Contemporary Family Therapy

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 25–40 | Cite as

“I didn’t understand their system, and I didn’t know what to do”: Migrant Parents’ Experiences of Mandated Therapy for Their Children

  • Yeojin Ahn
  • Marianne McInnes MillerEmail author
  • Linna Wang
  • Tracey Laszloffy
Original Paper


In this phenomenological study, we explored the experiences of migrant parents whose children received mandated therapy in Southern California. Migrants are people who move to a host country either voluntarily as immigrants or involuntarily as refugees. Mandated therapy means that the school or court system required that their children receive services from a mental health provider. Parents often participated by having to take parenting classes and join in some sessions with their children; however, the children were the identified clients. We conducted eight, in-depth interviews with migrant parents. We employed Giorgi and Giorgi’s (Qualitative research in psychology: expanding perspectives in methodology and design. American Psychological Association, Washington, 2003; Qualitative psychology: a practical guide to research methods. Sage, London, 2008) phenomenological psychological research approach to analyze data. Analysis revealed four constituents, which are overarching themes related to the essential structure of the shared phenomenon: (a) migrant parents encountered discrimination and devaluation; (b) migrant parents experienced increased exposure to US culture and the mental health system, which accelerated acculturation; (c) the degree of cultural sensitivity exhibited by providers both positively and negatively influenced participants’ attitudes and perceptions toward mental health services; and (d) migrant parents used their mandated therapy experiences as opportunities to examine their family relationships and to learn new skills and concepts.


Immigrants Refugees Mandated therapy Qualitative research Phenomenology Acculturation Cultural sensitivity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yeojin Ahn
    • 1
  • Marianne McInnes Miller
    • 2
    Email author
  • Linna Wang
    • 2
  • Tracey Laszloffy
    • 3
  1. 1.SeoulKorea
  2. 2.Couple and Family Therapy Program, California School of Professional PsychologyAlliant International UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.Private PracticeNorwichUSA

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