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Culture-Centered Psychotherapy Preferences for Polynesian Americans: An Interpretative Phenomenological Approach


The purpose of this study was to understand Polynesian American (PA) values, preferences, and beliefs about psychotherapy in light of their culture. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was conducted to collect and analyze culturally relevant preferences and expectations of psychotherapy with Polynesian Americans. The study consisted of 13 in-depth interviews with individuals of Pacific Islander descent who are currently living in the United States. The results of the analysis showed three culturally informed themes shared by study participants that informed this sample’s expectations and preferences of psychotherapy: ʻOhana (family), Lōkahi (harmony) and Aloha (warmth, compassion, love). These values provide unique insights to therapy adaptations that should be emphasized when working with Polynesian American clients, such as using a family centered approach to therapy that takes into account the collective needs of a client’s entire family, participating in therapist self-disclosure and the sharing of personal backgrounds, looking at clients challenges through a holistic lens, and demonstrating genuine warmth in the client-counsellor relationship. We discuss clinical implications and recommendations for Polynesian Americans in future research.

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Appendix 1 – Interview Protocol

Appendix 1 – Interview Protocol

  1. 1.

    Please share your thoughts regarding the process of psychotherapy?

  2. 2.

    If you were to choose to see a mental health therapist, what do you expect from them?

  3. 3.

    If you had total control over a mental health session, what would you like to happen?

  4. 4.

    What would be most helpful for you during therapy?

  5. 5.

    What goals do you think you would want to have during a mental health session?

  6. 6.

    When you think of psychotherapy and culture what comes to mind?

  7. 7.

    Some people believe it would be important to see a Polynesian therapist, others believe it would not matter. What are your thoughts?

  1. a)

    Would it be important to you if your therapist was Polynesian or not?

  1. 8.

    What would you like your therapist to do or say during therapy?

  2. 9.

    What are your thoughts about therapists sharing vs not sharing personal information during a therapy session?

  3. 10.

    How important would it be to you for a therapist to focus on family or friends during sessions?

  4. 11.

    What would help you feel safe?

  5. 12.

    When you have a problem, how do you go about solving it?

  6. 13.

    Please share what helps you feel psychologically healthy- if anything?

  7. 14.

    Where do you think is the source of psychological problems?

  8. 15.

    What role do you think relationships play when it comes to psychological health – if any?

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Cutrer-Parraga, B., Allen, G.E.K., Conklin, H. et al. Culture-Centered Psychotherapy Preferences for Polynesian Americans: An Interpretative Phenomenological Approach. Int J Adv Counselling 44, 604–627 (2022).

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  • Culture-centered psychotherapy
  • Polynesian Americans
  • Mental health