Inner journeys: Psychodynamic perspectives on immigration, identity and cross-cultural adaptation
Kerrisk, Cian Michael
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This dissertation explores psychoanalytic and psychodynamic perspectives regarding immigration and how the experience influences a person's psychological processes and identity. Additionally, this research considers how such theoretical understandings could inform cross-cultural therapeutic practice. The research method consists of a modified systematic literature review (SLR) and critical evaluation of articles, many of which incorporate clinical case studies. Relevant theoretical concepts drawn on by authors are explained, and themes within the literature are organised by utilising an adapted data analysis process. Both personal and social variables influencing immigration outcome are summarised, while common psychological defence mechanisms are examined alongside cultural transference dynamics, issues of culture shock, grief and loss, and narcissistic injury. Considerations for assessment and diagnosis, and suggested treatment adaptations are also summarised. Psychodynamic literature suggests that although immigration experiences vary, common themes include object loss, separation-individuation processes, mourning work, identity reformation, and narcissistic wounding alongside social variables such as language difficulties, prejudice and isolation. Positive factors and opportunities for personal growth as part of the immigration process are also noted. By understanding these complex psychosocial processes, acknowledging the multiplicity of human experience, and reflecting on their own culturally constructed theoretical frameworks therapists may be better able to work with immigrant clients. It is however suggested that a shift from a primarily intrapsychic treatment focus to one emphasising interpersonal connectedness and contextual cultural factors may be essential for addressing immigrant identity issues within Aotearoa New Zealand. In doing so therapists may be able to assist clients in the process of mourning for losses and developing a stable sense of self in order to embrace their new community and live fully, while also maintaining links to their "motherland" and retaining their own special ethnicity, culture, and language.