Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Hmong History, Culture, and Acculturation: Implications for Counseling the Hmong

Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Hmong History, Culture, and Acculturation: Implications for Counseling the Hmong

Article excerpt

The Hmong in the U.S., a refugee population from Southeast Asia, brought a rich culture with them. To maximize therapeutic success with Hmong clients, counselors must acknowledge and understand Hmong history, culture, and acculturation and the value placed on family and community. This article provides background information and suggestions for counselors working with Hmong clients.

El Hmong en los EE.UU., una poblacion de refugiado de Asia del sudeste, trajo una cultura generosa con ellos. Para Ilevar al maximo exito terapeutico con clientes de Hmong, los consejeros deben reconocer y deben entender la historia de Hmong, la cultura, y assimilacion y el valor colocados en la familia y la comunidad. Este articulo proporciona la informacion antecendentes y sugerencias para consejeros que trabajan con clientes de Hmong.


The recent inundation of multicultural research and heightened awareness of multicultural issues has produced a great deal of advancement in counseling members of various minority cultures in the United States (Atkinson, Morton, & Sue, 1998; C. C. Lee & Richardson, 1991; Pope-Davis & Coleman, 1997; Sue, 1990). Despite this considerable amount of research, little attention has been devoted to information for counselors who work with various Asian American groups (Uba, 1994). Within this limited amount of research, the majority has addressed Chinese and Japanese Americans (E. Lee, 1996). Because the Hmong people possess cultural practices and traditions that differ significantly from other Asian subgroups (Cerhan, 1990), many counselors, therapists, and mental health professionals (all used synonymously in this article), may be unaware of the history, culture, and acculturation of the Hmong and of the value they place on family and community. Because of the limited availability of research about the Hmong, many mental health professionals may also be uninformed about the ramifications these cultural traditions and practices may have on Hmong mental health and the counseling process.

The Hmong are a rapidly growing population in the United States (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992). It has been estimated that there are more than 169,000 Hmong in the United States, with the largest settlements in the San Joaquin Valley of California (65,100), Minnesota (41,800), and Wisconsin (33,790; "U.S. Total and 50 States by Rank," 2000). The Hmong birth rate in the United States is one of the highest of any ethnic group in the world (Quincy, 1995). On average, the Hmong have 11.9 children per mother, in comparison to 1.7 per mother for Caucasian Americans and 2.4 for African Americans (Sue et al., 1992). This rapid population growth has the potential to produce a strong presence in the communities where the Hmong reside.

After an extensive literature review, I identified only one article that addressed the historical and cultural characteristics of the Hmong as potentially having an influence on mental health counseling (Cerhan, 1990). Although Cerhan's article contributed to the extant literature, no suggestions were made in it regarding specific therapeutic techniques or processes deemed appropriate for use with Hmong clients. Therefore, the purpose of this emic literature review is to expand on Cerhan's article by (a) facilitating further awareness of the history, culture, and acculturation of the Hmong that may have an influence on counseling and (b) introducing specific interventions and processes counselors may use to more competently and successfully serve Hmong clients.

hmong history, culture, and acculturation

Historically, the Hmong, a people without a country of their own, predominantly resided in Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. Villages consisted of about 10 to 20 bamboo and thatched dwellings built just below mountain summits (Miyares, 1998). Spiritually, the Hmong have traditionally been an animistic people, believing earthly structures (streams, trees, rocks, hills, and so on) have their own, individual spirits (Livo & Cha, 1991). …

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