I am interested in the relationship between culture and mental health, particularly, indigenous healing systems, cultural psychopathology, embodiment, and health beliefs (causal attribution and explanatory models). My research is interdisciplinary, drawing on knowledge and methodologies from psychology, transcultural psychiatry and medical anthropology.
My current projects investigate indigenous healing systems for mental health. The goal is two-fold. First, I hope to identify the therapeutic processes in indigenous healing systems to culturally sensitize psychotherapy. As most psychotherapy models have been developed based on western worldviews, they may need to be adapted when being applied in other cultures. One way to make psychotherapy culturally sensitive is to study and learn from the indigenous healing systems of specific cultural groups. Therapeutic elements can be extracted from these healing systems and incorporated into psychotherapy. I have studied various indigenous healings in Chinese culture, for example, qui-chien (Chinese divination), Traditional Chinese Medicine, and feng-shui (geomancy). Presently, I research into thetherapeutic process and outcome of dang-ki healing (Chinese shamanistic healing) in Singapore. I am particularly interested in how its healing processes and outcomes are related to expectations, faith, hope, meaning responses (placebo effects), and the therapeutic relationship. The theoretical model that guides my research is symbolic healing model (Dow, 1986).
Second, I examine how the sense of self is transformed through meaning systems in ritual healing. For example, there is evidence that involvement in shamanistic spirit possession may be therapeutic, rather than being pathological, for the practitioner as well as their clients. This line of enquiry also sheds light on the relationship between therapeutic transformation and altered states of consciousness in the healing context.