The definition of a psychologically healthy person varies depending on changes in personality or counseling theories. Several common features—such as independence and autonomy—appear to describe the psychologically healthy person in the Western mental health field (Pack-Brown & Williams, 2003), reflecting personality and counseling theories based on European American individualism. European American values of psychological health, however, may not be entirely applicable to other cultures or countries, because one's cultural orientation and values influence one's understanding of well-being and what is ideal (Suh, 2000). The purpose of this study is to explore college students' and counselor trainees' perceptions of a psychologically healthy person and perceptions of certain cultural values while examining for potential differences between the United States and South Korea.
United States participants included 200 undergraduate students and 103 graduate students in counseling psychology programs in the Midwestern United States. Korean participants included 241 undergraduate students and 119 graduate students in counseling psychology programs in Korea. The study used four different versions of the survey: a counselor trainee version and a college student version in both English and Korean. Each survey consisted of two different parts. The first part was comprised of the Asian American Values Scale–Multidimensional (AAVS-M; Kim, Li, & Ng, 2005) and the independent Self-Construal Scale (Singelis, 1994). The second part was an open-ended questionnaire which asked for participants' perceptions of psychological health.
A two-way MANOVA was performed with SPSS to examine differences in perceptions of Asian cultural values with the five subscales (i.e., Collectivism, Conformity to Norms, Emotional Self-Control, Family Recognition through Achievement, and Humility) of AAVS-M by nationality (United States vs. South Korea) and profession status (college student vs. counselor trainee). A two-way ANOVA was performed to examine differences in perceptions of individualistic values by nationality and profession status. The qualitative data was analyzed using qualitative content analysis (Morgan, 1993) with principles of inductive analysis (Patton, 2002) and Consensual Qualitative Research (Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997) to find themes in participants' answers for open-ended questions using Nvivo software.
The MANOVA revealed significant differences in perception of Asian cultural values by both nationality and profession status. The interaction effect of the two independent variables was also statistically significant, indicating that the nature of the difference between counselor trainees and college students varies in the United States and Korea. The ANOVA revealed significant differences in the perception of individualistic values by both nationality and profession status. The interaction effect was also significant, indicating that American counselor trainees perceived individualistic values in a more negative light than American college students, while Korean counselor trainees perceived individualistic values in a more positive light than Korean college students. As a characteristic of a psychologically healthy person, 8 domains (personal and self, interpersonal relations, social norms, affect, cognitive-behavioral, purpose in life, coping, absence of mental illness) and 29 themes emerged as a result of qualitative analysis. Thematic differences between the United States and Korea as well as college students and counselor trainees were identified.
The results help us understand cultural value differences as well as impacts of counselor training in the United States and Korea. The findings suggested that counselor trainees in both the United States and Korea should be aware of their potential tendency to devalue Asian cultural values in their clinical work. The greater value differences between Korean college students and Korean counselor trainees particularly raised needs to develop culturally relevant counseling models and training in Korea. Suggested implications for training and practice of counseling in cross-cultural situations will be elaborated upon in detail.