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Coping and Help-Seeking Behaviors

Barrier to Pursuing Counseling

Although studies demonstrated that Chinese students are experiencing more acute distress than other students (Bourne 1975; Klein et al. 1981; Yang and Clum 1994; Yeh 2000), signs of Chinese students’ stress may not be visible to outsiders as their cultural background tends to camouflage this. Chinese parents, traditionally, have taught their children to be quiet, studious, and not to draw attention to themselves.

Furthermore, cultural factors, “such as the shame and disgrace associated with admitting to emotional problems, the handling of problems within the family rather than relying on outside resources,” prevent Chinese students from seeking outside help (Chuang 1988, p. 2).

Research indicated that Chinese people are least inclined to move beyond family and social networks for mental health needs. They are less likely to seek outside help for emotional concerns. When investigating counseling preferences, Sue and Zane (1985) noted that Chinese students did not actively participate in counseling because they did not want to admit they had emotional difficulties and perceived it a shame to seek counseling. Mau and Jepsen (1990) confirmed that Chinese students find it difficult to admit that they have problems and are less likely to seek help and assistance.

The concerns of “saving face” and shame are integral to traditional Chinese socialization practices (Wilson 1996). To reveal any personal problems is regarded as personal weakness, a lack of resolve and determination, and reflects negatively on the individual’s family (Mau and Jepsen 1990). To “save face,” one is discouraged from expressing concerns and inhibited in seeking help beyond family or close friends. In addition, Chinese generally lack of familiarity of counseling concepts and counseling services, since professional counseling service are nonexistent in China.

Taken together, students from Asian countries, particularly from China, are generally reluctant to initiate a counseling relationship. Their reluctance to use professional psychological services may be related to “a lack of familiarity with counseling services, a greater dependence on family and friendship networks for support, and fear of stigmatization associated with needing formal counseling” (Wilson 1996, p. 24).

Apart from the factors above, researchers provided some hypothesis as to why East Asian students are unlikely to pursue counseling. Anthur (1997) suggested that anxiety about pursuing counseling as well as difficulty communication might prevent international students from expressing their concerns accurately.

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