The South Asian Couple Therapy Project

The South Asian Couple Therapy Project (also referred to as South Asian Couples Counseling), was a program of research initiated as part of Dr. Saunia Ahmad’s PhD research. The South Asian Couple Therapy project focused on examining the effectiveness of couple therapy with couples of South Asian background. This project was lead by psychologists Dr. Saunia Ahmad and her graduate supervisor Dr. David Reid, a professor at York University, Toronto, Canada. The study involved a close examination of South Asian couples during the process of receiving couple therapy and identification of techniques and ideas that best assist couples improve the quality of their relationship.

Couples representing a range of South Asian backgrounds participated in this project and included couples who identified their ancestry as Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, as well as other groups from the South Asian diaspora (e.g. South Asians from Kenya, South Africa, Guyana whose ancestry can be traced to the Indian subcontinent). The sample included diverse religious denominations and included Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Buddhists. Couples ranged from those who were dating to those about to get married and looking for pre-marital counseling to couples who were over 20 years married. Presenting issues were quite diverse and ranged from mild to severe and included conflict and disagreements around finances, sex, children, household duties, infidelity, in-laws, as well as instances of psychological and physical violence by one or both partners.

The results of the first study have been published in a peer-reviewed journal (read abstract). Results indicate that the couple therapy provided was highly effective, and that couples, by their own self-report, demonstrated significant improvement in the quality of their relationship. The work was completed by the therapists with a lot of dedication and intrinsic desire to help couples.

One unique finding that emerged from this reserch was how to help couples resolve conflict in their relationship that were related to their extended family (i.e. in-laws).

Dr. Ahmad and her associates use the knowledge on cultural sensitivity that emerged from this work to provide culturally adapted individual and couple therapy at the Toronto Psychology Clinic to people of all ethnic backgrounds. Her team has worked with people of several ethnic backgrounds that include European, North American, Middle Eastern, South Asian, African, etc. Dr. Ahmad’s clinical and research interests focus on improving existing psychological assessment and intervention models in ways that are more encompassing of cultural differences.

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