Every person has their own experience with therapy, and as Indian-American women, each of our experiences is unique. You may already have an established relationship with a therapist. You may have tried therapy once, but didn’t feel that you connected with your therapist or experienced the growth you were looking for when you began. You may even be reluctant to go, listening to that voice in the back of your mind asking What will people think? (That voice could very well come from the stigma our Indian culture can have towards mental health challenges). So when you hear the phrase “holistic therapy,” the “therapy” part may come with a sense of baggage, or the “holistic” part may be met with confusion. Put simply, holistic therapy addresses your whole self: your mind, body, and spiritual wellness. As people, we do not simply have isolated mental, physical, and spiritual health; we are an integrated embodiment of all three. Holistic therapy builds on the foundation of this truth and views each client uniquely; it’s tailored to you and your strengths, challenges, and needs. Holistic therapy can benefit many, but is particularly helpful for Indian-American women like us who have to navigate many aspects of our identities in pursuit of personal wellness and authenticity.
The Challenges You Face As A Bicultural Woman
You will experience challenges as you navigate your identity as an Indian-American woman; I know this all too well. Two of the biggest challenges you’re likely to face are related to identity (Who am I?) and intimacy (Who am I in relation to you?). We’re often treated differently from Indian-American men, especially in our families, and may be expected to follow a strict code of conduct and carry the pressure of passing on our Indian culture. But at the same time, we live in a society steeped in American culture, in which pressures to fit in can come from friends, coworkers, and partners. Integrating these two cultures in a way that feels authentic and empowering is often difficult.
Our Indian heritage, which has a collectivist, familial-based culture, and our societal American norms, which focus on individualistic desires and pursuits, often seem at odds with one another. Different cultures place varying expectations related to education, career, and overall life trajectory, all of which inform your identity. Because of this, you may struggle to integrate multiple aspects of your identity, understand your true self at the intersection between two cultures, and build empowerment and confidence as you find your own authentic lane. This cultural tension can also be particularly evident in how we choose to pursue intimate partnerships. Our heritage traditionally comes with the expectation to choose a life partner through familial help/arrangement, while our society comes with the expectation to choose a life partner through personal exploration and choices. But intimate relationships are one of many challenges (e.g., parenting) we experience navigating two seemingly dissimilar cultures with differing norms and expectations – challenges that can be addressed with holistic therapy.
How Holistic Therapy And Mind-Body-Spirit Wellness Can Help You
These and other personal challenges can weigh heavily on you: not only on your mind, but also your body and spiritual wellness, too. Addressing the impact these challenges have on your holistic wellbeing gives you the greatest opportunity for authentic growth and healing. The pull between two cultures may leave you feeling confused, but holistic therapy can strengthen your intuition and resolve, helping you better understand your true desires, feelings, and experiences without filtering them through the perspective of others.
Mind-body-spirit therapy can help nurture a stronger sense of self, alleviating the discomfort of forming an authentic identity that integrates all aspects of who you are. As you pursue holistic therapy, you’re likely to feel more confident and empowered because you’re practicing mind-body-spirit alignment. You’re aligning your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, values, and presence, instead of, for example, thinking one way and behaving in a different way, which brings you out of alignment. This is an essential part of holistic therapy: you are integrating all of you versus piecing together various aspects of your culture, identity, and intimacy needs. Holistic therapy treats your mental, physical, and spiritual self as the interconnected whole they are, rather than the separate elements we sometimes imagine them to be.
Holistic therapy uses this mind-body-spirit framework alongside evidence-based practices to pursue wellness of the full self. For example, you may experience anxiety symptoms as your mind plays recurrent worries: Do I live up to my family’s expectations? Am I being selfish by pursuing independence? Have I dressed, talked, and acted the “right” way? What if I put all of this effort into my career and it falls apart? What if my friends think I’m letting them down? What if I can’t find a life partner who gets along well with my family? When you experience anxiety, you are no longer aligned with your natural mental state of peace. At the same time, your body responds to your anxious thoughts. You may experience muscle tension, increased heartbeat, and shallow breathing, to name a few symptoms. Tensions related to family conflict, social and career challenges, or emotional fluctuations within intimate relationships can also be held in the body. Cultivating wellness as a lifestyle for your whole self (i.e., the mind-body-spirit system), is essential en route to authentic empowerment and mindful healing.
Want to Pursue Holistic Therapy?
If you want to embrace all of you, better explore and understand the facets of your identity, and pursue authentic intimacy, you will need a therapist who both focuses on holistic wellness and has knowledge in the areas you’re looking for support in. You deserve to invest in yourself by finding someone who can address your holistic wellbeing with you, including understanding family background, ethnicity, gender roles, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, spiritual wellness, etc. Your therapist should explore your perspectives, experiences, and challenges in pursuing intimate relationships. You should experience a therapist walking alongside you to address any shame or guilt that may arise over the course of your wellness journey, work with you to pinpoint mental health challenges like anxiety and depression, and help you move toward authentic change and self-acceptance.
I’m Dr. Supriya Blair, an Indian-American Licensed Clinical Psychologist who prioritizes all of these. Based in New York, my practice focuses on wellness of mind, body, and spirit, using holistic therapy practices to engage with each unique individual. My passion is using my experience and expertise to guide Indian-American women as you navigate and integrate your culture, gender, parenthood, career, and the rest of your unique personal identity.
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