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This qualitative study explores the experiences and attitudes of Chinese international students in the U.S. towards psychotherapy, with an emphasis on identifying potential barriers and facilitators to their mental health treatment. Data were drawn from individual experiences of undergraduate and graduate Chinese international students who had engaged in therapy in the U.S. A grounded theory approach was employed to dissect these experiences and assess their attitudes towards psychotherapy. The grounded theory identified several themes from the students’ therapeutic experiences, such as: the inconsequential role of language barriers, the significant yet not prohibitive impact of cultural differences, the critical role of health insurance, the influence of therapists’ professional demeanor, and the correlation between mental health knowledge and attitudes towards therapy. Interestingly, the study also unveiled an emergent theme concerning professional boundaries within therapy. These findings suggest that while language and cultural differences might not be direct obstacles to therapy, factors such as therapists’ backgrounds and attitudes, insurance coverage, and accessibility can pose substantial challenges to Chinese international students seeking mental health treatment. Importantly, a heightened level of mental health knowledge was associated with more positive attitudes toward therapy. As a culmination of these findings, we formu- lated a triadic model emphasizing cultural understanding within the therapeutic setting, service accessibility, and mental health knowledge as key influences on the psychotherapy experiences of Chinese international students.
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