You’ve heard of anxiety therapists or those who specialize in specific mental health conditions. You have a general idea of what talk therapy is.
If you’re an expatriate or a person who has moved to a completely new country or state, you are likely trying to find your way through a variety of mental health concerns, such as anxiety or depression as well as coping with all of the life transitions that are suddenly upon you after the move. Simultaneously, you are trying to integrate yourself into a new society among new people with different backgrounds and attitudes, go to work, be a good partner and maybe parent. It’s not easy and frankly, kudos to you for taking the risk!
You know that therapy is important for your mental well-being, but did you know that as an expat, it can be beneficial there, too, and maybe even more important for your mental health than ever before?
But finding an expat therapist who is experienced with the expat experience is like finding a needle in a haystack. Some may be able to empathize and how to help you, but many won’t fully understand the problems that come with being an expat, unless they have experienced this for themselves AND cater to working with the expat community as a therapist.
Here are some things you should look for when it comes to a therapist who specializes in expat counseling.
If you are living in a different country, you are likely either learning a new language or trying to become more fluent in it. When you are searching for a therapist, sharing in the language that you speak is very important. This is particularly true when dealing with various emotions. When we are struggling it becomes hard enough to identify our emotions and thoughts, even in our native language. Imagine how much harder this is to do in another language?
Whether you are an English-speaking American living in Mexico or a British citizen who is now living abroad, you should be able to talk to someone in your native language. Why? Because you will be able to express what you are feeling more accurately and without the extra burden of trying to do therapy in another language. There won’t be any room for a different interpretation if you or they are trying to speak in a language that is not their native tongue. And working with an expat therapist can also help you to feel less alone.
You can’t truly know what someone is going through unless you have been there yourself. Did the therapist you are working with live abroad, study abroad, work abroad? Did they move across the country? Being an expatriate can be all of these things.
A therapist who has never lived abroad or integrated themselves into a new culture might be able to empathize with you. And they may be able to help you out just as well with your other mental health concerns, including feelings of isolation. But, a therapist who has also gone through the expat experience and who works as a therapist for expats in their regular practice, can go the extra mile for you.
Not only do they understand the psychological effects of culture shock, but they also understand the emotional toll and self-identity issues that being in a new culture can bring about.
What are the therapists’ experiences with living locations? Were they from the United States and then moved abroad to Italy? Are you also an American implanted into French society? Or a British citizen now living in Australia, or on the continent (EU)? Finding an expat therapist who has some of the common ground locations with you can help you feel as if you are being related to more. Certainly, though, this is not the most important experience of working with an expat therapist.
The most important aspect to working with an expat therapist is that you feel comfortable with them AND have confidence in their ability to help you get what you need from expat therapy. That you feel understood, seen, and heard beyond the most basic levels. You don’t have to be best friends with them (and you won’t be anyway because they are your therapist), but they should feel like the support system you need to get you through your new normal.
As an expat myself having lived in multiple places, I get how challenging this new normal is for you. I have lived in various parts of the United States, United Kingdom and Japan as both a student, and as a member of the workforce. I have found ways to integrate myself well into each of these cultures, despite all of them being vastly different from one another.
If you are an expatriate, you should have the chance to feel supported and understood. With expat counseling, I can help you no matter what stage of the culture shock and expat experience you are in.
Click HERE to learn more about therapy for expats. If you are looking for support from an expat therapist, please feel free to contact me at my Honolulu or London clinic. I am happy to offer you a free test drive session to learn more about how expat counseling can help you.
I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the USA and an Accredited CBT Therapist in the UK with over 17 years of experience, one of my specialties is providing expat therapy for expats. I also completed advanced training in using Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy.