Important in psychology

It is important in psychology that the therapist be aware of Asian culture’s worldviews and values and the similarities and differences that exist with the host culture. These values and beliefs are inherent in tales, fables and myths in a culture. Hedstrom (1994) and Okonogi (1978) present a contrast between the Western and Asian cultures with the Ajase complex and the Oedipus complex. Similar to the Oedipus myth, the Ajase complex relates to the father-son conflict, however the central theme is that of a maternal love in a mother-son dyad, which is typical to Asian cultures, than the Oedipus myth.

The central concepts of Ajase saga depict compassion, mercy and reunion while the Oedipus complex is a story of tragedy that elicits the fear of guilt and enduring punishment. These differences in the stories also reflects the differences between the Western and Asian cultural worldviews, hence careful consideration should be given in using Western concepts in Asian cultural context (Hong & Ham, 2001). In psychoanalytic approach, transference and counter-transference are very important concepts in therapy.

Because the process of transference is based on idealization and trust, it may be difficult for the AA client to establish transference with the therapist. The more common types of transference in Asian cultures include authority in hierarchical transference; ethnic/self identity in self-object transference, power in racial transference and ethnic gender roles in preoedipal transference (Hong & Ham, 2001).

According to Chin (1993) hierarchical transference is common in Asian cultures where the client brings the Asian values of filial piety (children’s obligation to care for elderly parents) and respect to authority. In addition, authority figures are idealized as benevolent in Asian cultures hence the client experiences a positive relationship with the therapist similar to that of a parent and child, in which the client will obey and respect the therapist.

Clinicians can work through this transference by offering a positive interpretation of this type of hierarchical transference as well as respecting the client’s cultural values (Hong & Ham, 2001). Racial transference occurs in therapy when AA clients have faced blatant racial discrimination. The therapist will need to support the client to overcome feelings of powerlessness and helplessness by developing a positive racial identity by empowering them to gain self-control over their racial identity (Hong & Ham, 2001).

Self-object transference refers to how well one can organize ‘the self’. Yi (1995) claims that a positive self-object transference relationship can foster a healthy interactional pattern that will form the foundation of self and object representations which gives rise to a healthy self-concept. In this type of transference the challenge for the clinician will be to help clients maintain and restore their ethnic identity in their struggle to maintain and restore their ethnic individuality, often times because they are torn between obligations for both cultures.

Clinicians should be particularly sensitive to clients’ biculturalism and split loyalties. A major challenge in the development of Asians psychotherapy is their splitting mechanism, on the one hand, they want to preserve their cultural heritage, interdependence and familial obligations and on the other hand, they are bound to follow the cultural values of the mainstream United States.

The clinician needs to acknowledge the basis of this splitting mechanism in psychoanalytic therapy rather than simplistically labeling this as primitive defense mechanism (Hong & Ham, 2001). When applying the Ajase complex (the splendor of maternal love in the mother–son dyad) to the Asian individual, the clinician should consider the themes of unconditional love and guilt.

A female clinician may elicit primitive wishes of reunification with the preoedipal mother from the client or the fear of engulfment and abandonment. Without such knowledge of the Ajase complex, the clinician may misinterpret the client’s pre-oedipal transference. In addition, clinicians should be aware of the changing dominance of the gender role in which women are more independent due to exposure to the Western influence in contrast to the traditional view of male dominance.

The concept of counter-transference refers to the clinician’s unconscious misrepresentation of the client in the therapeutic relationship (Hong & Ham, 2001). Countertransference can develop even though an Asian American clinician who may perceive similarities with an Asian client (Hong & …

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