As we navigate the world around us, we often find ourselves looking to those around us for support. Support can be sought for a multitude of different reasons – our professional endeavors, decision making, navigating difficult relationships and situations, sometimes for the purpose of simply feeling seen and understood. When we are faced with a set of challenges that feel unique to us, one of the avenues through which we might seek support is knowingness and familiarity. We seek the support of someone who might have had a similar experience, someone who might have something that ties them to our presenting experience, someone who might have something in common with us.
The immigrant experience is one that many people in the country go through - either directly, or by extension, and are as a result impacted by. From the early stages of cultural uncertainty and differences, to bargaining with oneself, identity conflicts and mismatch, and eventually to acceptance and acculturation, there are a number of struggles that are faced by those who go through this experience. After initial impacts can be years of adjustment to the life that they have chosen or find themselves in, and internal comparisons with the life that they have subsequently lost. Children of immigrants, who are not considered immigrants themselves, are also impacted by the lives and choices of their immigrant parents as well as their processes of acceptance.
In moments like these, and in issues that feel “close to home” in more ways than one, those identifying as immigrants can often find the want for and benefit from working with therapists who might have a deeper understanding of the immigrant experience, multicultural differences, and have a connection to their particular culture.
Having a shared understanding of an experience can help bring nuances to light. It can lead to deeper probing in a manner that is specific to the experience. Clients may find that less explanation is required of the particulars, whether it be the technical details or the experiential takeaways. This could allow for more exploration surrounding the experience, and therefore insight that might be more distinctive. Similarly, when sharing cultural connections, it might be found that there are some baseline understandings that exist, allowing for more exploration of the unique issue at hand. The outcomes and takeaways may also be able to be further tailored keeping in mind cultural subtlety and allowances. Another factor that might play a huge role in this kind of therapeutic experience could be having a shared language outside of English. This could further act as a way in which to develop a stronger connection to and understanding of the client, their narrative, and their experience. The role of language in understanding and navigating cultural experience can be considered to be extremely beneficial. In the therapeutic relationship, having an additional language to share one’s narrative is seen to be truly unparalleled.
In times of need and uncertainty, we strive for what feels familiar. Having a therapist who shares similar experiences to you in this context could feel like being seen and understood in ways that are known and familiar.