Cultural Psychiatry and the Implementation of Transcultural Psychotherapy in China

  • Xudong ZhaoEmail author
  • Jie Qian


Cultural psychiatry deals with cultural aspects of human behaviour, mental health, psychopathology, and treatment. Psychological services in Chinese society require significant emphasis on the cultural sensitivity and competence of practitioners, regarding both the specific cultural background of mainstream Chinese culture and the diversity of people of other cultures living in China. Much needs to be explored about the implementation and adaption of transcultural psychotherapy in developing countries such as China and how this may influence the development of cultural psychiatry in a rapidly changing world.

In this chapter, we present a brief introduction of the cultural matrix of the psyche as seen in Chinese culture, and give an overview of the development of psychological services in Chinese society over the last 30 years based on multi-factor analysis of peer-reviewed articles, classical textbooks, personal oral history, interviews, and clinical experiences, before discussing potential implications for culturally adaptive psychotherapy. We report that the modern Chinese cultural matrix of the psyche is a comprehensive combination of five dominant philosophies, namely Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Communism, and Socialist Market Economics. The contemporary mainstream healing model within psychotherapy for Chinese patients includes four schools, these being psychodynamic, cognitive and behavioural, humanistic, and systemic models. In contrast, Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as local religions, superstition, and folk healing practices used to be the most common methods for ordinary Chinese people to deal with psychological suffering.

We discuss that contemporary Chinese people are craving for modern psychotherapy, while factors including complex psycho-social dynamics, a lack of availability, and a lack of professionalism, and therefore effectiveness mean that people’s expectations remain unfulfilled in many cases.

We conclude that the Chinese cultural matrix of psyche is profoundly sophisticated as a background music for modern Chinese and that each individual in psychotherapy presents his or her unique belief system and psychological needs within his/her own subcultural matrix. Contrasting traditional healing practices and modern trends in psychotherapy in China point towards the need for a new system of mental health services with more humane paradigm and techniques.


Cultural psychiatry Cultural matrix of psyche Transcultural psychotherapy China 


  1. 1.
    Tseng W-S. Handbook of cultural psychiatry. San Diego: Academic Press; 2001.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Phillips MR, et al. Lancet. 2009;373:2041–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Tseng W-S, Streltzer J. Culture and psychotherapy: a guide to clinical practice. Washington: American Psychiatric Press; 2001.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Wang H. Brief introduction of psychotherapy in traditional Chinese medicine. Chin Ment Health J. 2015;10Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Yin SE. Study on shamansim and Northern ethnic psychiatry. J Guangxi Univ Nat. 2014;36(6):31–6. Philosophy and Social Science Edition.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Zhang YL, Liu XM, Cao YP, Shi QJ, Jiang CQ, Liu JX, Wei H, et al. Therapeutic orientation in Chinese counselors and psychotherapists practice in different work settings. Chin Ment Health J. 2013;27(8):578–82.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Zhao XD. Opportunities and challenges for promoting psychotherapy in contemporary China. Shanghai Arch Psychiatry. 2014;26(3):157–9.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Zhao X. Chinas erstes Gesetz zur psychischen Gesundheit 2013. Ein historischer Schritt auf dem Weg zu einem Menschenrecht. Nervenarzt. 2017;88:500–9. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tongji UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.School of Humanity, Tongji UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Counseling and Psychological Services at Fudan UniversityShanghaiChina

Personalised recommendations