“Somatization of mental health issues is somewhat of a cultural phenomenon in eastern Asian culture – tai chi, meditation, and other somatic-based activities play a key role in Chinese daily life. This makes it easier for health professionals in China to understand SE.”
Returning Home to China and Taking SE with Him
Just three years after receiving his bachelor’s degree (in English) from Capital Normal University, a large urban university in Beijing, China, Shaochen Chang was living, working, and studying in Tempe, Arizona. Being a counselor was always part of his career plan: “In high school, Freud’s and Maslow’s books intrigued me,” says Shaochen. “I got an offer for graduate study from Boston College and Arizona State University. Preferring hot over cold weather, I chose Arizona State. But I have to say that Arizona’s dry heat was beyond my expectations.”
After receiving a master’s in counseling from Arizona State in 2016, his practicum – individual and family counseling – was at ASU, followed by an internship at The Meadows, an inpatient trauma and addiction treatment center. Shaochen then moved to San Jose, California and worked as a clinician at Asian American Recovery Services, a program of Healthright 360, that provides culturally competent mental health, integrated behavioral health, and substance abuse services to the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the Bay Area. He learned about SE during his time at The Meadows – Dr. Peter Levine, the founder of SE, is a senior fellow there. “Most of the clinicians at The Meadows were trained in SE and I got the chance to shadow SE sessions and realized that SE is much more effective than what I had learned in the classroom.”
Shaochen completed his SE training in Berkeley in 2020, under SEI faculty members Ariel Giarretto, SEP, Joshua Sylvae, SEP, and Dr. Raja Salvam. During his training, “The idea of taking SE training back to China came to mind, but very vaguely,” says Shaochen. “A friend of mine introduced me to Paul Chung, the SE training organizer in Hong Kong, who strongly encouraged me to think seriously about it.”
While doing his SE training, Shaochen was writing a blog on Chinese social media, sharing his learning and reflections about SE training. “It began to get a lot of attention. Since the early 2000s, classic psychoanalysis, psychodynamic, and other ‘top-down’ therapies have been dominating the clinical approach. But many professionals and clients are becoming more aware of the shortcomings of these approaches and are looking for more trauma-informed ‘bottom up’ approaches. People started reaching out to me asking about how to get SE therapy. Mental health professionals also wanted to know how to get trained in SE. Somatization of mental health issues is somewhat of a cultural phenomenon in eastern Asian culture – tai chi, meditation, and other somatic-based activities play a key role in Chinese daily life. This made it easier for health professionals in China to understand SE.”
After several lengthy conversations with Paul Chung and seeing the surging interest in SE in the professional community in China, Shaochen finally decided to apply to SEI to be an organizer. He also is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and has taken basic EMDR training.
Shaochen expects that he’ll be able to start SE training in Beijing in 2023 – depending on the availability of assistants. “We will need assistants who can speak Mandarin. Some of the assistants based in Hong Kong speak only English or Cantonese, so if we have training in Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou our ability may be limited by the need for Mandarin speakers, but I’m hoping that Mandarin-speaking assistants from Hong Kong and Taiwan can join training in mainland China. I’m also looking forward to inviting English-speaking assistants and pairing them with trainee translators. One of my goals is to have SE-related videos with Mandarin captions on the social media platforms available in China – WeChat, Bilibili, and, of course, Tik Tok, a favorite platform in China.”
Shaochen also hopes for a Simplified Chinese version of the SE training manual. Simplified Chinese is the official, preferred, and promoted set of Chinese characters, for writing, per the People’s Republic of China authorities and is used throughout schools and universities in mainland China. Traditional Chinese characters are used in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Shaochen is back in Beijing, in private practice as a psychotherapist and part-time clinical supervisor on the psychology faculty at Capital Normal University. “It may be two years away, but I’m beginning to realize that my dream of bringing SE to China is going to happen. I’m grateful to SEI for supporting me in this dream.”