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Cultural affinity and cultural barrier for psychotherapy in China: lessons from Traditional Chinese Medicine

Cultural affinity and cultural barrier for psychotherapy in China: lessons from Traditional Chinese Medicine

How the Chinese see physician-patient relation: Traditionally, a ‘good’ doctor is expected to act as a stern yet benevolent authority figure. How the Chinese seek help? The categories Chinese patients use to determine what kind of help to seek differ from the Western division between mental and physical health. Rather, the acute-chronic differentiation tends to be more culturally salient. This is an issue related with cultural affinity and cultural barriers. The Chinese like to accept biological and material interventions based on so-called ‘hard sciences and technology, but in case of chronic illness, TCM or other folk therapies are more likely to be their preferred options.

Culturally-conditioned help-seeking behavior In clinical practice, we can observe how people utilize medical resources from five perspectives: (1) Time (when, how long and how often): 2) Place (where): (3) People (whom): (4) Means (how): (5) Reason (for what, why). There is no user-friendly interface between people with psychological problems and Western mental health institutions. ln spite of huge need for psychotherapy, many Chinese patients are prone to express their psychological distress through somatic symptoms. Is TCM the best psychotherapy for the Chinese? TCM is widely used to diagnose and to treat many mental disorders at present. TCM offers a set of theories and functions as a plausible frame-work to understand the meaning, instead of only to explain the causality, of the distress. It develops useful therapeutic language and rituals for transforming or reframing the meaning of psychological distress and bodily symptoms.