Counseling Asian American Clients

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HISTORY
Asian and American cultures are as different as black (yin) and white (yang), or east and west. While American culture is relatively new, in terms of history, the Asian culture is one of the world’s oldest, with its earliest origins believed to be Sumer, located near the Persian Gulf, in approximately 3500 B.C. China is believed to be the world’s oldest existing civilization, beginning with the Shang Dynasty in around 1500 B.C. (Chan, 1991). RELIGION

While there are two religions prevalent in American culture, Christianity and Judaism, there are many popular religions in Asia, including Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Hinduism and Islam preach the unity of the cosmos, although Hindus honor many gods whereas practitioners of Islam follow only Allah. Buddhism is less about gods than it is about spiritual enrichment as man suffers toward the enlightenment of nirvana. Confucianism and Taoism are both religious and social philosophies which illustrate the differences between eastern and western cultures. While Taoism stressed order and spiritual harmony, the great teacher Confucius, emphasized the importance of ‘filial piety’ as evidenced by his writings, the Analects: “The Master said, ‘A youth, when at home, should be filial, and, abroad, respectful to his elders. He should be earnest and truthful. He should overflow in love to all, and cultivate the friendship of the good. When he has time and opportunity, after the performance of these things, he should employ them in polite studies” (Zia, 2000). VALUES

Virtue is also of paramount importance in the Asian values, both in terms of government and politics. People are expected to serve others as a moral obligation. This helps explain the difference between the Asian and American family structure. In Asia, patriarchy prevails, with the father exerting a dominant influence, whereas the mother seldom ventures out of the home. In China, women had literally been bound to the home by the practice of foot-binding for nearly 1,000 years. While more Asian women are forced by economic reasons to work outside the home, it has been difficult to change thousands of years of cultural traditions. As for sons and daughters, sons are clearly preferred, and instances of female infanticide are still being performed in rural Asian areas. Daughters are expected to follow in their mothers’ footsteps as dutiful wives and child-bearers, although the current overpopulation problems in China has restricted family size to two children. While children in the U.S. normally leave home after reaching adulthood, such is not the case in most Asian households, where an extended family structure of several generations usually live under one roof. (Chan, 1991)

In terms of folklore, many ancient traditions are honored in the Asian culture, the most famous of which is the Chinese New Year, which celebrated throughout southeast Asia and is steeped deep in folklore and superstitions. It is a two-week period which exemplifies the importance of family, tradition and symbolism to the Chinese culture and requires the participation of all members of society—men, women and children. (Wu, 2002).Today, Asian culture continues to represent the characteristics of harmony, virtue and familial respect. While considered archaic by American liberal standards, there is much the West could learn from the proud culture of the East, which continues to withstand the test of time (Zia, 2000). MARRIAGE TRENDS

While Asian Americans only make up 5% of the U.S. population, they are the fastest growing racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. The Asian community has received a lot of scrutiny over the years, but in many ways, still remains misunderstood. One of the most public manifestations of race is the choice of one's partner or spouse. This very individual and personal aspect can sometimes produce a lot of public discussion. Studies consistently show that Asian Americans have some of the highest...
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