.
  14. You might need meds. You might not. Either is fine.
  15. Your parents will come around. No, seriously.
  16. Your ancestors, too.
  17. I have found the following articles helpful at various points of time in therapy: Culturally competent treatments for Asian Americans: The relevance of mindfulness and acceptance-based therapies, Hall et al, American Psychological Association, 2011; Challenging Stereotypes: culture psychology and the Asian self, Radio National, 2010.
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