top of page


Updated: Jan 13

Interview With Allison Heiliczer





Allison Heiliczer is an American therapist who has been living in Asia for over a decade. She works with individuals and couples in Singapore and clients around the world virtually. Heiliczer was the former Head of Corporate Psychology at OT&P’s clinics in Hong Kong.


While the hundreds of individuals and couples she has supported in clinical and private practice settings face various challenges, the common thread is they are navigating relationship issues.


She graduated summa cum laude from New York University (NYU) a Master's also from NYU, and a second Master’s in Counselling from Monash University (Australia). Heiliczer is also the first therapist in Asia to be certified in Relational Life Therapy (RLT), a transformative form of couples therapy, was pioneered by bestselling author Terry Real. In addition, she is an ICF-certified coach and has offered extensive coach trainings with executives and at leading multinational corporations.


Allison is also the author of Rethink the Couch: Into the Bedrooms and Boardrooms of Asia with an Expat Therapist, published by Penguin Random House SEA in December 2023.

The link to order the book:

Interview Questions




1. What led you to become a therapist, and what drives your passion for helping individuals and couples with relationship challenges?


When I was 16, I moved from New York City to California and started working for a Japanese family on a farm in a customer facing role. People from various cultural backgrounds would frequent the farm. As I started interacting with people from around the world, understanding their different challenges and hopes, I realized that my life’s work would be supporting people from diverse backgrounds.


I eventually moved to Hong Kong in my 20s and have lived in Asia most of my adult life.


The health of our life is largely determined by the health of our relationships, and I realized that working with people on relationship challenges exposed me to peoples’ deepest dreams, desires, wishes, secrets, and challenges. I continued to became fascinated with how cultural layers impact our relationships – who we marry, who we don’t, why there’s conflict, how power and control are negotiated, how values inform the perspective we hold on and effort we make in relationships, and so much more.


2. How has your unique background of living in Asia for over a decade influenced your approach to therapy?

When one lives abroad, there is often a choice in how to live. Many people living abroad see themselves as experiencing something temporary – shaped by an actual contract at work to be in a country for a certain time period, other times it’s more of a mindset as wanting to frame the experience as limited and ultimately return to one’s home country or go elsewhere.

There are some people who will try to maximize their experiences by experiencing as much as possible while abroad and others encase themselves in a particular bubble – an American bubble, for example, and interact with other Americans abroad, send their kids to American schools, and try to replicate the experience of being in the USA in other ways.

I’ve felt that my feet belong here on the ground in Asia, and so the idea of being here for a prescribed time or encasing myself in a bubble never resonated with me. Asia is my forever home. Therefore, I looked at ways to absorb and integrate as much as possible. This has heavily influenced how I approach therapy. I try to be deeply curious about what matters to people and how culture and values influence this. I also as an outsider am able to offer different perspectives when people do want to play with different ideas of how they might feel most supported.


3. What types of challenges do you specialise in addressing with clients?


My work focuses on supporting people with relationship challenges. I work with both individuals and couples looking for this support. Some of the challenges include:


- Deciding whether to marry, separate, or divorce

- Deciding whether to have a baby or another

- Working with couples on cross cultural challenges

- Navigating the aftermath of an affair

- Working with sexless and/or loveless couples

- Supporting people with the decision to open a relationship

- Negotiating values and decisions


4. Could you provide more details about your educational background and certifications that contribute to your expertise in therapy and coaching?


The formal training I’ve been fortunate to receive includes a bachelor’s and master’s from New York University (NYU), a second master’s from MonashUniversity, and a host of certifications. I feel privileged to have had this training, especially in light of neither of my parents having university dgrees.


As a couples’ counsellor, I’m tremendously privilieged to be the first in Asia to be certified in Relational Life Therapy (RLT) that, in my professional opinion, rethinks the couch in tremendously bold ways. RLT was created by Terrence (Terry) Real, and although it was born in the USA, it’s alive and thriving in Asia. Many of the RLT concepts resonate deeply with people out here.

I am also the first certified Healthy Boundaries for Kind People coach in Asia, a wonderful program founded by Randi Buckley. I have yet to meet an individual or couple who doesn’t need some support with having healthier boundaries.

In addition to being trained as a psychotherapist, I am also an ICF-certified coach. I attended the wonderful GoMaster Coach program in preparation for becoming ICF-certified.

5. What can readers and clients look forward to in your upcoming book for Penguin Random House, set to be published in Winter 2023?


My book, Rethink the Couch: Into the Bedrooms and Boardrooms of Asia with an Expat Therapist, has been called “groundbreaking” and a “page turner”. It’s the first book of its kind that brings readers into the therapy room in Asia with an expat therapist.


There is discussion of the stigma that mental health still has in Asia, yet there’s also a highlighting of the many ways in which mental health challenges are uniquely supported out here. In other words, not just what the East can learn from the West but what the West can gain from the East in terms of mental health support.


The book highlights the universal and unique layers of our experiences. Readers will see themselves in many of the themes – doomed marriages, affairs, loneliness, challenges at work, and more – and they will also see the unique cultural layers of people in Asia. Each chapter is a standalone narrative of someone’s or a couple’s experience, and each showcases a universal theme – an affair for example – and then shines light on the uniquenssof being in Asia navigating this challenge.


It was tremendously important that there be Asian representation in the therapy room so it predominatly showcases Asians and their experiences.

Readers can also look forward to the self-help aspect of the book – for example, suggestionsrelating to how to improve their relationships in thesexless marriages and loveless marriages chapters. Or, for example, there’s a chapter about toxic and stressed offices, and unfortunately at some point, most of experience either/both. There is a clear toolbox available in that chapter.


6. When did you know you needed to write this book? Was there one particular moment?


In truth, there wasn’t one moment I knew I needed to write my book. There were many.


One of the most profound unfolded a handful of years ago in Hong Kong.


I had started the city’s first therapy group for male refugees and asylum seekers. The men came from as far afield as Rwanda, Yemen, Egypt, and Somalia and represented a variety of cultural, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds.


Many had never even heard of Hong Kong when they fled their homes.


But they would have flown anywhere to feel safe and belong.



For them, staying put simply wasn’t an option.


One man, a political dissident, had been forced – at gunpoint – to watch his grandmother being raped; another had his house set on fire because of the religion he followed. A third was a former boy soldier, desperate to escape his past; a fourth saw his 12-year-old daughter mutilated and forced into marriage.


The night before our first meeting I went for a swim and thought to myself, ‘How am I, a privileged white women, going to support these men? Will they even want to talk about their feelings?


It soon became clear they didn’t. Nor were they moved by deep breathing, mindfulness exercises or any of the other hackneyed techniques therapists usually rely on.


It was time for me to rethink the couch.


So I asked them instead what would be helpful. They said learning a skill, regaining their confidence, being able to speak English better.


One man suggested we read a book together, so we started A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, about a child soldier in Sierra Leone.


We went around the room, each man reading a passage. Then we would pause and discuss all the ways in which the men did – and did not – connect with Ishmael’s story.


We read together, we talked together and we cried together as the book became a springboard for the men to tell their own stories.


By the time we were finished we had tapped into reservoirs of hope, something none of us had thought possible.


These men wanted their stories witnessed, not their experiences pathologized. They wanted to be seen, to feel connected, and to have their pain and their hopes acknowledged. They wanted to find a path to somewhere they could belong.


I still think about these men.


They inspired my new book, Rethink the Couch. And they taught me far more than I ever did them.


bottom of page