Psychotherapy With Chinese Clients: The Effects of Cultural Assumptions Such As Filial Piety on the Working Relationship

Liu, Benjamin
Solomon, Paul
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

Filial piety is one of the core values in Asian cultures that are informed by Confucianism. In a psychotherapy process, it is almost impossible to explore a parent-child relationship with a Chinese or Asian client without encountering such an important cultural concept. However, as cross-cultural psychotherapy is increasingly in demand around the world, there has been little discussion of filial piety in the psychoanalytic field. By means of a research method of modified systematic literature review and a discussion based on my clinical engagement with a Chinese client, this dissertation is intended to explore the potential effects of filial piety in Chinese culture on the working relationship in the context of psycho dynamically-oriented practice. The research result reveals a number of findings and arguments. Firstly, filial piety, exemplified in the cultural concepts of Ming and Fen, is still embodied in the Chinese family system. Secondly, I argue that psychotherapy with a Chinese client is like an immigration process for the psychotherapist. The psychotherapist needs to acculturate her/himself with the client’s culture in order to identify psychopathologies and separate them from the client’s normal daily practice which is culturally different from that of the therapist. Thirdly, given the significant position a family holds in the Chinese world-view, which emphasizes interdependence and collectivism, I argue that psychotherapists need to adapt and adjust their clinical interventions according to how much separation-individuation would need to be facilitated in the client based on the Western developmental concept of independence and individualism. Fourthly, establishment and maintenance of a therapeutic relationship remains a key factor in helping Chinese/Asian clients make changes, just as it is with non Chinese/Asian clients.

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