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Carina Tsang

Episode 129

Pursuit of Understanding Mental Health

Carina Tsang is a mental health therapist with six years of experience working alongside diverse and vulnerable families and individuals to bring about change and inspire growth. Carina moved to the U.S. from Hong Kong to pursue her passion in mental health.

Carina earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at UCLA, and Master’s in Social Work with a specialization in Adult Mental Health and Wellness at USC. From the medical field to the mental health field, she is not only a mental health clinician but also a medical social worker.

She works with clients with depression, anxiety, grief and loss, trauma, schizophrenia, self-esteem issues, and relationship issues. Coming from a diverse cultural background, she values the importance of providing culturally congruent therapeutic services with a holistic approach.

She also runs a private mental health practice that aims to bridge the cultural gap in therapy rooms.

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Carina Tsang Quotes

  • “And she’s not able to hug you. She’s not able to do any handshaking, because of her severe fear of germs.”
  • “I would say there’s a lot of misalignment. I always know that she loves me a lot, and I also have this understanding that she wants to hug me sometimes. So whenever it comes to Chinese New Year, my birthday, I knew she would want to hug me and try to make an effort to touch me, but I know that it was very difficult for her.”
  • “I would definitely think that it was a really challenging environment for me to grow up in. But at the same time, sometimes I’m not sure if this is coming from my upbringing or it’s because of my personality. Because I have been really good at staying by myself and playing by myself since I was little.”
  • “Even though I can name a lot of disorders, I see there’s a similarity that comes from different disorders, which is the trauma experience that they have. So, I always think that these disorders come from the traumatic experiences they had. So, I wouldn’t just consider them as crazy people. I would consider them as hurt people.”
  • “It was actually the first time I ever got a client who was suicidal, too. I was having a lot of stress and a lot of panic because suicidal clients were not supposed to be under my care. As an intern, I was not supposed to take any clients who have suicidal ideation.”
  • “In fact, I think at least 55% of people in their life experience at least one episode of mental illness. So it’s really normal that we have those feelings.”
  • Carina Tsang has spent much of her life in both Los Angeles and San Gabriel
  • Carina Tsang is a Mental Health Therapist
  • Carina moved to the United States from Hong Kong
  • Carina attended UCLA to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
  • Carina attended USC to earn a Master’s in Social Work with a specialization in Adult Mental Health and Wellness
  • Carina’s grandmother, who helped raise her, suffered from an extreme form of OCD

What is Carina’s connection to the San Gabriel Valley?

Carina has spent the past seven years in Los Angeles and another three years before that in San Gabriel. She loves the SGV and is very familiar with it. Her first internship was actually in San Gabriel, too.


Where did Carina Tsang come to California from?

Carina moved to the United States from Hong Kong. She lived in Hong Kong until she was 18 years old. The main reason that she left Hong Kong was for education purposes. She wanted to attend UCLA.


Where did Carina Tsang move to when she came to California from Hong Kong?

Initially, Carina moved to the Bay Area for the first two years. Then, she moved to UCLA when she started undergrad. She was closer to Santa Monica during this time. Eventually, she moved to San Gabriel because she felt much more comfortable there. She found herself driving over an hour to the SGV for good restaurants and company.


Does Carina Tsang find she has more allegiance to UCLA or USC?

Carina would have to pick UCLA.


What led Carina Tsang to want to pursue psychology?

Carina has a personal experience when it comes to dealing with mental illness, so to speak. Her grandmother had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). She was unable to touch anything without a napkin. She could not hug or give handshakes because of her intense fear of germs. Carina was primarily raised by her grandmother and grandfather, so her OCD had a profound impact on Carina.


What was her upbringing like due to her grandmother’s OCD?

Carina describes it as misaligned. Carina was confident that her grandmother loved her, but their interactions were difficult for her, especially at a young age. When it came to Chinese New Year or Carina’s birthday, she knew that her grandmother wanted to hug her, but it was very difficult for her. This also caused a lot of emotional swings in her grandmother.


How was Carina’s relationship with her grandfather?

It was distant. She noticed that her grandmother distanced herself from her grandfather, too. It was a challenging environment for Carina to grow up in, but Carina admits she has always been good at keeping to herself and playing by herself. She never truly felt like she needed to have peers around.


What is Carina’s relationship with her parents like?

Carina is much closer to her mother. Her parents got divorced when she was about two or three years old. Looking back, it makes sense that she is closer to her mother because her father was not around during her developmental stage. She only remembers seeing her father about once a month.


What happened in Carina’s journey after graduating from UCLA and USC?

The first position Carina had was working as a medical social worker and mental health therapist at a hospice care center. She was working with individuals who were diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Major depressive disorder was, naturally, a common diagnosis for these folks.


Does Carina believe there is a lack of education about mental illness in Chinese culture?

Yes, Carina finds that many in the Chinese culture associate mental illness with just pure craziness. Carina treats individuals with many mental illnesses, such as major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, and more. However, Carina is able to see a through line to the trauma. She knows they are not just “crazy people.” More often than not, there is an underlying trauma.


When did Carina Tsang first start meeting with people in a therapy-type setting?

Carina first worked with clients during her internship at a clinic in San Gabriel. This was the first time she ever had a client who was suicidal. Carina found this incredibly stressful. It also caused her to panic because, as an intern, she was not supposed to have any clients with suicidal tendencies. But no one knew until she was referred to Carina. In ways, this was good for Carina. It changed the way she viewed therapy.


How did Carina deal with this?

This experience forced Carina to develop boundaries. She needed to fully understand what she could do and what she could not expect of herself.


What is Carina’s official job now?

As of today, Carina is a Mental Health Therapist. She is working with clients who have pretty severe diagnoses. This includes schizophrenia, suicidal ideation, generalized anxiety, PTSD, and more. She believes that about 55% of people experience at least one episode of mental illness during their lifetime.


What methods of therapy does Carina Tsang use?

Carina would say that she uses a lot of cognitive reframing. It is truly about trying to see a combination of real-life truths with some dysfunctional thoughts in clients. In a broader scope, it is a cognitive behavioral therapy approach.

Picture of Carina Tsang

Carina Tsang

Asian Pacific Family Center


Apartment on Garvey Ave