Student Spotlight: Jonah Li

Last month Jonah Li., one of our talented Counseling Psychology grad students, presented “Building Rapport Across Cultures.”
at the 2017  DU Research and Performance Summit (DURAPS). In his presentation Jonah discussed a perception-changing counseling experience that he had with a challenging client.

Researcher: Jonah is a master’s student in Morgridge College of Education’s Counseling Psychology program.

Current Research: My research interest is in using positive psychological interventions and spirituality to build resilience and promote well-being among diverse clients and ethnic minorities, including international students and Asian students, in the lens of multicultural counseling.

My current research mainly falls into two areas: positive psychology and multicultural counseling. For positive psychology, I aim at building resilience and promoting well-being for clients in face of difficulties. One representative research, which is my master’s thesis, is exploring the moderating roles of subjective happiness and meaning in life on the relationship between perceived stress and well-being and distress. For multicultural counseling, I aim to discover strengths, positive experiences, quality of life  promotion, and quality relationship promotion among diverse clients, including LGBT clients, college students, international students, patients with Parkinson’s disease, couples etc.

Collaborators: To achieve the above research directives I work with Dr. Chao, Dr. McRae, and Dr. Owen and their research teams. While working with them I have had the opportunity to learn more about the life stories of minority groups.

DURAPS Presentation: My presentation covers a counseling experience that I had while working as a clinic counselor during the 2016 fall quarter. I was a year and a half into my master’s program when I met a middle-aged Caucasian male client who was dealing with problematic gambling behaviors and romantic relationship concerns. During our first two sessions I faced challenges in building rapport with my client in terms of my age and counseling competence. I am an international student originally from Hong Kong and also dealt with some challenges relating to my racial identity. During our sessions I heard responses like

“That movie I watched was really inspiring…oh sorry! I forgot to tell you that you were not even born that time!”
…and
“I have seen different therapists, including useful therapists and useless therapists…”

To face these challenges I used unconditional positive regard and showed a caring attitude toward my client. Concurrently, I calmed myself and tried to work with my client by exploring his gambling issues and investigating the pros and cons of his behavior. From there, my client gradually built more trust in me, feeling that my work had a positive impact on his process. He even started asking for my opinion about his problems. In later sessions, I initiated cultural dialogues and showed my humility, asking questions like

“how would my cultural identity play a role in our relationship?”
and
“you may know more about that than me. Tell me about your experience about that.”

These questions helped further address our cultural differences and helped me build rapport with my client. Finally, my client provided positive comments about my work and requested that I be his counselor for the next quarter. The whole clinic team witnessed the difference of our rapport and the client’s perception towards me, which was a really encouraging experience in my counseling practice.

Research Advice:

Think critically. This is the most important part of doing the research, in terms of research questions, designs, methods, analyses, and writing the results. You may not want to ask the repeated questions that were addressed by other researchers or not significant in the literature or practical in society, but they are incredibly important. Thinking critically helps form a good research question and generates a quality research study.

Want to present your research at DURAPS? GSG welcomes complete or work-in-progress submissions. Be sure to submit your abstract by 2/27!

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