I struggled to continue writing this series of article for a few weeks. My original writing plan is to share my experiences working with various immigrant populations. I have started to work on the Hispanic population, but I got stuck. After going back and forth and reading through the literature reviews, I realized two reasons. The first one is the provider’s assumptions about the immigrants. Let’s start with these two cases first.
Female, age between 25-35, presenting issues: interpersonal relationship, and mainly, intimate relationship issues.
“My husband/boyfriend thinks that I am too controlling. Is it wrong that I want to know when he comes home and where he goes? He also thinks that I am nitpicking him about little things. I just need him to pick up after himself and to help out cleaning the place. I can’t do everything by myself, right? Why can’t he give me a hand and think I am nagging him? I want him to get a better education and better job so that we can have a better future. However, he thinks that I am criticizing him. I can’t understand him. Doesn’t he want to have a better future with me?”
Male, age between 35-45, presenting issues: communication in the intimate relationships
“I don’t know how to communicate with my wife/girlfriend. Our values are so different in many ways. She said that I don’t talk to her and I have a temper. I don’t know if I have a temper. She thinks that I am too strict with children. Is it wrong to expect the children to behave certain ways?”
Before I dive into the details of using the proposed assessment model as described previously to work with these two clients, I invite you to have some free association here.
What are the hypotheses do you have with these two clients?
Please write them down first.
Then, I invite you to add in the images in your mind and do more free association.
Imagine these two clients as Non-Hispanic White, what association would you have?
Imagine these two clients as Hispanic, what associations would you have?
Imagine these two clients as Asian, what associations would you have?
I encouraged you to write down your immediate responses. Then, please write down your hypotheses and based on your free associations. Then, please compare them to the hypotheses you wrote down when you have no images of the clients’ ethnicity background. Are there any differences? Are there similarities?
Let me share with you why my perceptions are important for me as a mental health provider during the first assessment.
In the graduate school, “multiculturalism” or “diversity” is one of the standards in the training program. The students are required to understand the different cultures and how to work with clients from various cultures. The training programs acknowledged the importance to train the students in these areas because, first, this is the country that is built by the immigrants, and second, the combined number of the “minorities” are higher than the non-Hispanic White Americans. The development of the psychology or mental health evolves from the middle-class, Non-Hispanic White culture. Therefore, the training program tries to provide the students all the information as much as they can, to help all of us, minority or not, understand different cultures and the essence of those cultures.
In both of my training programs as a master student and a doctoral student, I also experienced these “diversity” or “multicultural” training classes. I found these classes helpful but can lead to stereotype. For example, when you talk about Asian, you immediately think about family and hierarchy. When you think about Hispanic, you immediately think about masculine and feminism. It certainly provides the counselors with the basic understanding of the culture. However, if the trainees do not stay curious, it also leads to forming stereotype without consciously knowing.
I really would love to hear if you have found something about yourself through this exercise. Please share with me about your reflection from the above questions no matter you are a provider or not!