Expatriation, a unique and enriching experience, remains a challenge for the expat and his or her family, not only due to the need to adapt to a new environment, but also because of the psychological work that such adaptation entails.
Federico Parra is a psychologist member of the Eutelmed network. Eutelmed accompanies you anywhere in the world through their highly secure and confidential video consultation system, developed specifically for expats. Eutelmed is compatible with several insurances, allowing partial or complete reimbursement of consultation fees.
The following is an extract from an article originally published in French at http://www.eutelmed.com/services/expatriation-aide-psychologique/ by Dr Bernard Astruc, psychiatrist and medical Directeur of Eutelmed.
The stages of expatriation
Research conducted throughout the last 30 years in the field of expatriation psychology have revealed very specific stages that are well known to specialists. The first of such phases, that of a "first contact", is mostly positive for the expat that often has chosen this new life and environment.
But it is at this stage that the first difficulties can arise for the partner or the children, for they often don't share such motivation to expatriate. It can be difficult for them to freely express their worries to their partner, father or mother. Difficult to take the risk of altering such displayed enthusiasm...
The arising difficulties might require psychological assistance
Difficulties for the expat him or herself might appear in the second stage, that can be marked by a form of disillusionment, confirming fears and hesitations experienced from the very first day or at the time of departure. The gap between the imagined expat life and the actual experience can lead to a series of unspecific symptoms: sleeping problems, anxious ruminations, existential questionings, or alcohol consumption.
In this phase the situation tends to reverse: the expat's partner might try to be reassuring, finally accepting the reality of expatriation. Children can begin adapting as well. And then, it is the expat him or herself that cannot express freely with his or her family, prisoner of his or her initial enthusiastic attitude.
There is a pressure to be efficacious, to assume one's decision, to develop one's network, to find solutions to the multiple everyday problems that arise during the first few weeks or months of expatriation, and to stop complaining since nobody could understand anyway. An expat must be happy! Their accommodations tend to be very comfortable, so what else do they need to be happy? Not easy, facing such stereotypes associated with the expat life, to be open to express one's worries and fears.
To trust in a psychologist with personal and professional experience in expatriation
Facing such difficulties, one must not become isolated. We've seen it, the partner is not always the best person to trust one's worries. Other family and friends are far away and might not understand the expat experience anyway. In this context, asking for help to a professional psychologist formed in expatriation problems can allow, in just a few sessions, to remove the doubts, to deal with the worries, and to welcome the future calmly.
Federico Parra has himself lived through expatriation two times, first as an Argentinean studying and working in the United States for four years, and later on when he migrated to France. He has faced the stages described above and has learned to integrate himself and succeed in these very different cultures.
Federico has worked therapeutically with several expats from different nationalities, online as well as in person, helping them to cope with their specific difficulties and to find self-realization within the great adventure of expatriation.