CD 501 Interviewing and Counseling
As products of Western society, many professionals unconsciously assume that individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds will exchange their traditional healing practices for the scientifically-based, “progressive” practices of Western biomedicine upon immigrating to the United States. However, health-care professionals have discovered that it is a mistake to presume that culturally diverse individuals will reject the traditional health practices and ceremonies that they have engaged in for centuries (Helsel, Mochel, & Bauer, 2004). Case in point is the large population of Hmong immigrants who have formed communities in Central California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Michigan. Studies conducted in the 1970s confirmed that the Hmong were more likely to use shamanism, herbal medicine, or talismans than biomedical health care. In fact, many Hmong only used biomedicine as a last resort. More recent studies indicate that even as the community has begun to seek the care of biomedical health care providers, many traditional healthcare beliefs and practices persist among the community. This has result in numerous misunderstandings and cultural clashes between health care providers and Hmong patients, some of them tragic (Helsel, Mochel, & Bauer, 2004).
In recent years, there has been a national movement to consider patients’ cultural beliefs and values when deciding their medical treatment. Health care providers who cater to the Hmong community have begun implementing innovative strategies to bridge the cultural gap and heal the rift between the medical community and their Hmong patients. To understand the unique challenges inherent in providing service to Hmong individuals, it is important to be familiar with both the history and cultural attitudes of this community.
The Hmong: some historical background
Hmong began emigrating from Laos to the United States in the 1970s, following the Vietnam War. For thousands of years, Hmong farmers had lived in small villages in the highlands of Laos (Helsel, Mochel, & Bauer, 2004). During the Vietnam War, the Hmong had collaborated with the United States armed forces; upon the United States’ withdrawal from Southeast Asia, the Hmong found themselves the target of fierce retaliation from the North Vietnamese and Lao Communists. The majority of the Hmong attempted to escape to the United States. Upon their arrival in the United States, the government enacted a policy of scattering the refugees evenly throughout areas of the United States, in an effort to encourage more rapid acculturation. The United States also limited the number of family members who were allowed to immigrate to the United States to eight members. Both of these policies had a significant impact on Hmong individuals, particularly because the family and clan system are of central importance to Hmong culture (Tatman, 2004). ...