A Thematic Investigation of the Experiences of Chinese Counselling Users

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology

  • Authors:
  • Feng Guo


Abstract The University of Manchester Feng Guo (Davy) Doctorate in Counselling Psychology A Thematic Investigation of the Experiences of Chinese Counselling Users Because of its academic and practical significance, culture is a frequently debated subject in psychology, particularly in counselling psychology. This fascination is driven in part by the globalization of modern human society, in which the lives of global citizens are increasingly interconnected and even interdependent. Due to the size and influence of China, the psychological wellbeing of the Chinese, is receiving increasing attention, and research and literature exploring effective and culturally appropriate counselling for the Chinese culture has accumulated. However, there has been little investigation of the subjective experiences of Chinese counselling users. Main aim: As a Chinese researcher and practitioner working with Chinese clients, this subject has both personal and professional significance for me. The purpose of the current research, on which future research can be built, was to develop a basic understanding of such experiences and the relevance to them of culture. Further, it might also reference my practice, and also hopefully the practice of others. Methodology: This research was built on semi-structured interviews conducted with 6 Chinese participants (4 females and 2 males), who had previously accessed counselling. The interviews were then transcribed and analysed using Thematic Analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) which allowed themes to be extracted from the data. In order to capture individual and general experiences, both individual stories and overarching themes were presented and discussed. On the individual level, a general introduction to the participants, cultural identification, experiences of the encounter, and in some cases links between them were summarized and articulated. On a general level, by comparing and contrasting the transcripts, several themes emerged and were discussed in detail. Findings: First of all, the cultural elements which have been expressed through the narratives of my informants are quite complex. Despite sharing the same nationality, their cultural characteristics are mixtures of both traditional Chinese and Western. It suggests that culture as a mean to categorize clients is not clear-cut. It presents challenge for practitioners only use culture as a guide but really treat every client as a unique individual. Secondly, factors that are usually considered as external to the usual counselling environment are found playing important roles in the ways that my informants experience counselling. These factors, such as the reputation of the practitioner, their appearances and conducts, and also the expectations of the client, are without doubt a main component of the therapeutic relationship. They are perhaps more influential amount the Chinese clients whose knowledge of psychology and counselling is not as well-rounded. In addition, the experiences of my informants further confirmed the importance of the initial sessions. Many Chinese clients access counselling and mental health support with a lot of doubts and uncertainty. The initial sessions, if conducted appropriately, are not only a process of gathering information, but an important opportunity to put for the practitioners to break these barriers and establish necessary alliances. Further, despite the potential cultural differences, many common factors for successful counselling identified for western clients are still relevant to my informants. Trusting relationship and the sense of acceptance are still associated with positive therapeutic outcome. To practitioners, even though we recognize the differences in cultural preferences, it does not mean that we ought to abandon what we know about human nature. However, further studies are needed to identify which common factors are indeed cultural transferable. Also, many of my informants discussed their appreciation for the ‘directiveness’ of their counsellors. They want their counsellors to be active by offering insights and suggestions. It potentially links to the transitional cultural respect to authority and doctrine. For practitioners working with Chinese clients, it maybe more productive to utilize their assumed position as teachers, rather than attempting to force ‘equality’. Finally, although the products of counselling are often subtle, my informants seem to be motivated by tangible results, such as noticeable changes in behaviours and mood. Without these results, it is likely for Chinese clients to contemplate dropping out. Thus, it is important for practitioners to consider what we can provide to keep our Chinese clients engaged and motivated. Conclusion: Although the results were not conclusive in a statistical sense, the discussions provided rich insight into how a counselling psychologist can approach a Chinese client, what he/she should look for therapeutically, and of what he/she should be aware.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date31 Dec 2018