Experiences with Counselling for Individuals Within the South Asian Community I: Rationale and Literature

Experiences with Counselling for Individuals Within the South Asian Community I: Rationale and Literature

by Alisha Mann, MPsy

This series was originally completed as a Major Research Project in partial fulfillment of Adler Graduate Professional School’s Master of Psychology degree. 

Intergenerational Differences in Help-Seeking Behaviours

Although families are seen as collective, many studies note that families can be sources for distress and conflict, in particular as a result of intergenerational differences in attitudes and behaviours (Chadda & Deb, 2013; Johnson & Nadirshaw, 1993). The conflicts among first-generation South Asian immigrant parents and their second- generation children arise primarily from being raised in culturally different environments (Shariff, 2009). The level of behavioural acculturation of parents may have a positive influence on the help-seeking behaviours of their children, with women showing greater behavioural acculturation (Hamid et al., 2009).

A study by Islam et al. (2014) indicated that educational programs must be mindful of intragenerational differences existing between South Asian immigrant students and Canadian-born students, as Canadian-born South Asian individuals are still a new population in Canada. Just as assuming homogeneity for the entire South Asian population can hinder and create a barrier to seeking help (Rehman, 2010), the same can occur for not taking inter- and intragenerational effects into consideration.

The intergenerational differences may, in themselves, affect one’s willingness to seek help and openly discuss concerns, as a difference in perceptions may increase psychological distress. Thakore-Dunlap and Velsor (2014) conducted a group study with South Asian immigrant girls attending secondary school in the UK to test whether group therapy (collectivist approach) was beneficial. Although they found the girls were able to discuss their concerns amongst themselves, having a therapist (group leader) of the same cultural background was not as beneficial as hoped, as intergenerational differences played a factor. However, the girls were more open to discussing their personal concerns when they began to view the therapist as didi (older sister) as opposed to an authoritative figure. This is similar to the Chew-Graham and colleagues’ (2002) study of cultural differences, in that when individuals considered the therapist as one of their own, or on their side, they were more likely to continue their sessions.

The development of a positive attitude towards mental health and counselling may increase the intent to utilize such services (Hess & Tracey, 2013). However, a change in attitude requires the implementation of educational programs and policies that understand the inter- and intragenerational cultural differences and provide equitable support.

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