Addressing Culture, Gender, and Power with Asian American Couples: Application of Socio-Emotional Relationship Therapy

Asian Americans juggle the intersections of multiple social identities and societal discourses as they respond to experiences of immigration, marginalization, and patriarchy, integrate collectivist and individualistic family values, and form families and intimate relationships. In this study we examine what we have learned as we apply Socio-Emotional Relationship Therapy (SERT) with heterosexual couples of Asian heritage. SERT begins with sociocultural attunement and the assumption that relationships should mutually support each partner. Drawing on case examples, we illustrate how we practice sociocultural attunement as couples respond to the relational processes that comprise the Circle of Care (mutual influence, vulnerability, attunement, and shared relational responsibility). We emphasize three key socioemotional themes that intersect with gender: (1) intangible loss; (2) quiet fortitude/not burdening others; and (3) duty to the family.