Date of Award

Spring 5-24-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Counseling Psychology


Professional Psychology and Family Therapy


Minsun Lee, PhD

Committee Member

Jason D. Reynolds (Taewon Choi), PhD

Committee Member

Caroline Clauss-Ehlers, PhD

Committee Member

Maureen Gillette, PhD

Committee Member

Noelany Pelc, PhD


help-seeking, intergenerational trauma, second-generation Korean American, mental health


The Korean American community is a predominantly immigrant population with a long history of historical and cultural trauma, including the continued losses, hardships, and violence endured through the immigration process, that continues to impact the well-being and functioning of individuals and families today. Second-generation Korean Americans play critical roles in establishing and maintaining the livelihoods and security of their immigrant families; however, they have been underrepresented and under-researched within the literature on immigration and its effects on the mental health and help-seeking patterns of this population. Although there is strong evidence for the influence of culture in the intergenerational patterns of poor mental health service utilization amongst Korean Americans, there have been no studies to date investigating what specific cultural factors are at work and how they impact the help- seeking patterns and behaviors of second-generation Korean Americans.

This qualitative study is a critical inquiry of the cultural determinants of help-seeking by examining the meaning-making process developed out of the family immigration narratives of 12 second-generation Korean Americans. Results indicate a strong connection between the family’s immigrant experience and help-seeking behaviors of second-generation Korean Americans through the activation of unique sociocultural schemas. Findings suggest the presence of specific trauma patterns embedded within the Korean American immigrant experience with significant intergenerational effects. Recommendations for clinical application and future research are provided.