Case vignette

Mental health in AAPI communities. Creating a cultural bridge.

Inclusive Language Illustration

Mental health in AAPI communities. Creating a cultural bridge.

Min Jee has been waking up with night sweats and chest pain for the last three months. She has come to therapy with Dr. Nguyen from a referral by her primary care physician, who noted that there is nothing medically causing the chest pain. 

Upon arrival,  Dr. Nguyen notes that Min Jee seems uncomfortable. Dr. Nguyen confirms that she is pronouncing Min Jee’s name correctly, and Min Jee offers her English name, Grace.  Dr. Nguyen asks which name she prefers, and Min Jee says she actually prefers her real name, since she doesn’t get to hear it out loud that often.

Dr. Nguyen asks what Min Jee would like to focus on. Min Jee recounts how three months ago, her older daughter began studying for the SATs and preparing for college applications. She and her daughter have not been getting along, and she doesn’t know how to bridge the gap to make their relationship better. Min Jee says she does go to temple and light incense, but has not been sleeping well. She often wakes up at night. 

Dr. Nguyen asks if she has tried calming meditative practices like reciting mantras and if Min Jee would like to try a mindfulness based cognitive therapy exercise. 

Things to consider.


Dr. Nguyen allowed Min Jee to focus on her physical symptoms and discussed her body to address the discomfort she has been feeling. If they had focused on trying to name and symptomatize Min Jee’s feelings, that may have felt like an abrupt an entry into therapy.


Dr. Nguyen first asked Min Jee how she would like to be addressed, what her values are, and tailored an approach that was specific to her and her beliefs, with acceptance and without shaming her. Everyone will have different preferences, but in this case, Min Jee was better served by tailoring a therapeutic intervention that fit into her existing lifestyle.

Question to think about:

How might Min Jee have responded if the therapist addressed her anxiety as a symptom more directly?