Immigration and Acculturation

  • Are the effects of your family’s immigration or refugee traumas still with you?
  • Are your family’s expectations clashing with American values?
  • Do you see yourself as too-American or not-American-enough?
  • Do you have anybody you can really talk to about your feelings and experiences?
  • Is turning to counseling acceptable in your culture?
  • Are you expected to manage your issues by yourself or in the family?
  • Are you feeling depressed or having trouble adjusting to your new environment?

Immigration and Multicultural Issues

Culture plays an extremely relevant role in counseling and psychotherapy. Immigration is a dominant event in a person’s life, shaping and distorting everything that comes before and after. Changing countries results in unique challenges at any age. Neighborhood relationships are particularly critical for new immigrants because many aspects of the new environment can be disorienting. Living in ethnic communities protects immigrants from cultural isolation and benefits their initial psychological adjustment. However, pressure to assimilate may be strong outside their ethnic group and result in discrimination and its negative consequences. New immigrants often have limited direct, regular and intimate contact with Americans, which affects their opportunities to hear and use English and their access to desirable jobs.


Acculturation involves changes in many aspects of immigrants’ lives, such as language, cultural identity, attitudes and values, ethnic pride, types of food and music preferred, media use, social and ethnic relations, cultural familiarity and social customs. Acculturation may occur in stages, with immigrants learning the new language first, followed by gradual participation in the new culture. While some settings, such as workplaces or schools, are predominantly culturally American, others, such as an immigrant’s ethnic neighborhood and home environment, are predominantly of the heritage culture. Keeping one foot in each culture provides access to different kinds of resources and can lead to positive mental health outcomes.

Acculturation Stresses

Even immigrants who have lived in the United States for a long time and who appear to have adopted the American lifestyle may continue to maintain strong identification with, and hold the values of, their culture of origin.  The process of integrating the social and cultural values, ideas, beliefs, and behavioral patterns of the culture of origin with those of the new culture may lead to acculturation stresses if these conflict. These stresses can cause or increase mental health difficulties, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and others.

How Elaine Can Help

I understand multicultural, immigration, and acculturation challenges and have experience counseling immigrants and refugees on a variety of issues, such as anxiety, depression, relationships problems, or career adjustments. We can explore ways to help you acclimate to a new culture that meet your goals and develop alternatives as we anticipate and work through potential problems.