Therapists connecting with South Asian clients over shared cultural background

Janice Yu Image
Monday, May 20, 2024
South Asian therapists helping clients with shared cultural background
Janice Yu has the story in Midtown on Gaya Therapy helping South Asian clients.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- South Asians are 50% less likely to access mental health services than any other demographic and Gaya Therapy in Midtown Manhattan is working to change that.

The team is made up of South Asian therapists who are able to connect to their clients because of their shared cultural backgrounds and provide a space of understanding many have never experienced before.

Growing up, Gaya Kodiyalam was torn between two worlds. She was a daughter of immigrants from South India, but also a child growing up in New Jersey.

"It was really hard for me to feel a sense of belonging," Kodiyalam said. "I often felt so alone, isolated and anxious.. because I really couldn't find my footing."

It was therapy that helped her untangle some of the emotions, and how her family's culture, norms, expectations all played a part.

When Kodiyalam started working in the mental health field, she noticed a need for South Asian therapists -- people who could connect to the specific cultural struggles.

That is how Gaya therapy in Midtown, Manhattan was born.

"We get the nuances, we get how hard it is, the taboos and some of the shame and anxiety or fear that comes up around it, because we've likely experienced it ourselves," Kodiyalam said. "We're often taught to intellectualize or rationalize the feelings away. So if you're feeling mad or sad, often times a parent's reaction will be like 'well just don't feel that, distract yourself and get to it later,' but the getting to it later part then never really happens."

Kodiyalam and her team of seven therapists focus on a mind-body connection. For many of their clients, this is the first time they've opened up in this way.

Tamanna Ahmad understands firsthand how vital that comfort is. She's a child of immigrants and she has faced similar struggles in her search for a therapist.

Now as member of the Gaya team, she's breaking the generational stigma around mental health in the South Asian community.

"So many of our families have been in survival mode for so long, and for us to be able to do the work of slowing down, processing and reflecting and course correcting if we need, to me feels like both a privilege and a responsibility," Ahmad said.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* More Manhattan news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.