The below stories are from Asian Americans who wanted to share publicly about their experiences in therapy with the intention and hope that other Asian Americans would find inspiration and encouragement to seek support.
Jen is first generation Filipina-American, a mother, a trauma ICU nurse, a traveler, a partner to her wife Ginny, and a former Army reserve. She is currently in graduate school to become a nurse practitioner!
Jen first went to therapy in high school after coming out to her English teacher. As she became more in touch with her experience as a person of color, Jen returned to therapy to address the trauma of immigration and the grief of leaving the Philippines as a teenager. She is currently in therapy and is strong advocate of therapy for mental health and wellness.
When asked what surprised her most about therapy, Jen said: “I thought it would be just an emotional process, like being in tears would be the measure that therapy is working. But therapy has been a very intellectual process as well. It has helped me develop a different part of my brain! I have become more self-reflective and more able to solve problems creatively, which has helped me in my career and personal life. “
What Jen want others to know about therapy:
•It can help transform trauma of the past so you are not beholden to them. You can have healthier ways to engage with the world.
•Couples therapy can help make your relationship be even better, bringing more closeness and intimacy. Side note: Jen has been with her wife for over 13 years!
•It can tap into your untapped potential!
Sharon is a 2.5 generation Chinese American from the Bay Area. She works in tech and is a boss!
Sharon shares, “I didn’t know about therapy existed outside of the medical framework until a good friend suggested I consider it. I was living in New York City at the time and didn’t know how to help myself anymore. I was noticing patterns in my life and the common denominator was me!”
Sharon didn’t like her first therapist much but something was working so she continued with it. Looking back, that was part of her work, having a say in her own life.
She is strong advocate for therapy. She says, “No one gave you a handbook on life. It’s perfectly normal to seek support. Therapy has helped me understand my emotions, accept them and consequently accept myself more fully which has changed my life and eased a lot of pain.”
I am happy to report Sharon really likes her current therapist!
Daniel identifies as a queer Asian man. He is a teacher, an artist, a Korean adoptee, and a community organizer.
He grew up with a white, Christian family in the suburbs of Chicago.
Daniel shares, “I couldn’t understand why everything was so difficult. Unpacking my family's history of addiction and emotional abuse was just one of the many overwhelming factors of my identity and relationships that led me to seek therapy. I couldn’t do it from my solo perspective. Therapy has been a non-judgmental space where my feelings are legitimized so I don’t have act out from a place of shame or anger. It has helped me contextualize my unique upbringing, let go, connect the dots, and see the bigger picture of my life. It feels nice to recognize growth when it’s happening!”
Daniel teaches art across K-12 levels and really enjoys seeing his students find ways to express themselves. Daniel is also organizing in the Jade District of Portland, Oregon to help maintain and create a sense of place and community while challenging gentrification.
Amanda is a second generation Chinese American. Her father is Chinese via Brazil and Hong Kong and her mother is from China. Amanda is a mother, a wife, and works as a product manager at a Fortune 500. Amanda is also a pilot. She flies single-engine aircrafts called Cessnas.
Amanda started going to therapy about a year ago. She says, “I was feeling overwhelmed with being a full-time working mother, the stress was affecting my relationships, and my needs were always coming last! Also, I was not happy at work and totally in love with flying! I wasn’t sure what to do. I wanted an objective third-party to help me look at things in a methodical way, to help me come to some decisions.
But then, my therapist and I started to talk about feelings! I have always been in my head. For some reason, I have learned to put certain feelings aside, like sadness. We had a session where these feelings started pouring out. It was very uncomfortable. I don’t usually lose control and felt very vulnerable.”
She adds, “I am still processing what happened. I actually don’t think I need therapy. I am fully functional. But I keep going because I am curious. What else have I been carrying inside me? What other emotions have I shut off? It’s a bit like the Matrix, I took the red pill, saw the truth and now I can’t go back. I want my son to have access to his full range of emotions so I need to do my part. And, we’re also working on how I communicate. At work, I take up more space and speak up more, which has helped me feel more engaged. So, I keep going…“
During this last year, Amanda was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. She says her therapist has been very supportive through her treatment and was the second person she told about her diagnosis. She is surprised that this person can understand her so well, better than most people.
She is working on being able to fly more powerful planes, so she can fly further and faster!
Jooyoung is a design researcher, a facilitator, a teacher, and a tea lover.
When asked how she identifies, Jooyoung says “I am a nomad, a cultural observer, not of the East or of the West and needing both.”
Together with meditation, therapy has helped Jooyoung question the narrative about herself given by society and clarify her life’s purpose. She has worked with different therapists over the years and found that she prefers therapists who didn’t just give her the insights but those who facilitated a process in which she can uncover the wisdom within herself.
Born and raised in Korea and having worked in a mostly white creative tech world in the US, Jooyoung started to recognize the internalized oppressor within. This recognition led her to a POC therapist, an advanced degree in Conflict Facilitation and Process Work, and other major life changes.
Jooyoung is embarking on a new journey in Asia this year. At the start of her trip, she will be doing a research project in Myanmar. Then, she will be traveling to Hadong, South Korea to learn the ancient craft of tea making with a Buddhist monk. She will also be visiting places that had comfort stations built by the Japanese army to provide "comfort women" to soldiers during Japanese occupation. She will be writing about her journey and bringing the world’s attention to it. Jooyoung says “This is part of history that many of us don't know much about. These women were sex slaves and treated like army supplies, and much of it has been covered up. I see a strong connection between this tragic history and the "me too" movement. Denial of this history is not just hurting the survivors, but all of us who have been invaded and violated by patriarchy.”
Emily is a 21 year old, second generation, Chinese American poet and spoken word artist who is learning how to adult!
She has been recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It has been a challenging process to accept the diagnosis and all that comes with it. She has lost relationships because of it and her life trajectory or what she imagined for herself has been derailed. Grief, anger, and insecurity have all been present.
And, Emily has reconnected with old friends, built community among other poets, gained a different kind of emotional intelligence, and reconnected to her faith.
Emily is taking medication and goes to therapy which she finds grounding.
She shares that her parents have come a long way from the mentality that this doesn’t happen to our kid and have been supportive.
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