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A family for Asian psychologists

作者:佚名    文章来源:转载    点击数:    更新时间:2011-11-12

A family for Asian psychologists
Members of the Asian American Psychological Association push for attention to the needs of an oft-neglected community.
By Christopher Munsey
Monitor Staff
February 2006, Vol 37, No. 2
Print version: page 60

As a Chinese-American boy growing up in a mostly white neighborhood in Portland, Ore., Derald Wing Sue, PhD, still remembers the taunts that he and his younger brother Stanley endured every day in elementary school. One of four brothers born in America to a father who emigrated from China, the family first lived in Portland's Chinatown. But the family moved to a suburb in search of more room and a quieter neighborhood.

There, the Sue brothers were ostracized by the other kids at Abernethy elementary school, because of their Asian heritage. That early experience puzzled the brothers and sparked their fascination with human behavior, says Sue, now a professor of psychology and education at Teachers College at Columbia University. Questions of why people do what they do prompted hours of discussion between the brothers.

As adults, Derald Wing Sue and Stanley Sue, PhD, both became psychologists during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when racial and ethnic identity movements flourished. The example set by African Americans and Hispanic Americans in demanding attention to their communities' concerns inspired them to try to do the same for Asian Americans, Derald Sue says.

However, identity politics had not trickled into mainstream psychology, he notes. As a psychology student, Sue recalls feeling uncomfortable with psychology's emphasis on the autonomy of the individual over the collective good of the family or group.

His own parents had taught him about the value of the family, and the interdependence of family members to one another, says Sue, but he didn't find any appreciation for those values in his training.

"I always felt the curriculum and the type of information taught to me did not represent my racial-ethnic background and experience," Sue says.

As a young psychologist, Sue said his first experiences as a counselor made him aware of the need to push for changes in the way psychology handled cultural issues. Looking to the example set by other groups, Sue helped form the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA) in 1972. In fact, he served as its first president.

From a small beginning nurtured in family ties, AAPA grew into a national organization whose members successfully pushed for attention and research on Asian-American psychology, helped win recognition for the need for culturally competent care for Asian Americans, and cultivated the firstgeneration of well-known Asian-American psychologists.

Such advocacy was necessary, Derald Sue says, because traditional psychological training did not prepare the psychologists of his generation to adequately counsel fellow Asian Americans. For example, as a counselor at the University of California, Berkeley, he encountered one Asian-American student who wanted to change his major from engineering, but felt he needed to talk to his mom about it. Such a student would be labeled as having unhealthy attachment issues given traditional psychology values, but Sue understood the student's need to think about his family's concerns, and seek their advice about his educational future.

"There was a need to create an organization to contribute to understanding the Asian-American experience," he says.

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