DOES THE ACCULTURATION OF INTERNATONAL STUDENT THERAPISTS PREDICT THE PROCESS OF PSYCHOTHERAPY WITH U.S. CLIENTS? AN EXPLORATORY STUDY.
Perez Rojas, Andres Eduardo
Gelso, Charles J.
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A large body of research highlights the salience of acculturation to the psychosocial functioning of international students, and a great deal of research suggests that the person of the therapist is important for the process of psychotherapy. Yet very little research has examined whether and how acculturation factors influence the person of the international student therapist and, in turn, his or her psychotherapy work with U.S. clients. In the present study, self-report data was gathered from 123 international student therapists enrolled in programs accredited by the American Psychological Association and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs across the U.S. Two factors reflecting international student therapists’ acculturation experiences (acculturative stress and cultural distance) were examined as potential predictors of four variables germane to the participants’ therapy work (real relationship, working alliance, session quality, and session depth) with their most recent U.S. client. Contrary to what was hypothesized, acculturative stress and cultural distance were unrelated to the psychotherapy process variables. Post-hoc analyses revealed one significant interaction, which suggested that acculturative stress interacted with self-reported English fluency to predict session depth among international student therapists for whom English is a second language (ESL). Specifically, when ESL student therapists were more fluent in English, their acculturative stress was positively related to their session depth ratings, whereas acculturative stress and depth were unrelated at lower levels of English fluency. Limitations and implications of the findings are discussed along with recommendations for future study.