Experiences with Counselling for Individuals Within the South Asian Community II: Methodology, Stories and Analysis
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.
Awareness of Resources
In combination with the above changes in awareness, these data showed that gaining an awareness of resources was important in allowing individuals to seek counselling. Once the participants were able to locate those resources, they were able to make that first appointment. As all the participants initially sought counselling through their schools, they were financially covered. However, recently, Sara indicated, “I just had to make sure I had insurance … I would continue going if insurance allowed it.” Vik and Amy continue to utilize the services at school, but they indicated that they could not seek counselling if it were not provided at university. Amy indicated, “I wouldn’t even know where to look,” while Vik stated, “I don’t have the money.”
This awareness was not simply the knowledge of where counselling was provided or how to pay for it, but also tied into their awareness of symptoms and support systems which, in themselves, were resources. However, an awareness of the types of treatments and therapists available as well as noncounselling methods was also discussed.
Both Vik and Amy identified that certain treatment options may be more helpful for a mental health concern than others and that education affected that awareness. Vik reported that his aunt’s suggestion of “do[ing] yoga instead … of medication” was more based on her lack of understanding of his symptoms than her rejection of the actual treatment process. He provided examples of medical conditions being controlled by medication and the need to treat mental health concerns as such, which may “require a little more than just praying … or yoga.” Amy also indicated that although counselling would not help her family member’s illness go away, it would make it easier to cope with. Their educational experiences seemed to assist with their awareness of the usefulness of both counselling and medication.
Cultural and religious notions, in terms of resources available, were also discussed as underlying factors. All participants indicated that their therapist’s ethnicity was different from their own. Yet, Vik and Amy reported that they were highly willing to share their cultural perspectives with the therapist. On the other hand, Sara indicated, “The therapist was European, and was well aware of problems of children with strict Eastern parents. So she understood everything.” In all three cases, the therapist either learned the culture through the individual perspectives and offered advice accordingly or was of a similar culture and was able to provide support accordingly. However, none of the participants were willing to speak with someone of the same religion, in that they all indicated that the therapist might not understand the challenges they were facing.
Likewise, religious notions frame the awareness of certain symptoms and resources and their connections to mental health. Vik indicated, “When people mix god into the picture … they don’t take accountability,” and may feel they cannot control their situation. He stated that someone might notice a symptom and “blame it on their janam patri [life script]” or consider it “god’s way,” instead of seeking help. However, they may visit a “Pandit” (Hindu cleric), or “astrologer” to find out why they are experiencing such hardship (Vik), which is a resource available to them within their own community. Yet, it may not be the most useful if they are not aware of what might have caused the symptoms. Thus, all the participants noted that an awareness of resources was required in conjunction with knowledge of symptoms in order to seek the appropriate care.
There are several other resources, such as financial and means of “getting there” (Amy), that also affect the uptake of counselling. In this case, all the participants were able to utilize their resources, but only after becoming aware of them. As stated previously, Sara was the only participant who had stopped seeking counselling as a result of current financial restrictions.