• 5 ways counseling is helpful for expats

    Being an expat and living abroad can be exciting, adventurous and full of new experiences.

    It can also be lonely, harder than originally anticipated and full of daily difficult challenges.

    When you set out on your expat journey, you might have thought about the first three things and not the last three things.

    To be honest, I was guilty of making this mistake as well. One thing I noticed is that a lot of people don’t talk as openly about the more challenging sides of being an expat. This can make you (well, anyone really) feel further isolated and lonely.

    Something I highly recommend to other expat friends is finding someone to support them (like an expat counselor or therapist) in their new country. Even if you’ve been an expat for years, getting support can be super helpful.

    Here are a few ways expat counseling or expat therapy is helpful:

    1. SUPPORT: You have support in grieving the loss of your previous life and way of living

    Most people don’t see it this way, however, moving to a new country and becoming an expat means you are in a process of grieving your old country and way of life there. Grief can be experienced many different ways for many different people. You can move in and out of several stages at different times. When you have someone to support you through this process, it can make all the difference. There are many counselors and therapists who specialize in working with expats. I recommend seeing a counselor or therapist who is also an expat themselves, they have first hand experience at what you’re going through.

    2. VALIDATION:Your experience is validated (the amazing parts of it and the more challenging parts)

    I can’t tell you how many clients tell me, “It was so nice to hear that what I was thinking about X, Y, Z wasn’t ____________.” Especially in 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic we can start to feel like little islands, floating alone in our experiences. The truth is, we often have so much more in common than you think. When you get support from an expat counselor they will be able to validate just how hard it is to go to the grocery store in another country, speaking another language. That experience (and many other seemingly trivial ones) is one in which our most well-intentioned friends and family may have trouble seeing why it might be so challenging for us.

    3. MINDSET SHIFT: You can begin to shift your mindset

    It is really typical for us as humans to compare two things in order to make sense of them. Many people who are living abroad compare the country they live in with their home country. This can be really helpful and if you get caught thinking about a lot of the things that were more positive for you in your home country, then you can begin to feel stuck. This is where the support of a counselor for expats comes in. They will be able to support you through this and help you shift your mindset about your current country. An expat counselor can teach you ways to shift your mindset and help you still honor the homesick feeling that can arise in your home country, while helping you feel fully present in your new one.

    4. LEARN NEW TOOLS: You will learn tools to help you thrive- regardless of where you are

    Your counselor will guide you in learning new tools to help support things that may come up living as an expat. What are examples of these tools, you may ask? One example would be examining your inner critic (if you have one.. A LOT of us do) and seeing how that inner critic is showing up in your new life. Is it criticizing you for how you are speaking a new language? Is it telling you that you don’t have enough new social connections yet? It can be really harsh and working with a counselor can help you have compassion and support for that negative self talk. There are so many more things you can add to your toolbox, this is just one example.

    5. CONNECTION: You will be able to connect and feel less alone

    One thing I hear often from fellow expats and expat clients is just how isolating being an expat can feel. Working with a therapist can help you cultivate connection. They can guide you to help you cultivate connection with yourself, your new country, a new network, etc. You will be amazed how this level of support can shift something in you and foster connection like never before.

    I offer all of this support and more to my clients, a lot of which identify themselves as expats. I primarily serve my community online through a HIPPA secure platform. I see clients in many different countries. I am also an expat counselor in Switzerland, providing expat counseling in person at my office in Zurich and by appointment in Bern, Switzerland.

    To learn more about how I might be able to support you click the Get in Touch button on my website and fill out the Contact Me form.

    Curious about seeing someone where you are located in the world? Check out the International Therapist’s Directory for a great listing of therapists who are working all over the globe.

    Was this information helpful? Leave me a comment and let me know so that I can create more content focused on expats.