Bridging the therapy gap

York PhD student Saunia Ahmad has figured out that Western psychology, which usually focuses on the individual, doesn’t work for cultures where family is built into every nook and cranny of an individual’s decisions, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 23. A graduate student in the clinical psychology program in York’s Faculty of Health, she’s trying to craft a new form of therapy that will help those who don’t want to be pigeonholed into Western solutions.

It’s not only South Asian couples, the focus of Ahmad’s research, who could benefit from therapists with a bit of cultural awareness, according to Ahmad’s supervisor and partner in the work. "There’s no doubt in my mind…that what we may learn from working with South Asians may well benefit other cultures as well," explains David Reid, psychology professor at York. "We overemphasize personality – which is a very individualistic perspective – and we need to look at other factors, like culture."

Yvonne Bohr, professor in clinical psychology at York specializes in working with Chinese families. She says Ahmad’s work is crucial in order to reach "communities that may not avail themselves of services that they should. It’s very important work and we need to do more of it."

The Star also noted that Ahmad’s and Reid’s research program can be viewed at

York grad students work featured as ‘Deep Thoughts’

The Toronto Star featured the work of two York graduate students in its Deep Thoughts column on Jan. 23.

  • Gurbir Singh Jolly, a third-year PhD student at York, is looking at how cultural experiences are weaved into global interpretations of Christ. As many different cultural groups around the world – seen in Toronto’s ethnic churches – have embraced Christianity, Jolly finds it interesting that each will often bring their own interpretations to the image and character of Christ.

Looking at global church attendance rates, it’s easy to see, he says, that North American churches are experiencing declines, while globally – in Asian, Caribbean, African and Latin American countries – attendance is still high. Part of his work looks at why former colonies came to embrace Christianity, when it was frequently first brought to them in an oppressive form. "You don’t have to be a Westerner to be a Christian," according to shi, because people are bringing their own flexibility to the religion.

  • Second-year PhD student Laura Adams‘ work gets to the root of how these apes learn from their peers. She studied young orphaned orangutans in Borneo that were being rehabilitated at "forestry school" where they were taught basics of food gathering and survival. Since Adams is studying psychology, she was mostly interested in how the orangutans pick up new information, such as opening a piece of wood and sucking the termites out as a food source. For the most part, she says, they sit back and watch peers who already understand the task and then attempt it themselves – much like a human might do.

Orangutans are an endangered species and normally live with their mothers until at least age 7. So if they’re orphaned they can’t simply be released into the wild. In understanding how orangutans’ brains develop in the early years, she says, conservationists can know what programs work best for rehabilitation and education on food scavenging.

There’s more to life than work

A factory worker in Ontario toils almost two weeks more per year than a bureaucrat and six weeks more than a teacher, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Jan. 23, in a story about a new study from Statistics Canada that traces how long the average worker is on the job across Canada. The study points to an imbalance in the lives of workers, according to some experts. Noreen Pupo, director of the Centre for Research in Work & Society at York, notes "hours like this are where you start talking about work having an impact on people’s lives." Chief among those impacts, she said, is stress. "People do talk about more stress today. They’re always stressed out and find family resources are stretched to the limit," she said. "There’s not enough child care or help for caring for aged or disabled relatives and we need to take a hard look at that."

On air

  • Alan Young, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the Robert Pickton trial, on Toronto’s AM640 radio Jan. 22.

  • Roberto Perin, history professor at York’s Glendon campus, spoke about urban versus rural opinions, on CFMT-TV’s “Studio Aperto” program Jan. 22.