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Benefits of Asian American Therapy for Teens by an Asian American Therapist (Part 2 of 2)

Finding a therapist for your Asian or Asian American teen is another way in which you can support their overall health and development. Consider consulting with one of our Asian American therapists who provide culturally competent teen therapy. Check out the first part of Benefits of Asian American Teen Therapy by an Asian American Therapist to find out more.

Empathy for Discrimination Due to Racial or Cultural Background

We hope that your Asian or Asian American teenager has not experienced first-hand discrimination because of their racial or ethnic background. However, we are not naive to the news, politics, history, and exposure that many teens may have experienced through their friends, family, or even social media. Especially during this pandemic, we have seen so many headlines of Asians and Asian Americans being targeted through hate crimes. This can leave a traumatic impression with everlasting effects on the mind, body, heart, and soul.

Being exposed to anti-Asian hate crimes through the media or hearing about it from others can severely distress your teen. Some of these stresses can manifest in your teen experiencing symptoms in the form of headaches, stress eating or not eating at all, loss of energy, exhaustion, depression, not participating in activities they once enjoyed, or even anxiety from paranoia and hypervigilance.

Having an Asian American therapist who has experienced similar emotions and feelings from the recent events can provide teen therapy that is safe, peaceful, and nonjudgmental for your teen to find a sense of groundedness, freedom to express how they might be feeling, and a way for your teen to process and be guided through their experiences.

Asian Identity Will be Recognized

Asian American teen male smiling representing the positive benefits of having an Asian American mental health therapist in the city of of Los Angeles, California.

Whether your teen experienced immigration or is a second-generation American, our Asian American therapists are here to understand their

 unique experiences. Both immigration status and what generation Asian American your teen is can play a huge role in the acculturation and assimilation process. Despite your teen being an immigrant, second-generation, or third-generation Asian American, their racial identity has impacted them. For example, I can think of many Asian American teens and adults in the United States whose parents never taught them their native language because it was “important for them to learn English.” But after further conversations, many of these Asian and Asian American families had experienced racism, discrimination, and oppression, which led them to withhold teaching their native tongue to the next generation for survival purposes.

Racial identity makes a difference. It is a part of who we are whether we have accepted it or not. We may feel that we are not “Asian enough” to the people in our ancestral land. But, for many in the United States, we were never “American enough.” Our Asian American therapists will spend time getting to know, explore, and acknowledge your teen’s racial identity. The process can look different from one teen to another. One might be facing internalized racism and they need the time and space to heal. During teen therapy, our therapists will meet them where they are at and will hold that safe space for your teen to explore their language, cuisine, culture, and even history. At our Los Angeles, California-based therapy practice, we emphasize getting to know the client in all aspects.

Cultural Norms, Values, and Family Dynamics are Considered

As many of you may know, setting boundaries is not something that we Asians and Asian Americans traditionally do with our parents, nor were we taught what boundaries were. Since our culture and family dynamic centers around collectivism, there is no “I.” It’s most often, “us” or “we.” Setting boundaries may look to our parents or guardians like we are cutting them out of our lives. And this is very much looked down upon in the Asian culture. It is and always will be about the collective whole.

Here at YCC, we strive for interdependence. Interdependence is the middle between collectivism and individualism, not being hyper-independent or over-dependent. Our teen therapy will consider the cultural norms, values, and family dynamics that occur within your teens’ life. We won’t ask teens to set boundaries with their families, but rather reframe that so both you and your teen can come to a better understanding about how you both can operate as a whole, but still live out each individual’s passions and interests while still upholding family values.

Let me give you an example. When speaking with Asian parents, the common thread that I noticed was that parents, other family members, and non-related guardians only want what’s best for their children. That can mean having a good profession, making good money to financially sustain themselves, having a sufficient place to live, raising a family, and living a happy life. More often than not, these desires may come off to our teens as pushy, overbearing, demanding too much, or even spiteful. But our job as therapists is to help you and your teen find a happy medium, not to separate your teen from their family. It’s to create better understanding between both parties so that you both can move forward in communication, understanding, and most importantly, love and support.

What is the Model Minority Myth?

The Model Minority Myth is a stereotype that perpetuates the depiction of Asians and Asian Americans being docile, smart, geniuses at math, and law-abiding citizens. They have tiger parents who are on their children’s case about their studies and extracurricular activities. Additionally, it depicts Asians and Asian Americans as soft, non-athletic, and nerdy individuals who hold high degrees and are more successful than the other races because of their innate abilities.

Group of diverse Asian American teens spending time together to represent the kind of bond they can have with one another because of their experiences, which has been explored and processed with an Asian American therapist at our Los Angeles, CA-based therapy practice.

The Model Minority Myth harms Asians and Asian Americans because it devalues the experiences of each individual.

It groups many ethnic groups into one, making the rest of the world think that if you are “Asian” then you are well off and successful, rather than acknowledging the experiences and struggles of each ethnic group and their specific experiences. This myth also works to perpetuate racism, oppression, and prejudices that have been very present in US history. There have been racist immigration laws toward Chinese people. Hmongs and the Japanese were driven out of their own homes and sometimes businesses. Groups of other Asian Americans were lynched and killed. This draws to my next point that the Model Minority Myth also perpetuates Asians and Asian Americans as foreigners, that we don’t belong in America. And lastly, this myth gets in the way of racial justice for all. This myth has been seen time and time again where it pins Asians against other minority groups. For example, the LA riots in Los Angeles of 1992 have led to high tensions between African Americans and Korean Americans. Rather than both communities looking at the system that let them both down.

Our Asian American teen therapists will work to address, recognize, and explore with your teen to help them in their context.

If your Asian teen has ADHD and needs additional support, our therapists will advocate for them to get the necessary assessments and interventions needed to help them succeed. If your teen needs a mental health professional to help process emotions and feelings after being bullied at school or having problems at home, our therapists will support them.

Family Stressors are Understood

Our jobs as Asian American therapists are not to create division within your home or family, but rather the opposite. It provides a greater sense of belonging and understanding to one another. That’s why we don’t push for boundaries, but rather understanding. Our agenda is to help find a middle ground where goals are mutual for your teen and your family, whether that is happiness, success, or both.

Since mental health is so taboo, this will be an opportunity to have your teen’s mental health addressed. Our mental health is just as important as our physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual health. We can help with psychoeducation to help you and your family understand how mental health can affect your teen’s overall success. Some feelings your teen may be struggling with are depression and anxiety. Depression can look like low energy, decreased motivation, less willingness to do activities they once enjoyed, or maybe they are sleeping way more than before. Anxiety can look like being extremely worried about the future, or not performing well in academics because they are caught up in the consequences of their potential mistakes. We also provide psychoeducation on parenting, such as teaching your teen that their identity is more than just grades and what college they may go to.

Finally, as Asian American therapists, we understand that Asian and Asian American teens are living a bicultural identity. They are influenced both by their family, cultural, and ethnic values, but also by the values of the dominant culture. It is extremely difficult to balance both parts of themselves being Asian and being American. But as stated before, our job as therapists is to help your teen begin to find a happy medium of incorporating both their family and cultural values into the context that they currently live in. If your teen can still pursue their happiness, while still finding interdependence with you and your family, how much happier do you think your teen will become? It’s about understanding each other, for your teen, and for your family.

Finding an Asian American Therapist for Teen Therapy

Here at Yellow Chair Collective, we have many Asian American therapists who are culturally competent, sensitive, and understanding of all walks of life. At our Los Angeles, California-based therapy practice, our aim is to provide strategies, psychoeducation, a listening ear, and mental health professional who will acknowledge and validate your teen’s experiences.