Announcement of Psychology Service in Cantonese (and Three Important Things I’ve Learned Working in a Multi-Cultural Environment)

We at the Child and Family Centre are pleased to announce that we now offer educational psychology services in Cantonese to the Hong Kong community. A range of services similar to those offered in English, such as psychological/educational assessments, consultation for parents and teachers as well as counselling are available. Ms. Mandy Chan, an Educational Psychologist with 10 years of experience, will be offering the services in Cantonese. Ms. Chan has spent her career working in Hong Kong primary and secondary schools that offer instruction in both Cantonese and English. Ms. Chan is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Hong Kong. Additional information regarding the service is available by clicking on the Chinese listing in the navigation bar above.

As the centre is expanding to Cantonese language service, I felt that it would be appropriate to share some comments on my experience working in a multicultural environment such as Hong Kong over the past 15 years. At last count, I have worked with children and families from 80 different countries, with a wide variety of ethnic and language backgrounds.

1) Common Problems: Honestly what strikes me the most are the similarities between people and their difficulties. A problem is a problem is a problem. All of the common diagnoses that I’ve come across in practising psychology are the same no matter where you come from or what language you speak. When I work with young Psychologists or Counsellors to whom I provide supervision, my best advice on working in a multicultural environment is keep an open mind. Know a little bit about the values of the particular group you are working with and try not to hold any preconceived notions about their values or ideas. Everybody loves and cares about their children and wants what is best for them.

2) Level of Denial: However, the level of denial in parents when a child has a serious developmental difficulty such as an Autism Spectrum disorder is harder to get around in Asian families. Typically they are not as familiar with diagnostic criteria and labels, and there is always the looming social stigma of having to go to a mental health professional to seek help for their child.

3) Looking past language as a barrier to assessment: If you’ve had a lot of experience working with children and families from various language and cultural backgrounds you can still make a proper diagnosis of a developmental difficulty. When I attend conferences in western countries I am often asked if I am able to test children in their native language. Most of the parents and children that come to me can speak fluent if not passable English. If you ask the right questions and make the proper observations and you know what to look for, you can figure out what the child’s difficulties are. Standardised testing that gives you numbers is always helpful, but it’s no substitute for a good interview that asks the right questions, experience and good sound clinical judgement.