A Letter from China: International Collaboration with Mental Health and Divorce Professionals

 A Letter from China: International Collaboration with Mental Health and Divorce Professionals by Lauren BehrmanDear Colleagues:

We’re sending this blog from Wuhan, China, where we are enjoying a few days of sightseeing and absorbing Chinese hospitality, history and culture from our wonderful colleagues and their graduate students.

Jeff is the current president of The Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy,(SAP) Division 29 of the American Psychological Association (APA). The division has been working on increasing its international presence, and in 2016, SAP formalized an affiliation with Oriental Insight—a similar organization in China Normal University School of Psychology which was founded by Professor Jiang Guangrong, a leading psychologist at Central China. Professor Jiang is one of the leaders in the field of Counseling Psychotherapy and Mental Health on the Chinese mainland. Jeff and I were invited by Oriental Insight to present a 3-day workshop to Chinese mental health professionals on family conflict and divorce. We anticipated and planned for this opportunity since last August and arrived here with great excitement two days ago.

The preparation and experience for this workshop thus far has truly been remarkable. Our colleagues in China speak Mandarin; and part of our marketing for the workshop involved video interviews and role plays conducted with the help of a translator who happened to be a Chinese graduate student studying in Texas.

Lauren Behrman and Jeff Zimmerman in ChinaThe power of technology is really amazing. This allowed us to have an interactive experience with numerous people on the call when we presented a role-play exercise that simulated a true-to-life scenario. The role of the child was played by another Chinese graduate student. I interviewed her in my role as a psychologist.

In this exercise, a 12-year-old girl awoke at night to her parents fighting. She expressed her sadness, uncertainty, and her fear of discussing the subject with her parents. Unsure if she wanted her parents to know that she was aware of the fighting, she then overheard her father say, “Maybe we should  just get a divorce.” Her fear was heightened—she was afraid that by even broaching the subject she would make the divorce actually happen.

The young girl was trying hard to behave but was having trouble concentrating at school. She understood how divorce affects families from friends at school who had similar experiences. She loved her parents yet was so afraid that something would happen to her—she expressed what one would imagine an early adolescent would feel in her shoes.  

This exercise also took into account Chinese culture. Her grandparents were very involved (3 generations often are very active in raising the children). Despite this, the young girl felt incredibly alone and unable to speak to anyone about the situation.

What was also remarkable was the consistency of this role play, cross-culturally, with what children tell us here in the United States. While the cultures are different, the experiences of the children to family conflict seemed quite similar. We are so looking forward to learning with and teaching our Chinese colleagues about our work with divorce through experiential methods. Here is the link to the marketing material for our workshop.

My Divorce Recovery’s teaching philosophy is to use role plays and other experiential exercises to help participants learn and practice new skills. Here we raised consciousness (including our own) about the issues in China and how children feel in addition to increasing interest and preparing our participants to learn how to deal with families in conflict.

We’d love to hear from you. Please contact us with your questions or comments.

My Divorce Recovery

Lauren Behrman, Ph.D.

Jeffrey Zimmerman, Ph.D., ABPP