Thursday, October 21, 2010

Finding a therapist while living abroad

by Expat Focus columnist and Expat Expert, Robin Pascoe

During the many years that I traveled globally to lecture to expatriate clubs and international schools, I would always try to make time to sit down with mental health practitioners working with expatriates.

These informal sessions - where I could put on my journalist’s cap and ask a lot of questions - would include school guidance counselors as well the many qualified therapists living abroad. They all recognized the urgent need for expatriate families to be aware of trained professionals in their communities who understood the unique needs of the expatriate family.

Now, Josh Sandoz, a Seattle-based therapist, well-versed in the issues of the expat family and in particular third culture kids through his work with Interaction (the organization started by the late Dave Pollock), has put together a tremendous gift to the expat world at large.

He has set up a website called the International Therapist Directory at where professionals can list their services, and those in need of that assistance, can find them.

I ‘chatted’ with him recently via e-mail about the directory in general and the challenges of finding the right therapist far from home:

Robin Pascoe: How difficult is it for expats and their families to find therapists abroad?

Josh Sandoz: One of the main reasons I started the International Therapist Directory was to help ease the difficulty that so many expats have had in trying to find an understanding therapist. Many internationally mobile adults, families, children, and adolescents desire therapeutic supports in their locations abroad or once back in their country of passport.

My primary goal in developing this resource has been to create a comprehensive well-maintained online listing of mental health therapists around the world who self-identify as having experience working with TCKs and the internationally mobile community. Hopefully, because of this directory, the answer to this first question is: much less difficult.

RP: Besides the obvious challenge of finding the right person, are there other obstacles facing expats?

JS: Health care in general carries many various stigmas, depending on the culture of a particular community. Unfortunately, some attitudes are quite discouraging.

If someone I care about, however, experiences a broken leg, I would encourage him or her to seek health care from a professional who can facilitate a healing process. In my way of thinking, the same principle applies to mental health.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are concerned about community attitudes as you begin therapy, I would recommend talking about that dynamic with your therapist directly. Deciding how you will navigate those realities early on in your process will serve you well over time. After all, no matter your age, for better and for worse, peer pressure never really does go away...


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