Interview with Dr. Jenny Wang

Introduce yourself! 

My name is Jenny Wang. I’m a 1.5 generation, Taiwanese American clinical psychologist. I am passionate about destigmatizing mental health care for Asian-Americans and Asian diaspora. 

How and why did you begin @AsiansforMentalHealth

I was in bed one night scrolling through Instagram and wondering to myself why there were no accounts that focus on Asian mental health. I searched the hashtag #asianmentalhealth and found less than 100 posts. It was disheartening to see the erasure of the Asian-American experience even within a field that I had spent years training in and absolutely loved. In that frustration, @asiansformentalhealth was born. 

My initial goal for the account was to build out an Asian-American therapist directory. There was no centralized way or place for Asians to seek out culturally-relevant mental health care from Asian mental health professionals. Through this account, I started connecting with other Asian American mental health professionals and asking them to complete a form to be included in the directory. I was literally DM’ing multiple providers a day and just asking them to complete the form. This is how the Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American therapist directory was born. 

The second goal for the account was to start talking about mental health from an Asian American and diaspora lens. There were so few conversations about how Asian diaspora identity is inextricably linked to our mental health and how we see ourselves and the world. So, the posts started off really simple. “The Model Minority Myth hurts us all” and “Racism is a threat to mental health” were some of my first posts. Over time, I have learned how to flush out more of these ideas on this platform to break down the complexity and nuance that we experience as Asian Americans. 

What brought you to psychology?  How and why did you choose this path?

Honestly, my path to psychology came from being miserable studying accounting, which was what I was supposed to “become.” Although I excelled academically in business courses and it was the logical, practical option that my immigrant parents supported, I craved human contact and connection. My then boyfriend, now husband, was a liberal arts major and always spoke about how amazing his psychology and philosophy courses were and encouraged me to take Psych 101. Since I couldn’t get the specific professor that he had unless I took it at night, I took Psych 101 my junior year at night and it changed my life.

Once I found psychology, I realized that this was my calling. There was nothing that was going to deter me from becoming a psychologist. (Even the famous white male psychology professor who told me I would never get into a PhD psychology program because I was an “alternative student” being a business and psychology major. I ended up getting into 3 PhD psychology programs.) 

Honestly, I could not believe there was a field dedicated to helping people with human connection and understanding. I was also struck by how few Asian Americans were full professors or even assistant professors in this field, at a major public university. The lack of representation made me even more motivated to pursue this field. I think I have spent my entire career searching and hoping for a psychologist mentor who looked similar to me. Now, I hope that I can be the person that I never found for other aspiring mental health professionals. 

The hardest part was coming to terms with the fact that my parents had no idea this profession existed and that it could be a viable career option. Although I wish I had discovered psychology earlier in college, I have no regrets on how I got here and the business degree has definitely come in handy as a practice owner. 

Your website states that your practice caters “exclusively to the psychological needs of women”—why did you decide to focus on this area?  What is unique about how you approach this work?

This was something that evolved out of becoming a mother and seeing the difficulties that many American mothers face. The pressure to appear perfect while working full time and shouldering much of the childcare is daunting. I also took time off from work to support my husband’s career and focus on caring for our young children. I witnessed the internal fear and panic and the unlearning that was necessary to return to the workforce after several years off. My mother often says, “A woman lives many different lives over the course of her lifetime.” I believe this is absolutely true and wanted to focus on helping other women through those transitions because I know firsthand how debilitating the fear of failure can be when trying to pursue our dreams. I have always prioritized female empowerment and fought against patriarchal cultural values that Asian culture upholds. I am also trying to raise a strong and independent daughter. This focus allows me to hone my skill set and focus on a niche that resonated with me, as an Asian American and woman. 

How has this time of COVID-19 affected you and your work?  How have you been coping? 

Logistically, the shift from in-person sessions to virtual therapy was more seamless than I thought it would be. I do long to be in the physical presence of my clients, but I also realize that this is the best option for us right now. I am also extremely grateful that I am in a profession in which virtual is even an option. 

Internally, 2020 was the hardest year of my life. Not just due to the pandemic, but because of some personal family issues that resulted in a lot of heaviness to carry. That being said, it was also the year in which I saw my community, friends, and family show up in a huge way. Without our year of crisis, we would have never seen how loved we are by our community. If we are strong all the time, we never receive the gift of being vulnerable and supported. 

From a clinical perspective, on the one hand, it has been an extremely difficult season. There is a collective trauma that all mental health professionals have had to shoulder while supporting our clients through the same trauma. It has been crucial for me to be in my own therapeutic work so that I can show up well for my clients. On the other hand, sitting with clients gave me so much life and reminded me that hope and resilience could always be found even on the hardest days. Although they had no idea, it was my clients who gifted me with inspiration and strength during the hardest year of my life. Each time I was able to witness them being courageous, I was reminded that I could do the same. When they felt deeply, it reminded me to feel and grieve deeply. We never talk about how much clients give back to their therapists simply by being themselves and human. But truly my work gave me strength even during the darkest days. 

What are the biggest issues you notice Asian women face?  Do you have any advice for these issues? 

My practice is mostly Asian American or women of color at this point. We must acknowledge that Asian Americans are not a monolith and so it would be reductive to say that we all have the same experiences. But I have noticed several themes that emerge in the Asian American clients in my practice which include: Strong pull towards perfection, difficulties in setting boundaries, struggles with understanding their own needs, complexities in navigating immigrant parents and their own nuclear families, etc. These are not unique to just the Asian American community either. Many of these themes resonate with children of immigrants from all cultures. 

My first piece of advice is to see a therapist if you can afford it. I’m biased, of course, but I do believe in the power of being in the presence of a warm, affirming trained professional who can help you look at unresolved pain or hurt and heal. But I also realize that talk therapy is not for everyone and is not accessible to everyone due to cost. If that is the case, I would recommend journaling, reading books on mental health and understanding emotions and communication. 

I offer 3 specific practices to start doing today: 

  1. Say no. Start saying no to things that you don’t have the time, energy or desire for. You are entitled to say no even if you have the time, but no energy or desire to do something. 

  2. Have an opinion. When your partner or friend asks you what you want for dinner, have an opinion. Don’t be the yes person who just goes with what everyone around you wants. 

  3. Make space to listen to your emotions. Many Asian Americans were never taught emotional literacy skills by our parents. Instead, we often received the message that emotions are unruly, disrespectful, and disruptive. So we often struggle to understand, express, and harness the power of our emotions. The more can you learn about the “message” of what your emotions are trying to tell you, the better off you will be in your relationships, mental health, decision making, etc. Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett, PhD is a great book for this. 

What does self care mean to you?  How do you take care of yourself? 

I run. I must run 2-3 times a week otherwise I cannot function well. The exercise is the primary way in which stress gets processed out of my body and it is foolproof for me. When I don’t prioritize my exercise, I get anxiety, discontentment, perfectionistic, judgmental, and critical. All things I do not want to subject my husband and kids to. So I run for them and for me. 

I also see a therapist. I have always believed that great therapists have their own therapists. As a psychologist, I have committed myself to lifelong learning. I am always learning and the stack of books next to my bed just keeps growing. I’m not sure if I will ever finish them in my lifetime, but I just keep trying. The more I learn about myself and how I see the world, the better I am as a mother, wife, psychologist, daughter, friend and human being. Keep learning. 

Here are some rapid-fire questions: 

Your go-to coffee shop order? 

Hot cafe latte or matcha latte. 

Favorite color? 

Blue. 

Any hidden talents or quirks? 

I am a boss at removing sticker labels. 

Ultimate comfort food?

My mom’s zhong zi (glutinous rice triangle). 

What has been the highlight of your day today? 

Sitting with clients. 

What is upcoming for you and how can people connect with you?   

For now, one of the biggest endeavors is writing a book on Asian American/immigrant mental health. I remain committed to my clients, corporate speaking engagements, and supporting the Asian American community, as we move towards more positive collective mental health and a racial reckoning that is happening within our community right now. 

People can find me at @asiansformentalhealth on Instagram or my professional website: www.jennywangphd.com


Dr. Jenny Wang is a Taiwanese-American clinical psychologist and national speaker on Asian-American mental health and racial trauma in the Asian-American community. Her work focuses on the intersection of Asian American identity, mental health, and social justice. She has a private practice in Houston, Texas, where she supports self-identified women through transitions across the lifespan. She specializes in working with medical and corporate professionals, racial identity and trauma work, and immigrant and Asian diaspora mental health. 

Social profiles: @asiansformentalhealth 

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