Counseling and psychotherapy in china: Building capacity to serve 1.3 billion

Doris F. Chang, Yuping Cao, Qijia Shi, Wang Chun, Mingyi Qian

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Although some of the earliest recorded theories regarding the cultivation of psychological wellbeing originated in China, counseling and psychotherapy as practiced today bear few traces of those cultural roots. Instead, counseling and psychotherapy in China today looks increasingly similar to professional practice in other industrialized societies, refiecting the sweeping social and economic changes that have transformed the country in recent years. On the one hand, this is a sign of remarkable progress. The state’s growing recognition of the need and benefits of psychological services has led to increased investments in training and quality assurance efforts, expansion of mental health services in institutions such as schools and prisons, and funding support for research and foreign exchanges. On the other hand, there are also lamentable signs of traditions cast aside in the rush to modernity. Clinical relationships are increasingly replacing informal sources of social support as community structures weaken. Furthermore, as more and more foreign experts enter the country to disseminate knowledge developed elsewhere, the therapeutic potential of indigenous healing traditions and practices remains untapped. An ancient civilization, dating from c. 2700 BCE, China has a population of more than 1.3 billion, making up one-fifth of the world’s population (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2011). The People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949 following an extended period of civil war that ended with the defeat of the Nationalist Guomindang armies. The PRC is a socialist republic, governed by the Communist Party of China, which has jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions (Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Ningxia, and Guangxi), four municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and two Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong and Macau). Although 92% of the population is Han Chinese, 56 other ethnic groups including the Zhuang, Manchu, and Uighers make up a significant minority. Rapid economic growth since 1978 has led to substantial improvements in the overall standard of living, life expectancy, and literacy rates. However, wide economic and infrastructural disparities exist between the rural areas and the more prosperous coastal cities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy in an International Context
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781135262730
ISBN (Print)9780415872522
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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