East Asian International Trainees Experiences of Conducting Therapy in the US: A Qualitative Investigation

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In the present study, the author investigated East-Asian international counseling trainees' experience of conducting therapy in the US, particularly challenges East-Asian trainees are facing, how East-Asian trainees cope with these challenges, how East-Asian trainees' cultural backgrounds affect their clinical work, and East-Asian trainees' experience with clinical training. Ten East-Asian international trainees (from China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan) were interviewed. For each participant, two 1-2 hours phone interview were conducted, approximately one week apart. In the first interview, participants were asked to discuss their experience with clinical training in the US, to reflect on challenges that they faced that related to doing therapy in the US, and to describe their coping strategies. In the second interview, participants were asked to discuss in details two cases in which their cultural backgrounds facilitated/hindered their clinical work. The Consensual Qualitative Research (Hill et. al, 2005) is used for data analysis. The results indicated that East-Asian trainees deal with challenges such as discrimination/distrust from their clients, language barrier, a lack of understanding of nuances of American culture, countertransference due to cultural conflict, discomfort working with emotions, and difficulty being direct with clients. East-Asian trainees cope with these challenges by seeking support, addressing cultural issues with clients, improving English skills, using cognitive restructuring, using avoidance, and practicing self-care. Results also indicated that East-Asian international trainees' cultural backgrounds/experience (e.g., their understanding of Asian cultural values and their bicultural experiences) can be an asset to their clinical work. Implications for training and research are discussed.