Asian & Asian-American Therapists

While it’s not uncommon for therapy to have a certain stigma attached to it, for many Asian American individuals, that stigma is especially pronounced; studies have shown that Asians use mental health services at one third the rate of their white peers. As a result, many Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) feel more comfortable working with a therapist who is also AAPI.

While there are more Asian-American therapists in certain parts of the United States such as NYC, California, and Hawaii, it can be difficult to find AAPI therapists in most parts of the country.

Learn about Asian and Asian-American therapists, and how to find the right therapist for you!

asian_woman.jpg

How many Asian or Asian American therapists are there in the U.S.?

According to the American Psychological Association, Asian and Asian-Americans account for 4% of the psychology workforce, with a total of 3,576 Asian and Asian-American psychologists. There are additional Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander social workers, counselors, and psychiatrists.

How much are Asian-American therapists’ session fees?

Regardless of race or ethnicity, therapists’ session fees will depend on the geography. In cities with high cost of living such as NYC, therapists’ fees will range from $150 - $200 per session.

Many Asian-American therapists offer a sliding scale, or lower fees, for individuals who cannot otherwise afford to pay for therapy. These lowered fees may, for example, be offered to Asian-American college students who are unable to ask their parents to pay for therapy, due to stigma and lack of understanding for mental health in their culture and family of origin.

Mental health stigma among Asian-Americans

Stigma continues to be a barrier for many Asian-Americans considering seeking mental health care. Among the 40% of adults with a mental illness in the U.S. who receive treatment in any given year, Asians were three times less likely to use mental health services than their white peers.

Much of this discrepancy is driven by stigma, and individuals feeling ashamed for needing help. Asian-Americans report experiencing higher rates of feeling inferior to those who have not had a mental health challenge, and are less hopeful that individuals with mental health challenges could be contributing members of society. Education to promote the importance of seeking mental health treatment is an important component to decreasing discrepancies in access to care involves.

Why do so few Asian Americans seek therapy?

Typical concerns that prevent Asian Americans from seeking therapy may include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Shame about admitting the need for emotional and/or mental help

  • Fear of being perceived as someone who easily accepts failure

  • Fear of being perceived as “broken”

  • Fear of disappointing family and friends

  • Fear that therapy necessitates disrespecting one’s parents or family

  • Assumption that an individual will be able to just “get over it”

  • Reluctance to turn to “outside” help, e.g., a stranger, rather than one’s own community

  • Worries that emotional needs are a burden to others

  • Worries that mental illness is not a legitimate illness

  • Conflicting spiritual beliefs, or fear of judgment from close-knit religious communities

  • Concerns that older generations may not understand the point of, or need for, therapy

  • Disappointing prior experience with therapy, e.g., previous mental health practitioner or support group didn’t understand cultural nuances

Additionally, the pressure of the “model minority” stereotype may discourage Asian-Americans from exposing internal conflict, frustration, or pain.

Statistics on mental health among Asians and Asian Americans

  • Asian Americans have a 17% overall lifetime rate of any psychiatric disorder and a 9% percent 12-month rate (data from 2002 - 2003). [1]

  • Only 8.6% of Asian-Americans sought any type of mental health services or resource compared to nearly 18% of the general population nationwide.

  • US-born Asian Americans demonstrated higher rates of service use than did their immigrant counterparts. [1]

  • Of the 25% of Filipino Americans who used any type of care in the past 12 months, 17% went to a friend or relative, 7% sought medical doctors, 4% saw a clergy member or indigenous healer, and only 3% saw a mental health specialist (data from 1999). [2]

  • Among college students with clinically significant mental health problems, Asian/Asian American students had the lowest prevalence of mental health treatment at 23 percent; international Asian students had an even lower prevalence, at 19 percent. Asian/Asian American students also had the lowest levels of perceived need for mental health treatment among surveyed students. 23 percent of Asian/Asian American students reported holding stigmatized views about mental health. [3]

  • Asian psychologists made up 4.3 percent of the psychologist workforce in 2013. This was a significant increase of 79.5 percent from 2.4 percent in 2005. [4]


Sources

[1] The National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS) with findings published by Abe-Kim et al. Data was collected from 2,095 Asian American respondents (Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, and other) from 2002 - 2003.
[2]
Filipino American Community Epidemiological Study (FACES) with findings by Gong et al.
[3]
Mental Health Disparities Among College Students of Color and summary by Boston University.
[4]
2005-13: Demographics of the U.S. Psychology Workforce by the American Psychological Association