Date of Project


Document Type

Honors Thesis

School Name

College of Arts and Sciences



Major Advisor

Dr. Stella Kanchewa

Second Advisor

Dr. Pam Cartor


Research shows that Chinese Americans underutilize mental health services more than any other ethnic group in the U.S. This project aims to explore the mental health experiences of Chinese American and immigrant communities, with a specific focus on clinical intake processes, including interviews and screening assessments. Cultural concepts of distress refer to ways that cultural groups experience and communicate mental distress, and an exploration of these illness experiences within Chinese American populations can inform how to adapt or develop screening and interview tools to fully capture personal narrations of illness during intake processes in preparation for treatment. Challenges that may arise in the intake assessment process with Chinese American populations include stigma, different conceptualizations of illness and languages of distress (including somatization), illness experiences that overlap with DSM disorders (such as MDD, GAD), and intracultural variations in illness related to other identity factors (gender, generational status, level of acculturation, etc.). Data were collected by interviews with mental health providers who work with Chinese and Asian American populations in clinical practice and analyzed using a qualitative approach. Synthesis to existing literature and implications are discussed. Further exploration of cultural manifestations of mental distress in Chinese Americans and immigrants may help provide more culturally informed intake processes, assessments, diagnosis, and treatment, which can contribute to higher utilization and effectiveness of mental health services.