Alternative Title

Experiences of third culture kid psychotherapists

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


Psychotherapists-Psychology, Third-culture children-Psychology, Cross-cultural counseling, Cultural competence


This study was undertaken to explore how being a third culture kid (TCK) impacts the experience of working as a psychotherapist. A TCK is a person who spent a significant part of their developmental years living outside their passport country, often moving between numerous countries. This study sought to understand the unique perspective that TCKs bring to psychotherapy work and to increase the visibility of transnational, multicultural therapists and clinicians of color in the clinical literature.

Sixteen TCK psychotherapists on five continents were interviewed, responding to a range of questions about how their TCK identities impact their experience of clinical work.

Five major themes arose in the findings, each of which had particular influences on the work of these TCK psychotherapists: parsing cultures and knowledge of mobility, rootlessness and a fragmented identity, being an integrationist, holding an insider-outsider perspective, and feeling accepted versus othered. Additionally, participants directly named five clinical skills or abilities that were enhanced by their TCK upbringing: familiarity with loss and grief; identifying with clients who experience alienation; an ability to sit with a client’s pain; being an observer; and, open-mindedness.




iii, 69 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 58-62)

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Social Work Commons