After learning that psychologists examine how people's cultural and other differences affect their thinking and behavior during an introductory psychology course at California State University, Chico, Terry Gock decided to become a psychologist.
As a Hong Kong native and a gay man, he had long been interested in how cultural and individual differences alter people's way of thinking and behavior.
However, when Gock told his parents that he wanted to become a psychologist, they were puzzled. In their traditionally family-oriented culture, people rely on their extended family members-not strangers-to help cope with their problems. So the first thing they asked him was, "You mean people pay money to come talk to you?"
Paying mind to the need to be responsive to cultural differences, Gock has brought an emphasis on cultural competency into his current role as director of the Pacific Clinics Asian Pacific Family Center, a Los Angeles County nonprofit behavioral health-care agency that serves adults, children and families in the Los Angeles area.
As director, Gock oversees numerous programs that address Asian-American immigrants' specific needs, including outpatient mental health care, child-abuse prevention, substance abuse prevention, and other educational and mentoring services. These services integrate Asian cultural values, such as striving for harmonious relations with others, in the programs' content and approach.
Gock also helps orchestrate federal, state, county and private foundation funding sources for the center's services. However, the key to the center's success, he says, is maintaining a constant dialogue with the local and national Asian-American communities as well as the clients of the center and their families to ensure that the services offered meet their needs.
"We have to be able to hear people's needs before we can be part of the solution," he says.
Gock also has a part-time clinical and forensic consulting private practice. In addition, he trains psychology interns, mental health professionals and other allied professionals, such as teachers, to help them enhance their cross-cultural understanding and competency in their work.
Gock has served in a number of roles within APA-including serving as a member of the Council of Representatives, chair of the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in Public Interest and president of Div. 44 (Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues).
In each of his roles, Gock stresses that working with diverse populations takes time, commitment and a willingness to adapt.
"There's no one-size-fits-all model," he says. "Even when we work with different Asian ethnic groups we have to constantly revamp and refine our work."
Letters to the Editor
- Send us a letter