Healing Through Shared Identity - Little Tokyo Service Center

Healing Through Shared Identity

When Ashley (they/them) uprooted their life in Los Angeles to earn their Master’s degree in Art Therapy and Counseling in Pennsylvania, they had no way of predicting they would find themselves unhoused while juggling school, an internship, and two jobs.

As Ashley struggled to find their footing, they sought out therapy to help them through the tough transition. But their search brought up options that were too expensive, difficult to travel to, or with therapists that didn’t share Ashley’s cultural background or identity. As a second-generation, non-binary Asian American student, Ashley was grappling with feeling “othered” in their predominantly white and cis-gendered surroundings – and wanted to talk with someone who would understand.

Fortunately, Ashley found CT Stream, a Changing Tides (CT) initiative launched in 2022 that aims to make mental health services more accessible for young people in the AANHPI (Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander) community and beyond.

At no cost to them, Ashley was matched with an art therapist from CT Stream’s directory of culturally-sensitive providers and completed ten therapy sessions. Having a shared identity with their therapist allowed them to finally feel heard and understood. And with the added benefit of CT Stream’s virtual care option, they enjoyed the flexibility they needed, without sacrificing the quality of care they deserve.

“Working with a therapist who has a similar background to me meant that I didn’t have to explain any of my traumas, or my identities, or why those are so impactful to me. This program has been so important in helping validate my experiences and making sure that I’m getting what I need,” Ashley shared. “It really changes your life to have a team there who can truly support you.”

Ashley’s experience has not only given them tools to handle life’s many curveballs, but also reassurance from knowing that Changing Tides is dedicated to promoting culturally inclusive mental health resources for people like them.

Matthew Yonemura, CT Program Coordinator, said, “The need for better access to mental health services in our community has never been clearer. Asians are the least likely racial group to seek mental health support, and suicide is currently the number one cause of death for AANHPI youth. CT Stream aims to not only provide access to mental health services, but to ensure that those services are tailored to the specific needs of our community, whether that means in-language care or culturally-sensitive providers.”

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