Moving to Spain is an adventure. Everybody will have a different story to tell. For most people it will be a very rewarding experience, even with the obvious challenges it presents. However moving country can be unexpectedly difficult for some people. I am an Irish psychotherapist living and working in Madrid for the past five years. Before that, I lived in Italy for 10 years, so I have had a lot of experience working with expats. I wanted to share with people some of the issues that people struggle with whilst living abroad, so as to understand that going through difficult patches is normal, and that getting help is always a positive step.
Let me start by saying that a wide variety of people seek therapy. Some people come to me as soon as they move to Madrid, knowing that a therapist will be a good support during a time of transition. There are also people who may have already had some struggles before moving country, and know it is a good idea to have a safe space where they can be open. However, many others have no experience of therapy. Perhaps making friends is not as easy as they thought, or learning the language doesn’t happen in the time frame they imagined, or they miss home . And whilst everybody experiences these things, for them it is affecting their day to day life, and they are not able to enjoy the experience as much as they could. Some people find themselves getting very low, and perhaps experiencing depression, and others have found themselves more anxious then normal.
At times there are circumstances that attribute to the difficulty, for example often young teaching assistants are not prepared for the task of teaching a group of twenty or so kids. Or it could be that the job position you moved country for is not what you thought it would be, or that the apartment you took a lease on is damp and cold. External problems are part of the problem, but often our emotionally state, and our way of thinking, are contributing to how difficult we are finding the situation. Therapy gives you the space to explore what is going on, and to unravel your thoughts. Just talking openly with a therapist can be enormous relief. However, there are also techniques I use in the therapy which really help to relieve depression, or alleviate anxiety, which then makes it easier to deal with the situation you are in. Clients find that there is great personal growth that comes from working through their struggles, as well as gaining other unexpected insights during the process.
Relationships are another area that can be difficult regardless of living abroad. I have worked with a lot of couples over the years, and as with individual counselling, some issues can be unrelated to their expat situation. However, many have particular difficulties related to cultural differences. The close family ties of Spanish families whilst often very enriching, can also be challenging for some people. Couples counselling can help you break difficult dynamics between you, develop new ways of relating, as well as look at ways to help manage cultural differences.
Perhaps, returning to your native country, or breaking up a relationship will be the best solution. However I would advise anybody who is struggling, that they should reach out for help, and give it some time before making this decision.
You may have to dig deep, but there is a lot of growth in exploring what you find challenging.