As Asian Americans, we are constantly contending with multiple parts of our identities. We are trying to navigate what it looks like to be Asian and to be American, and our journey can become even more complicated when we consider other parts, like gender and sexuality. There are increasing conversations about what it means to be an Asian American woman. However, we have found that it is still necessary to create spaces for underrepresented groups.
One of our therapists, Samana Budhathoki, wanted to create such a space for South Asian women. When asked about the importance of a space like this, she shared, “As South Asian women, we carry a different weight of experiences that sometimes gets lost within the larger Asian context. Our roots are from the same continent, yet the lived experiences and histories of different South Asian countries bring up an even more nuanced set of struggles, stories, and strengths.”
Samana created the Sitting with the South Asian Female Experience (SAFE) group to give space to these nuances, to offer a sense of belonging and community, and to help members feel seen, inspired, and uplifted. We have been able to offer two cohorts of this group so far, and we hope to be able to continue to offer this group to show other South Asian women that they are not alone in their experience.
Read on for the personal experience of a previous SAFE group member!
Mrinal Gokhale is an author, speaker, and content creator, who uses writing to share her personal journey of wellness and to uplift stories of mental health. In collaboration with Yellow Chair Collective, she has shared her experiences of individual therapy, mental health stigma, and our SAFE group.
What originally drew you to joining the Sitting with the South Asian Female Experience (SAFE) Support Group at Yellow Chair Collective?
I have never been with a South Asian therapist before, and also have never been in a support group. I have only ever done individual therapy and one therapy group in the past. I didn’t know what a support group would offer compared to group therapy, but I liked the idea of finding community within it. For the longest time, I never met a fellow South Asian with a mental health and/or therapy journey to share, until I became an author in 2021. I decided to explore the group to be with fellow South Asian women that are on a road to wellness and want to explore their journey in a culturally competent way, and by discussing things in our culture that are taboo.
Have you been in individual therapy before? And if so, how does the support group experience differ from individual therapy?
Individual therapy helped with establishing goals unique to myself and working towards them without the distraction or discomfort of speaking in front of a group. Group therapy allowed me to learn how I come across to others while also getting the clinical component from the therapists that ran the group. This support group, which is my first support group, isn’t heavily clinical but it allows me to discuss and vent about things amongst women who look like me and who grew up with similar cultural dynamics. I like the expertise on the subject matter that comes from the South Asian therapists, and the exercises and resources they give us, as they help me get in touch with my body sensations and engage in introspection.
Have you had any experiences where mental health was stigmatized for you? What was that experience, and what changed that led you to seek mental health support?
I have experience feeling pressured by the Model Minority Myth standards in my community growing up. And I think the fact that I experienced several academic and social-emotional learning challenges growing up and that I never received therapy until 20 years old was the byproduct of it all. I always had thoughts about therapy as a teenager, but saw it as something to do as a wealthy person only. But then, a just-chance encounter with someone who worked at my university’s college psychology clinic taught me otherwise, and since then, I have not looked back.
What was one thing that you took away from the group that will stay with you?
I really liked the intergenerational trauma discussion the most. I enjoyed drawing the “family tree,” which helped me “go backwards and therefore move forward.” It opened up a conversation with my family regarding the plight overcome by my ancestors, which I never knew much about before. That was the “roots” part of the tree. The very top is the “birds,” which are the things one wants to “let go” of among future generations. I drew quite a lot of birds. But I’m currently self-studying the intergenerational traumas that took place in my bloodline even now and reading a book on it.
Any recommendations for anyone thinking about joining a support group or entering individual therapy?
I recommend individual first as a general guideline and to do support groups or group therapy for community and to learn how you come across to other people and gain feedback from more than just one person sitting across from you.
A special thank you to Mrinal for her vulnerability and honesty in sharing her experience. Her most recent book, Taboo: South Asian Mental Health Stories, can be found here.
Sitting with the South Asian Female Experience Support Group
Our Sitting with the South Asian Female Experience (SAFE) support group offers support, education, and tools and strategies. But more importantly, it offers a communal space. Samana’s co-facilitator for our second cohort, Priyanka Pathak, shared that “being a South Asian woman means being able to have a special empathetic connection with women from a variety of Asian countries, who are related through similarities in cultural and historical background while still having differences in language, ethnicity, and religion.” She believes that spaces like the SAFE group can offer powerful healing experiences by helping members feel “held” by one another.
With our South Asian female facilitators, group members are able to explore, process, heal, and support one another in the journey of navigating our complex cultural landscape.
For more information about our support group, please see our blog detailing the curriculum of the group, visit our Sitting with the South Asian Female Experience page, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Begin Therapy for Asian Women in Los Angeles, CA, and New York
At Yellow Chair Collective, we provide both individual therapy and support groups for South Asian women to discuss their mental health issues and seek support. struggling with mental health challenges. Our providers provide culturally sensitive and trauma-informed care that is tailored to the unique needs of the South Asian community. In therapy, we can help you to find the balance of personal identity and cultural background that you are looking for. At our Los Angeles, CA, and New York City, NY-based therapy practice we have many culturally sensitive, Asian American therapists who can help you in this journey. For your added convenience and simplicity, we offer online therapy for anyone in the state of California or New York. We know that your mental health is important, and we want to help you work through whatever’s holding you back. Follow the steps below to begin.
- Fill out the contact form to get connected with us.
- Get matched with a skilled Asian American therapist.
- Start processing your own family dynamics that still impact you today.
Other Services at Yellow Chair Collective
There are many options for treatment using online therapy in California and New York, it just depends on what you’re needing. And while we certainly service Asian American folks, we also work with individuals from other cultures, too. So, whether you’re needing support in overcoming anxiety, burnout, trauma, or PTSD, we can help. Likewise, we serve teens and couples in need of support, too. So when you start online therapy with us, you can bring your whole self, including past struggles, cultural impacts, and more.
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