Succeeding in Graduate School: The Career Guide for Psychology Students

By Steven Walfish; Allen K. Hess | Go to book overview

Lack of familiarity with the American culture would be an impediment for an international student who intends to conduct therapy in the United States. However, recent literature indicates that cultural differences exist not only between people of different countries but also between people of different subcultures within a country. Cultural differences in therapy emerge on the basis of race, gender, national origin, and sexual orientation. Nevertheless, understanding such subcultural differences may be easier than relating to major cultural differences. For example, for some international students, sexual orientation as a subculture would be completely incomprehensible. Therefore, cultural adaptation and learning about the American culture are critical for an international student who plans to study and practice clinical psychology.

In addition, the international student should bear in mind and learn to be sensitive about cultural differences. Fortunately, there is a growing literature on the relationship between cultural differences and the therapeutic relationship (e.g., Fish, 1986; Hanson-Kahn & L'Abate, 1998; Jenkins, 1999; Singh, McKay, & Singh, 1998; Waldman, 1999).

In this chapter, I pointed out the challenges associated with being an international student when applying to a graduate program in North America. In that context, I suggested certain strategies that should be considered early in your thinking about your graduate career. There are specific difficulties involved in attending graduate school for an international student, particularly related to cultural adaptation and awareness of expectations. International students without much contact with the American educational system may be unaware of the demands and expectations of both the culture generally and the graduate programs specifically. Consequently, a lot of time might be wasted if students do not confront these questions as soon as possible.

Overall, being an international graduate student is a rewarding experience. A vast amount of learning takes place, and it does not happen only in the classrooms, laboratories, and therapy rooms; it also happens in interaction with members of other cultures. I hope you have as valuable on experience as mine and form the type of lifelong friendships I have found.


REFERENCES

American Psychological Association. (1994). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: Author.

Angelova, M., & Riazantseva, A. (1999). “If you don't tell me, how can I know?”: A case study of four international students learning to write the U.S. way. Written Communication, 16, 491–525.

Bhagwati, J., & Rao, M. (1996). The U.S. brain gain: At the expense of Blacks? Challenge, 39, 50–53.

Espenshade, T. J., & Rodrigues, G. (1997). Completing the Ph.D.: Comparative performance of U.S. and foreign students. Social Science Quarterly, 78, 593–605.

Fish, J. M. (1996). Culture and therapy: An integrative approach. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.

Hanson-Kahn, P., & L'Abate, L. (1998). Cross-cultural couple therapy. In F. M. Dattilio (Ed.), Case studies in couple and family therapy: Systemic and cognitive perspectives (pp. 278–302). New York: Guilford Press.

Jenkins, Y. M. (1999). Diversity in college settings: Directives for helping professionals. New York: Routledge.

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