Engaging South Asian youth and families: A clinical review

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2020 Sep;66(6):584-592. doi: 10.1177/0020764020922881. Epub 2020 May 25.


Objective: South Asians (SAs), a rapidly growing minority group in the United States are underrepresented in mental health research. They represent a unique sub-group of Asian immigrants in that their journey to the United States in the last 50 years was driven by the pursuit of academic and career opportunities. Our goal is to provide a topical overview of factors contributing to the mental health challenges of South Asian American (SAA) youth and to describe culturally sensitive approaches that would provide effective treatment for SAA youth and their families.

Methods: We conducted a review of published literature in PubMed and PsycInfo search engines using the key words South Asian immigrants, South Asian Americans, psychological, psychiatric, mental health treatment, therapy and interventions.

Results: The challenges faced by these highly educated families are distinctive in that there is a struggle to maintain ethnic identity based on collectivism while embracing American ideals of individualism. These opposing values along with model minority expectations put SAs at high risk for mental health concerns and acculturative family distancing. Furthermore, mental health stigma impedes help-seeking. Mental health practitioners must navigate the different value systems of the parent-child dyad without ostracizing either generation and deliver effective care. Hence, culturally adapted family therapy and community-based approaches may be particularly relevant in SA youth.

Conclusion: Our article outlines common family attitudes and issues pertinent to mental health in youth and discusses useful clinical approaches to dealing with SAA youth and their families.

Keywords: South Asian; clinical perspectives; family interventions; immigrant health; mental health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Adolescent
  • Asian
  • Asian People
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Mental Health*
  • United States