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Eugene therapist’s book offers tools to deal with trauma

woman smiling
Courtesy of Shin Shin Tang
Shin Shin Tang is a Eugene therapist. Her new book is called Asian American Psychology and Psychotherapy– intergenerational trauma, betrayal and liberation

Shin Shin Tang is a Eugene psychotherapist, who also teaches at Oregon State University. She’s written a new book called "Asian American Psychology and Psychotherapy: Intergenerational trauma, betrayal and liberation." She spoke with KLCC’s Rachael McDonald.

McDonald: Can you tell us why you decided to write this book that specifically addresses Asian American psychology?

Tang: Yeah, so many reasons. But one of the main reasons was because, of course, of the incredible surge of anti-Asian hate during the pandemic and that, you know, multiplied by several hundred percent and became very violent and unfortunately, still isn't really abating that we can tell. So that was a main motivator because until the pandemic, a lot of these experiences were glossed over or dismissed and ignored, even though they were also present and have been for a long time in American history. And then the other reason was because, you know, frankly for my clients, the book is dedicated to them and I work with many Asian American clients in my practice and I have Asian American students and I think they were not knowing that their experiences are common, like both with racism and intergenerational trauma and most of them are grappling with both.

So I wanted Asian Americans across the country to know that they're not alone. And I think finally, I wanted therapists to be able to offer more culturally sensitive care. I think therapists are really trying, but sometimes clients will tell me, well, this person just didn't quite get this part of my culture. So, I know therapists want to be able to do that. So I wanted to offer a resource that would help them in doing that.

Courtesy of Shin Shin Tang

McDonald: As you mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed a lot about the United States, including hatred towards Asians and Asian Americans. And you actually experienced something really traumatic in Eugene. Can you tell us about that?

Tang: Yeah, I describe this in my book. I was driving. It was almost exactly a year ago, last summer in August and I was driving downtown with my then eight-year-old son in the backseat and we were stopped at a stoplight, not far from the studio, actually near Whole Foods. And I hear this loud thunk on the window. You know, just before I'd seen this dark object fly towards the car. And then at the same time, I see this truck, you know, screeching down the road away from us. And I'm stunned. My son thinks that an apple fell in the car, but in my mind I know that apples don't fall sideways. Somebody threw something. But I go into basically crisis mode where I'm just trying to stay calm and get us home before I'm able to process what happened. And I think that's a really common trauma response. People often don't get angry or responsive right in the moment. But it's like not until you're safe, in a safe environment with supportive people afterward that the feelings start coming in and that's pretty much what happened to me.

McDonald: And I guess that in some ways sort of describes how one moment can stay with you and sort of affect you past that moment.

Tang: Yeah, absolutely. You know, of course, that, that was a couple of years into the pandemic already. So, I was bracing myself for this every day, but when it happened, it was still a shock and it's been through the retelling and through lots of social support, through friends and colleagues, my spiritual group and my family, of course, that I've been able to kind of let go and process so I can, I can talk to you all about it without getting really triggered.

McDonald: Well, anything else you want to add?

Tang: I just want to add that I always like to leave people with some hope. So there are some really great things going on in our state to work against bias. One resource I recently discovered was the Oregon Bias Response Hotline. They were super helpful to me in reporting what happened last year. If it's okay to share their number, it's 1-844-924-BIAS, they're available Monday through Friday 9 to 5.

I'll be talking at Tsunami Books, more about community solutions and what we can do to prevent some of these things from happening and also lower, you know, your anxiety of living in the community.

Shin Shin Tang's book is called “Asian American Psychology and Psychotherapy”. She’ll be speaking this Saturday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. at Tsunami booksin Eugene. You can listen to the conversation using the audio player at the top of the page.

Copyright 2023 KLCC.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.