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.
Stories and analytical findings begin on page 4. Pages 1-3 outline methodology and procedures.
Jordan and Yeomans’s (1995) critical ethnographic approach was utilized as a means of understanding the lived experiences of SA individuals seeking mental health counselling within their cultural settings. Interview questions were framed using a feminist lens (Olesen, 2011) for the purpose of understanding participants’ views on the foundation and continuation of stigma through the interplay of culture, religion, family structures, hegemonic processes, hierarchical gender differences, and agency within the family.
The critical ethnographic approach helped to achieve a deeper understanding of the general cultural and religious practices of SA communities based on these individual perspectives. A nondominant culture research approach was not applied, as the researcher sought participants living within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) who were not completely different or compartmentalized from the general mainstream culture.
Although significant differences were apparent, they were not to the point that acculturation had not occurred. Had this research taken place in a more remote area, a non-dominant research approach may have been useful.
The interview questions were framed with a feminist lens to observe underlying hegemonic processes, such as power dynamics and gender roles within participants’ lives.
The researcher wanted to understand whether these concepts impact the experience of seeking counselling and, if so, how the experience might differ for each gender.
The qualitative nature of this paper allowed the researcher to create experiential stories with each participant. This approach was chosen in order to find individualization within the generalizations and to differentiate among experiences. It allowed the data gathered to be in-depth, individual, and experiential. The stories of each participant were highlighted independently and then combined to showcase similarities and generalizations, as a means of answering the actual question. In order to accomplish this, a grounded theory approach (Glaser & Strauss, 1973) was used for analysis.
This research design required purposeful sampling (Patton, 1990), as it was geared to a specific set of individuals. Therefore criterion-specific sampling (Patton, 1990) was applied to seek participants who:
- Associated themselves with the South Asian culture;
- Were above the age of 18; and
- Had actively sought and completed at least 1 hour of counselling within the last 3
Participants needed to have associated themselves with the SA culture, as this was the community being researched. The word “associate” is used in recognition of the fact that individuals may be born into a specific culture but associate and participate actively in, or adhere to, another (Soorkia et al., 2011). For example, someone does not need to be from a South Asian country to associate her/himself with the South Asian community and its beliefs, while someone with South Asian origins may not follow or associate with the culture and its beliefs and/or values. Therefore, the criterion emphasizes the importance of “association” with the culture and community.
The second criterion was associated with the notion of autonomy, in that participants were to be 18 years of age or older. This was an important component, as it allowed the researcher to question the individual experience of seeking counselling as opposed to the family or parental experience. This may not have been the case if the participant were younger than 18. In relation to the autonomy and agency, this is also the age most individuals begin university, college, and/or employment. The availability of professional help is greater in universities and colleges, as it is paid for through tuition fees and health benefits (Nunes et al., 2014), allowing for active seeking and participation to occur. This criterion was also partly based on the researcher’s fear of not being able to obtain participants under the age of 18, as family members may not be willing to speak of such experiences. Future research may attempt to study the experience of counselling and the changes occurring in a family whose child seeks counselling. Future research may even want to look into a family’s experience when one or both parents seek counselling.
The third and final criterion is for individuals to have sought and completed at least 1 hour of counselling in the past 3 years. This is important, as the world of counselling and therapy has been changing drastically over the years. Also, this component allowed for a recent view of the current culture of society and the South Asian community. The experience of seeking counselling is as important as is the experience of counselling itself; therefore the “1 hour of counselling” component was vital. Although there are many who seek counselling but may not actually attend, this research was intended to outline what barriers, if any, may have played into that decision and how they may have been overcome. Therefore the criterion of having experienced at least 1 hour of counselling was included.