Psychotherapy For Foreigners

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Moving abroad, one is confronted with a delicious variety of new experiences and exciting opportunities. However, the disconnection from familiar faces and routines creates a need to work on connecting to your new environment in many different ways. Psycoterapist Margarita Llamazares draws on her experiences as being a foreigner abroad.

What do you think are the most challenging aspects of moving abroad, from a psychological point of view?
We need to feel part of a group, a context, and when you move from one place to another it can be difficult to be in touch with the ambience and with other people. When people move on from one place to another, the transition also stirs up psychological issues, such as childhood experiences. People move to another country for many reasons, sometimes it can be for a new job, or for new experiences, but there can also be an underlying desire to escape from a situation, or as a way of seeking something deeper from life. People who move away need to be in an atmosphere or context that makes them feel whole, and sometimes need help in identifying and achieving this.

Do you think it’s important to conduct your sessions in a person’s native language?
When you speak your own language, you connect with your roots, and this is important. Even when I work in English I feel I become another person, I can connect my mind and express myself in a different way. Difficulties arise because the language and culture are completely different, but even the way people relate to each other is different. Adapting to this can take a lot of effort, especially at first. This is why I also use reiki with some people, as they need to be calm and peaceful in order to understand the changes in their life.

What would you consider your role, as a psychologist, to be?
From a clinical point of view, as soon as symptoms such as anxiety, depression, or ongoing mental conflict arise, a psychologist can help you to overcome the problem, or work with you to reduce its impact on your everyday life. But there’s a difference between personal growth, with its growing pains, and clinical therapy. The approach and ways of working with someone seeking personal growth, when people are interested in connecting with their higher self, are completely different. The goal of therapy in general is to help people to help themselves more effectively. When you have a problem, it’s better to confront it rather than sweep it under the carpet, and sometime just a few sessions is enough to help you navigate yourself back onto a better track.

What would you recommend to foreigners who are aware that they need to integrate more into life here in Madrid?
Well, there’s no recipe, but the main thing is to be open and not to isolate yourself from your surroundings. You can meet people in all sorts of places, on the bus, in a bar, in a group of friends… Be open hearted, put yourself on the level of life , and try to give the best of yourself. Make yourself overcome the blockages that make us hide our treasures and withdraw. Happiness requires work and effort, we’re not happy because of the things that happen but because we intend to be. It’s important to keep trying to develop your inner being.

So how do you develop your inner being?
I work with gestalt therapy. It’s the process of being here and now, and the understanding that our way of being is rooted the past, such as experiences from childhood, emotions, and response patters triggered by associations with past experiences. But to be here and now you need stillness, serenity and emptiness, to wipe the slate clean of your previous ideas about how life should be. Old behavioral patterns come between the here and now, and through awareness and insight you can obtain a clearer understanding and platform for a more fulfilling and connected life.