Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 821–839 | Cite as

Enveloping Mothers, Enveloped Sons: Positions in Chinese Family Therapy

  • Wenrui Chen
Original Paper


The increasing acceptance and use of psychotherapy in contemporary China powerfully attests to the “psychologization” of Chinese society. Yet attending therapy is only one aspect of psychologization. Analyzing the practice of therapy through case examples illuminates the broader sociocultural context of China’s “psycho-boom.” This includes insight into what I term an expansive-I notion of personhood. This non-singular notion of personhood is a major challenge for Chinese therapists. Therapists’ attempts to resolve clients’ problems by reorienting them according to psychological ideals highlight the multiple, at times contradictory relationships between psychotherapy, the state and families.


Cross-cultural psychotherapy Personhood Family Post-reform China Governmentality 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Author Wenrui Chen declares that she has no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The New SchoolIndia China InstituteNew YorkUSA

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