Addressing and healing Asian-American trauma

In this podcast (episode #547) and blog, I talk to professional therapists and codirectors of the Yellow Chair Collective Soo Jin Lee and Linda Yoon about the aftereffects of anti-Asian hate during the pandemic, dealing with racial trauma, understanding family history and generational trauma, their amazing new book Where I Belong, and so much more!

Soo Jin Lee, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist, executive director of Yellow Chair Collective, and cofounder of Entwine Community. Soo Jin's experiences as an undocumented Asian immigrant have significantly shaped her understanding and approach to mental health care, particularly in recognizing and addressing the unique challenges faced by similar communities. Her background in fine arts allows her to integrate creativity into healing and wellness practices. This blend of artistic insight and therapeutic expertise is evident in her work with both individuals and groups, where she emphasizes holistic care. 

Linda Yoon, LCSW, is a licensed therapist and social worker who has dedicated her career to helping people along their healing journey find a sense of belonging. As a survivor of C-PTSD and having received a late adult diagnosis of ADHD, Linda is passionate about serving Asian American communities, survivors of violence, and those who are neurodivergent. Growing up, Linda was drawn to the color yellow, which symbolizes resilience, joy, and hope. This deep personal connection inspired her to name her founding practice Yellow Chair Collective. She is also a cofounder of Entwine Community, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit supporting Asian and Asian American mental health. 

In Where I Belong: Healing Trauma and Embracing Asian American Identity, Lee and Yoon talk about how mental health issues often go unaddressed in Asian and Asian American communities, including their own families. They discuss how trauma affects relationships, and they focus on Asian American experiences to help all people deal with racial and intergenerational trauma.” 

This amazing book is designed to help the reader “understand how they fit into the broader context of their family history and the trauma experienced by previous generations. Lee and Yoon draw on their own stories, as well as those of a diverse segment of the Asian diaspora, to help us feel seen and connected to the wider community. They provide essential therapeutic tools, reflection questions, journal prompts, and grounding exercises to empower readers to identify their strengths and resilience across generations and to embrace the beauty and fullness of their own identity and culture.” 

In many cases, as Lee and Yoon have seen in their practice, racial and intergenerational trauma in Asian American communities goes unnoticed. Unlike the more obvious manifestations of trauma seen in medical cases of PTSD or in medical manuals or books, many people in Asian immigrant communicates are socially taught to “keep on keeping on”, go to work, stay silent, and do their daily tasks, all while suffering internally. 

This often means that the traditional model of treating trauma doesn’t work well in these communities, which is why Lee and Yoon decided to create their own model to treat trauma. They discuss this approach in detail in Where I Belong. 

One of their main areas of focus is on a community-orientated approach to trauma, so that the people who are struggling are surrounded by others who understand what they are going through. Sometimes this is as simple as cooking or doing Tai-chi together to create safe spaces where people feel comfortable enough to recognize that they are not alone and can share their experiences with others who understand them. This is an especially important approach for older generations so that those who may be more wary of going to therapy can get the help that they need.  

Indeed, therapy doesn’t just look like someone going to a therapist. It can take many different forms, as healing is unique to the person and community. Some may find therapy and healing being around others with similar experiences over a meal or a shared game or event. For others, they may benefit more from seeing an actual therapist. These differences can also be cultural and generational.  

Part of this process includes understanding both someone’s personal history and historical past to better understand how intergenerational trauma can impact people on a personal and communal level. Indeed, part of the healing journey is to integrate “where I came from” to “where I am now”, but this can be challenging if you come from a community that has been socialized to forget the past or not talk about what happened. Finding ways to encourage older generations to talk about their past and share family stories to overcome and change learned belief systems is an important part of this healing process that Lee and Yoon focus on in their work and in their book Where I Belong. 

For more on Asian-American identity and healing intergenerational trauma, listen to my podcast with Lee and Yoon (episode #547) and check out their amazing work. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).        

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This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Relationships are hard work, but they truly make life worth living. Just thinking about my own marriage: it hasn’t always been easy, and we still have our ups and downs, but after decades together, working on ourselves and through our issues and making an effort to truly be there for each other, I can honestly say my life is so much more with my husband in it! But a common misconception about relationships is that they have to be easy to be “right.” But sometimes, the best ones happen when both people put in the work to make them great. And therapy can be a place to work through the challenges you face in all of your relationships – whether with friends, work, your significant other, or anyone. Therapy is an incredibly helpful mental health tool that everyone can benefit from, wherever they are in life! It’s helpful for learning positive relationships and coping skills, and how to set boundaries; it empowers you to be the best version of yourself. Therapy isn’t just for those who’ve experienced major trauma! If you’re thinking of starting therapy, give BetterHelp a try. It’s entirely online. Designed to be convenient, flexible, and suited to your schedule. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist, and switch therapists any time for no additional charge. Become your own soulmate, whether you’re looking for one or not. Visit today to get 10% off your first month. 

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Podcast Highlights 

2:48 How racial & intergenerational trauma can stay hidden 

5:08 Lee & Yoon’s incredible work  

9:40 Lee & Yoon’s new model of treating trauma  

14:15 The power of community & how therapy can look different for different people

23:50, 27:02 The importance of understanding our history & intergenerational trauma

29:00 Overcoming learned beliefs 

30:42 Understanding racial identity & trauma  

38:00 Lee & Yoon’s amazing new book Where I Belong 

Switch On Your Brain LLC. is providing this podcast as a public service. Reference to any specific viewpoint or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by our organization. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. If you have any questions about this disclaimer, please contact       

This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional. 

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