Preparation A Guide To Approaching The Literature

In describing Asian cultural values and the characteristics of Asian American individuals, clinical literature often errs on the side of overgeneralization. This happens particularly when clinical writers illustrate cultural concepts by emphasizing contrasts between American and Asian cultures (e.g., egalitarian versus hierarchical values, individual versus family, guilt versus shame). A casual perusal of book chapters and clinical articles reveals sentences such as "Chinese find it easy to somatize" or that "An Asian client enters a therapist's office expecting to find an authority who can solve his or her problems." These illustrations can be useful to a clinician who is at the beginning stages of cultural awareness, as many previously unarticulated assumptions about the mainstream American culture are brought to the foreground while being contrasted with various Asian cultural characteristics. However, these characterizations can leave the misimpression that there is such a thing as a monolithic "Asian," "Chinese," or "American" culture. Kwon (1995) pointed out the dangers of such clinical literature in their tendency to overemphasize the between-group differences between Asian Americans and Whites at the cost of minimizing within-group differences among Asian Americans. Kwon further argued that a focus on Asian-White between-group differences may lead the clinician to underestimate the efficacy for Asian American client of general therapeutic techniques used to treat White American clients. Given the potential misuse of clinical guidelines, clinicians are urged to balance broad descriptions at the cultural level with individual accounts. With this caveat, this section describes some key concepts on which culturally competent assessment and treatment with Asian Americans are built; the understanding of the process (credibility) and the acquisition of cultural knowledge.

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