We talk to Australian psychologist Leigh Matthews, founder of Therapy in Barcelona about coping strategies for all the family in a period of Covid uncertainty as well as expat resilience.
Leigh Matthews and her international team of experienced therapists provide a safe, confidential space for adults, couples, children, adolescents, and families who seek support for a broad range of issues.
Leigh also touches on the idea of expat resilience, which is that expats have innate skills due to having expatriated or immigrated to another country.
(10:30) MumAbroad: Can you expand a little on expat resiliency?
Leigh Matthews: “I think that when we move to a new country, expatriate or immigrate, particularly to a country that’s so different like Spain we are thrown into a ground of uncertainty and unknowns. If you think about the cultural iceberg, and on the tip you have the language and the food and the clothes, but underneath that is all the concepts of time, concepts of beauty, concepts of social closeness, social proximity. That’s what’s really destabilising, and the cultural adjustment curve really looks like the Kubler-Ross grief curve in that, well we don’t have a honeymoon period with a loss, but when we first arrive in a country we have a honeymoon period and then we have culture shock. And culture shock incorporates grief because we’re also missing the lost certainty, lost sense of the rules and the norms and the cultural values of where we are. It’s really similar to this in that we’re still trying to find our self, we don’t even know if we’ll stay in the country, so that’s an uncertainty about the future and the rules are changing all the time with COVID.”
“We’re never able to really hold onto a particular rule or way of being, apart from how we conduct our every day lives. What expats do to cope with that, it might not be consciously, but there’s a radical acceptance: ‘this is different.’ There’s not comparing, ‘this is worse’, but ‘it’s just different and I can handle it’. There’s that self soothing that comes in: ‘it’s OK, I’m doing really well’. There’s creating pockets of calm, connection, self care, to be able to top oneself’s coping skills up. The capacity to be resilient. So I think that’s why expats really have these skills without necessarily knowing it. Also being disconnected from family and friends. When we first immigrate or expatriate it can be really lonely. It’s something I’ve seen in therapy, ‘hey have you been in touch with your family and friends this week?’ ‘Have you made it an integral part of our week?'”