Doubts About the Ability of a “Stranger” to Help

Since Chinese culture teaches that one does not share his personal problems with outsiders, most Chinese international students do not believe a “stranger” could help. A social justice student revealed her attitudes:

I do not think counselors could solve my problems. My problems are my problems. How can a person who does not know anything about me can help me out? Maybe they can offer some professional advice, but I am not comfortable confessing my personal problem to a stranger. (Participant 5)

A mechanical engineering student explored further:

I doubt the ability of American counselors to help Chinese international students. Even though they would love to be helpful, it might be difficult for them to understand Chinese students’ special needs and problems. Or, they might minimize Chinese student’s critical concerns, since they did not understand Chinese students or their culture. (Participant 8)

Stigma Attached to Counseling Service

Most participants in this study tend to attach a stigma to seeking professional counseling service. As one student described:

In China, there is a bias against emotional problems or the mentally ill. It is shameful and disgraceful for Chinese people to admit having emotional problems. In many cases, people with emotional problems are more likely to be stigmatized than patients with physical disabilities are. To “save face”, Chinese people try to hide their emotional problems inside themselves or keep it within their families. Therefore, Chinese students are discouraged from expressing concerns and inhibited in seeking help beyond family or close friends. For many of us, going to a counseling service is “out of one’s mind”. (Participant 13)

Due to a need to “save face” and preserve the family name, Chinese international students are least inclined to move beyond family and social networks to deal with emotional concerns.

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