Multicultural Counseling & Therapy

“Strength lies in differences not in similarities” ~ Stephen Covey

Everyone has a culture.

Through our background, our community, and our individual experiences, we all wonder how the world works and where we fit in.

For many of us, questions of belonging, identity, religion, and culture are at the very center of how we see ourselves or how we think we are perceived by others.

Sometimes this creates issues in our work, relationships, or overall life.

Sometimes you are not sure how it all plays out, and what it means, but you know you are feeling like an “other”. It can be hard to find the balance.

Kim’s story tells us about one person’s experience.

Kim came to see me three years ago. She felt like a fraud at work and in her dating relationships. She also felt like a fraud with her clients. Kim was a social worker.

While Kim was born in the US, she grew up in a Chinese household with her two sisters and brother. Kim was the youngest. Kim was not married, but wanted to be.

Why did Kim feel like such a fraud? As Kim and I began to understand her feelings and go deeply into her upbringing, she began to fully understand how hard it was for her to hold both her Asian culture and her being an American.

Kim felt she was constantly putting on and taking off two different hats. It made her feel like she was pretending – she felt like a fraud.

Kim and I worked together through multicultural counseling to better understand these feelings and help Kim to connect to a place where she could hold both spaces – the parts of her Chinese culture she felt connected with and the parts of her western identity she valued. She learned how to embrace and love both ‘cultures.’ She also accepted that she could choose the values she appreciated within each and not ‘practice’ those values she did not feel were “her”.

When Kim left multicultural counseling, she no longer felt like she was pretending. She was comfortable in her own skin and was able to straddle the East/West dialectics which were a constant source of anxiety for her previously.

Multicultural Counseling for Interracial Couples

There is amazing beauty in interracial and intercultural relationships. You have a chance to grow and learn from someone who might come from a different background and a different perspective of life than you. Being with someone who can offer you unique insight and experiences because of their culture feels new and exciting.

Over time, as the relationship develops, issues come up which you may not have realized at first that stem from your different cultural backgrounds. Some of those can be:

  • values and philosophies around money
  • unfamiliar attitudes or prejudices
  • parenting and children’s discipline
  • gender roles, sex and spirituality differences
  • relationship and approach with family

Or maybe this list doesn’t quite capture it. You can’t put your finger on it, but you know you just are not seeing things eye to eye.

James and Arya’s story tells us about one couple’s experience.

James and Arya came to me about three years into their marriage. They recently had a baby. James was a successful NY Wall Street Banker who grew up on the Upper West side. Arya came from Norway. Her mother was Norwegian and her father Caribbean.

The couple was struggling with parenting styles and frustrations around priorities for their baby and their relationship. Arya felt James was controlling and regimented. She felt he dictated every detail about caring for their baby. She felt they no longer took time out for themselves.

James felt Arya was being too laid back and not attentive enough. He struggled with balancing his stressful job and being a parent, and had no “time” to pay attention to the relationship.

Before the baby was born, they would travel, dine out and enjoy cultural events.

Determined to find a way, but unable to get there without some help, they decided on couples’ multicultural counseling. Through their journey, we discovered how much James’s and Arya’s respective upbringing and the relationship each had with their own parents had an impact on what each believed was the right way to care for their baby.

James’s mom stayed at home, and his dad had been in the military. Discipline and schedules were very strictly enforced. Working in banking also required James to be extremely regimented.

Arya grew up in a laid back, multicultural household where she often travelled with her parents and learned to “go with the flow.” To this day, her parents continue to find ways to keep their relationship interesting and often display their affection to each other.

An understanding of these key aspects of each other’s history was the first step for James and Arya to work on finding the healthy parenting approach in their new family. They also did the work, various exercises created for them and emotionally focused techniques to better connect with each other.

James and Arya have now grown their family to four and continue to enjoy their relationship, but also have the tools they need should issues arise!

If you find yourself in a similar relationship, don’t hesitate to contact me for help navigating your multicultural dynamic.

To learn more about Opening the Doors and the services we offer, please connect with us on Facebook and explore our website. 


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