Asian American Psychology and Psychotherapy: Intergenerational Trauma, Betrayal, and Liberation is an essential resource for understanding the twofold battle many Asian Americans face of anti-Asian racism and intergenerational trauma. Drawing from liberation psychology and cultural betrayal trauma theory, it rightly situates Asian American trauma in its historical and cultural context. It also presents a liberatory approach to counseling that disrupts the inherent power differential between therapist and client, and, in doing so, creates the opportunity for deeper connection and healing. Models for theory, research, practice, and social justice are richly illustrated with testimonios and case examples.
Shin Shin Tang, PhD has provided psychotherapy to a wide range of Asian and Asian American communities for more than two decades, including to war refugees, adoptees, veterans, international students, immigrants, and subsequent generations. She has also conducted national and international research focusing on the intersection of trauma, gender, and culture. Dr. Tang maintains a private practice in Eugene, Oregon, the traditional homeland of the Kalapuya people. Her website shinshintang.com hosts resources for therapy with Asians and Asian Americans.
User’s Guide: Please Read Before Continuing
Perceptions of Asian Americans Quiz
Answers and More Questions
Trigger Warning and Self-Care
If You Identify as Asian or Asian American
If You Identify as Other than Asian or Asian American
Introduction: A Battle on Two Fronts
The First Front: Anti-Asian Racism
The Second Front: Intergenerational Trauma
Asian Americans Are Not Doing Okay
Barriers to Mental Health Services
(Breaking the) Code of Silence
Why Air the Dirty Laundry?
Toward a Liberation Psychology of Asian Americans
Chapter 1: The Model Minority Myth and Anti-Asian Racism, Past and Present
The Collective Lie
Are Cultural Values Responsible for Asian American Success?
Unseen Diversity: Chopsticks versus Spoons
Ethnic Diversity among Asian Americans
Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders
Economic Disparity among Asian Americans
Diversity in Generations
Historical and Intergenerational Trauma: Knowing and Remembering, Wounded and Wounding
The Los Angeles Chinatown Massacre
Forgotten American Colonialism: The Philippine-American War
A Resurgence of Anti-Asian Hate
Summary: Moving Toward Liberation
Chapter 2: Rings of Betrayal: Contextualizing Asian American Trauma
Attachment, Health, and Happiness
Social Context, Trauma, and Asian Americans
Betrayal Trauma: The Rupture of Attachment
Figure 2.1: Twinkle Twinkle
Figure 2.2: I Am the Barrier
How Common Is Betrayal Trauma among Asian Americans?
Table 2.1: Rates of Betrayal Trauma among APIs
Overlooking and Forgetting Betrayal
Racism and Betrayal Trauma Theory
Cultural Betrayal Trauma Theory
Figure 2.3: Traditional Models of Trauma versus Betrayal Trauma and Cultural Betrayal Trauma
Institutional Betrayal Trauma
Institutional Betrayal, Historical Trauma, and Ethnic Identity
Japanese American Internment: “Betrayal by a Trusted Source”
Ecological Models of Trauma
An Asian American Model of Betrayal Trauma
Chronosystem: History and Time
Figure 2.4: The Rings of Betrayal Model for Asian Americans
Macrosystem: Dominant White Culture
Exosystem: Dominant Culture Institutions
Microsystem: Asian Community, Immediate and Extended Family, the Individual
Mesosystem: Community Interactions
Decolonizing Asian American Psychology
Chapter 3: ACEs High or Low? Biases in Research on Child Maltreatment among Asian Americans and Asian Canadians
Adverse Childhood Experiences
ACEs and Racism
Textbox 3.1: ACE Questionnaire
Conflicting Research on ACEs
The Problems with Relying on Abuse Reports among Asian Americans
Cultural Betrayal Trauma and the Motivation to Disbelieve Survivors
Loss of Face
Child Sexual Abuse
Child Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, and Neglect
Epistemological Violence in Psychology
Decolonizing Psychological Research
Chapter 4: Beginning Therapy with Asian Americans: Therapist Self-Awareness and Client Worldview
Beginning with You
Implicit Bias and Internalized Racism
The Harm of Self-Ignorance
Rings of Betrayal Inventory
Instructions for Using the Rings of Betrayal Inventory
Worksheet 4.1: Rings of Betrayal Inventory: Asian American Version
Worksheet 4.2: Rings of Betrayal Inventory: General Version
Worksheet 4.3: Rings of Betrayal Inventory: Shin Shin’s Example
Shin Shin’s Responses to Self-Reflection Questions
Understanding the Client’s Worldview
Adoption and Institutional Betrayal Trauma
Moving Toward Liberation
Chapter 5: Decolonizing Therapy with Asian Americans: A Relational Cultural Approach
A Relational-Cultural Approach
Asian Americans, Psychotherapy, and Risk
Shame, Betrayal, and Asian Americans
The Cartesian Cart: Colonialism in Counseling
Irfan’s Story: The Ethics of Compassion
Relational-Cultural Therapy: Growing through and toward Connection
Mutual Empathy and Mutual Empowerment
Empirical Support for RCT
Relational-Cultural Therapy with Asians and Asian Americans
Combining RCT with CBT and Other Therapies
Moving Psychotherapy Toward Liberation
Chapter 6: In Our Voices: Asian American Experiences in Therapy
Working with a BIPOC Therapist
Working with a White Therapist
How to Decolonize Therapy: Advice from Asian American Clients
Address Client Experiences of Racism Directly
Addressing Microaggressions: Apologize and Repair
Consider the Legacy of Colonialism
Appreciate the Diversity of Asian Americans
Understand the Stigma of Mental Illness
Develop a Unique Racial Justice Lens for Asian Americans
Be an Advocate
Chapter 7: Liberating Psychology Graduate Programs: A Call to Institutional Courage
Decolonize Curriculum Content and Training Models
Institutional Betrayal of Psychology Graduate Students
The Silencing Effects of Betrayal
The Need for Institutional Courage
How to Practice Institutional Courage
1. Comply with the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (American Psychological Association, 2017c).
2. Respond sensitively to student disclosures.
3. Bear witness, be accountable, and apologize.
4. Cherish the whistleblower.
5. Conduct anonymous surveys and disseminate results.
6. Have clinicians teach clinical training courses.
7. Commit resources to steps 1–6.
The Role of the American Psychological Association
About the Author
Dr. Tang’s book is one of the first of its kind to center the voices of Asian diaspora in the context of trauma. She offers rich clinical vignettes and theoretical frameworks that help clinicians new and old develop skills to better serve their Asian American clients. I only wish a book like this had existed when I was in training.
Informative, insightful, critical, and deeply personal. Shin Shin Tang masterfully integrates research and individual experiences to provide a broader perspective for those trying to navigate Asian American psychology and guidance for providers seeking to further integrate cultural understanding in their practices.
A brilliant, practical guide to righting chronic wrongs. This wake-up call shows why every one of us—whether victim, beneficiary, enabler, or guilty bystander—must work now to stop the harm. Dr. Tang speaks truth—backed by research, ethics, and social justice—to power.
Dr. Tang has written a courageous and insightful book that integrates a critical analysis of widely cited research findings, professional and personal experience, and nuanced self-reflection. I highly recommend this book to students in psychology, educators, clinicians, researchers, and anyone interested in learning more about therapy with Asian Americans, especially for those interested in social justice issues.
This is not a manual book on providing therapy to a specific population—far from it. This is a book that contains both wisdom and compassion—one I wish had been available to me as an Asian American graduate student in Clinical Psychology so many years ago!
There is no other book that offers so much insight into how to provide culturally sensitive therapy to Asian American clients. This is a heartfelt, well-researched, and practical book for therapists and anyone who provides mental health care to Asian American clients.
This is a crucial book that teaches and guides us to appreciate the fullness, complexity, and nuance of Asian Americans’ experiences from historical, intersectional, holistic, relational, and liberatory perspectives. Dr. Shin Shin Tang offers us a clear and critical analysis of the dominant psychotherapy paradigms, while offering a new praxis to decolonize and humanize the therapy space for Asian American clients.
In Asian American Psychology and Psychotherapy, Dr. Shin Shin Tang provides a critical, compassionate, and unflinching view of Asian Americans as both diverse and complexly human. Alongside identifying various forms of betrayal, violence, and oppression, Dr. Tang shares tangible, trauma-informed, and culturally congruent information that clinicians, educators, students, researchers, and others can use to co-create liberation—both within and in solidarity with the Asian American community.
This book takes a concise, specific dive into Asian culture as it relates to generational and historic trauma, recent hate crimes and violence, and culture betrayal trauma. As more Asian Americans seek support, current and aspiring therapists need to be up-to-date on the recent research on this topic and understand how current and past traumas can coincide and impact each person in a variety of ways. Expanding awareness on these subjects will largely contribute to improving best practices for treatment and support of communities in the Asian diaspora. Highly recommended for higher education students, anyone teaching multicultural diversity courses or trauma, and helping professionals.
Shin Shin Tang’s work contributes to the current conversation by focusing on trauma in a population that is not often addressed in the trauma literature and on aspects of working therapeutically with Asian Americans that moves beyond exemplification (that is, model minority trope) and exotification. I really appreciate this approach to addressing trauma and recovery, as it steps away from prescriptivism and, while focused on Asian diaspora, places Asian diaspora in a cultural context. I also appreciate the use of trauma and crosscultural counseling theories as organizing framework. The addition of historical and contemporary stories, case examples, and clinical vignettes further anchors this work's place among key texts on Asian American psychology.
This book is a courageous gift to the profession of psychology. It is important not just for clinicians but for everyone, as it calls attention to deeply established and harmful methods of helping and carves a practical path toward more inclusive and compassionate practices. In each chapter, Dr. Tang brings a collective lens to trauma and psychotherapy, highlighting voices and viewpoints that have been obscured by the dominant cultural narrative. As she examines the psychology of Asian trauma, she beautifully weaves her personal experience as a Chinese American woman with solid scholarship and clinical insight. It is exquisitely written and comes directly from the heart, bringing us closer to a psychology of liberation.
Shin Shin Tang highlights the struggles encountered by Asians and Asian Americans seeking therapy in the United States, underscoring the need to decolonize Western psychology, particularly in light of the burgeoning contemporary awareness of the intersectionality of racism and intergenerational trauma that afflicts these groups. It is refreshing, and long overdue, to see emphasis placed on examining the historical and cultural contexts in trauma therapy and recovery. These contextual understandings are imperative in treating Asians and Asian Americans, especially given America's complicated imperial, colonial, and military-industrial relationships with Asian countries over the past two hundred years; these international relationships find their domestic mirror in America's long history of Orientalism and racialized Othering of Asian American communities.
Seamlessly contemporary and historical, Asian American Psychology and Psychotherapy provides a sociocultural analysis of intergenerational trauma, racism, and the impact of abuse and Adverse Childhood Experiences on Asian Americans. With guidance for practitioners and educators, the book includes paths to practical and urgently needed actions alongside relevant social scientific analysis. To understand the Asian diaspora and the experience of Asian Americans and Asian Canadians, read this book.