A cultural approach to understanding and working with Chinese migrants in New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Clinical Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
When people migrate to a new country, they experience changes in many areas of life. Migrants are faced with the challenges of making sense of as well as dealing with these changes in life. This research is interested in understanding the experiences of Chinese migrants in New Zealand as well as exploring how to conduct 'psychological intervention‘ work with recent Chinese migrants to deal with the challenges associated with migration. This research consists of two parts. The first part is concerned with developing a better understanding of the way Chinese migrants make sense of their experiences after migrating to New Zealand. In this part, focus groups were held and a discursive approach was used to analyze participants' accounts. Findings from this part show that negotiating meanings for "migration" and "fitting in" is the central process for Chinese migrants to make sense of their migratory experiences in New Zealand. In this meaning-making process, Chinese cultural meanings provide useful discursive resources for Chinese migrants to draw upon to better understand their experiences of migrating from China to New Zealand. Chinese sayings, such as "fish or bear‘s paw", "loss are accompanied by gain", "life is about negotiating loss and gain", are used by Chinese migrants in ways that allow them more flexibility in constructing their experiences in New Zealand. More importantly, adopting a dialectical sense-making embedded in traditional Chinese cultural knowledge is helpful for participants to transfer their discursive constructions from negative to positive aspects of their migration experiences. The second part of this research involves exploration and application of a culturally appropriate 'psychological intervention‘ with recent Chinese migrants in transition from living in China to living in New Zealand. This part draws upon the findings from the first part of the research. In the second part, two groups of participants were invited to attend a three-session group intervention. Useful discursive constructions around flexible meanings of "migration" and "fitting in" found in the first part of the research were introduced to participants. A discursive analytical approach was used to observe how participants take up these introduced meanings and to examine the discursive changes throughout the three group sessions. The second part of the research illustrates that participants took up the introduced meanings of "migration" and "fitting in" as a flexible process, and use these to further co-construct helpful meanings to negotiate their 'problematic‘ experiences. In all, this research articulates the importance of
cultural meanings and cultural ways of making sense of migratory experiences by Chinese migrants. It also shows the importance of building a shared experience, making use of Chinese cultural meanings, and taking a social constructionist approach in psychological intervention work with Chinese migrants. The implications of this research are discussed in terms of further research on migrants' experiences and how to conduct 'psychological interventions' with Chinese migrants.