Working With Transnational Immigrants: Expanding Meanings of Family, Community, and Culture



    1. Clinical professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego; independent practice, 3551 Front Street, San Diego, CA 92103.
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  • The core ideas in this article were presented at a festschrift in honor of Lyman Wynne, September 9 and 10, 2005, in Rochester, New York.


An increasing number of recent immigrants maintain intense connections with their countries and extended families. The complexity of relationships that arise from transnational connections calls into question dominant discourses about family bonds and requires that we adopt new theory and treatment considerations. The relational stresses and the almost untenable choices that economic immigrants face take the form of separations and reunions of parents and children, and difficult gender or generation transformations that need to be considered against this new transnational backdrop. This article proposes a model that encompasses foundational approaches with new approaches in family therapy by focusing on three crucial contexts for work with immigrants: the relational, the community, and the cultural-sociopolitical. Family therapists are also encouraged to create collaborative links with migration studies, a growing interdisciplinary field.