Caron Gan Talks About Using Her Cultural Background as a Resource to Engage People
Well, I am of Chinese heritage, and I was born in Canada, so I have a blend of two cultures, which I call I'm a Chinadian. So I've incorporated the values that I grew up with from my Chinese heritage, but growing up here, I've adopted very Western attitudes as well, but at the same time, to people I look Chinese or I'm a visible minority, and so people make assumptions just based on the way that I look. And I use that to my advantage, actually, when I'm trying to engage clients from other ethnical cultural groups because often people from other groups will say to me, "You know--the white people or people from Western culture, they don't think of family as the same." I say, "Yes, I know what you mean." (laughs) My guess is that in your culture, family is very important and maintaining family honor and saving face and respect for elders is something that you cherish in your family. These are values that are similar in my culture, so when I say things like that, I'm automatically engaging them in a different way of thinking. So I use my culture to my advantage because--you know--the values that I share from my background are often very compatible with families from other cultures who have different ways of viewing of illness, who have different ways of viewing disability, whose notion of family is very different, and whose sense of having to fix and do and the mastery over nature, mastery over our situations is very different. I use this to my advantage, and I have not found my ethnicity to be a barrier, actually. The only time it has been a barrier is working with somebody from the same culture. Sometimes we make assumptions that families will engage more with somebody from their own culture, but if there is a lot of shame, embarrassment, and stigma involved around having a family member with a disability, they may prefer to work with somebody who is outside of their culture. That's the only time that I've experienced some barriers is when I've been working with somebody from the same culture versus other cultures, which is quite interesting.
Posted on BrainLine April 29, 2009. Reviewed January 16, 2018.
Caron Gan is an Advanced Practice Nurse, Registered Psychotherapist, and Registered Marriage and Family Therapist with the Ontario and American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). She has worked with clients with brain injury, providing psychotherapeutic intervention to youth, adults, couples, and families.
Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King.