Structural family therapy with Chinese immigrant families in Canada

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Wong, Siu Kuen
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The structural family therapy approach was developed in a Western cultural context. However, its basic theoretical constructs such as structure, hierarchy and boundary resonate with Chinese family organizational structures and values. Chinese immigrant families in Canada are challenged by the vast cultural differences between their home and host country. Migration and resulting acculturation processes require families to reorganize into more complex family structures to accommodate these external and internal changes. This practicum was an attempt to apply the Structural Approach of family therapy to the Chinese immigrant families in Canada. The clinical experience demonstrated that the Structural Approach provided a good framework for assessment and intervention when working with the Chinese immigrant families. An important role of the worker was to act as a cultural intermediary to bridge the gap between family members which resulted from their differential rates of acculturation. The worker had to be aware of professional and personal value biases and not to impose them on the families when helping them search for a new balance. Adopting a flexible sub-family system approach and being sensitive to cultural values such as shame, harmony, unquestionable authority of parents and indirectness in communication helped to increase the effectiveness of intervention. Respect, empathy, focus on strengths and a positive therapeutic relationship were reinforced as important factors mediating the success of the intervention.