Expats and emotional difficulties

Living in a changing environment, living away from family and friends and the constant challenges outside the comfort zone test our emotional balance.

Working with expats by choice or necessity I see the same pattern repeated: People armed with will and desire for what they do, often in a well-paid profession, who at some point in their lives bend and ask desperately for help.

About one in three people go through such a demanding time at some point in their lives and my goal is to accompany them back to safer and happier life.

Bruno Calatano


My name is Vicky Tsiaousi and I am an art therapist, wife and mother of three children, who has been living abroad for the last 20 years, working with people who feel the emotional pressure of expatriation at every turning point of their lives through:

  • the social isolation resulting from the absence of friends and relatives

  • the requirements of their educational course, such as exam pressure, difficult cohabitation, etc.

  • the new professional requirements that can lead to many hours of work and burn out

  • the social adaptation to a new culture and civilization

  • the change of family dynamics and roles, often without any help

  • the mental and physical problems that may appear, such as anxiety, pregnancy or childbirth difficulties

People who come to see me are usually people who find the courage to acknowledge that there is a problem and find it difficult to understand and eventually deal with it on their own.

Who is asking for my help?

People who come to see me usually move to a new country in search of a better life, more often professionally and financially, some times emotionally too.

This movement is often accompanied by emotional problems such as:

  • family tensions, separation, extramarital affairs

  • anxiety and depression, social phobias

  • burn-out, job loss

  • addictions (alcohol, drugs, electronic games, etc.)

which can last from a few weeks, months but also years. These problems begin with the drastic changes happening in their personal, social and professional lives, and intensify when unresolved issues from the past could be added to the already existed list of problems.

Other times they come to help someone of their own, for example their teenage child, who feels like he is losing his way in communicating with others, at school or elsewhere.

Expatriation and adolescents

The above problems become more intense in adolescents where they are already called to complete the creation and understanding of their own identity and the world around them. When this world changes then this process sometimes becomes more painful.

According to modern research, 10-20% of children and adolescents suffer from some mental illness, while a 10% increase has been observed since 2000, according to recent research [5] [6]. Constant mobility and especially the important emotional events associated with it have been identified as factors that accelerate the above developments.

At the clinic (and less online) I also meet children with learning disabilities, autism and mental illness due to my previous experience as a special education teacher.

What I miss in my new life ..., M.K 17 years old, 2018


My approach

The first goal I set is to accompany the people in an honest relationship where they can feel safe and not alone. Understanding that there are others who go through the same or similar situations gives them strength and relief.


During the course of the sessions, the therapeutic relationship gets stronger and the discussions and analysis of their work deeper. As a consequence their self-awareness is improved and their identity, which is often lost in cases of movement, is redefined.

This process results in the gradual improvement of their self-confidence, which is a prerequisite for their smooth and effective integration into the new social reality they experience (family, work, studies).


Creativity, relaxation and trust create an environment where people understand better the new facts of their lives.

The therapeutic power of the reflection 'mirroring' either through their work or through the comments and ecnouragement of the therapist help them rediscover their inner strengths (their strong points and talents) and draw energy to redefine their lives.

How online therapy helps

In particular, online treatment is offered because it "follows" the person since no physical presence is required.

The safe space of the house with the simple painting materials and the therapist, an experienced companion in the adventure, is what is needed by someone who has difficulties in the adventure of moving from country to country.

It should be noted that there are cases where online treatment is not appropriate, especially when there is a risk to the safety of the person or others around him. The therapist evaluates the conditions and makes the appropriate decisions.

Treatment groups help a lot in dealing with social isolation

Defense mechanisms, C.T, 34

Case study

Eleni, 26, decided to emigrate abroad to follow her partner who found a job at an international organization. The difficulties he faced at the beginning were many, mainly on a social level, since he did not know anyone, but he did not even speak the language, as a result of which he spent many hours alone at home. This condition soon led her to depression.

When she came to the art psychotherapy team, Eleni had no interest or motivation to do anything, and with difficulty she made the decision to leave home. She started the group on the occasion of her studies related to art. At first she was quiet and very closed, she listened carefully to others and participated little in the discussions even though the group was very small. But he painted with a lot of concentration and he really enjoyed the creative process.

Slowly, Eleni began to trust the group and share with us her difficulties in this new life she chose to lead. Her self-confidence was very low and she felt without any identity. Am I worth doing anything in this place? Can; She wondered ... But now she did not feel alone and understood that there were many people in the same position as her. This gave her strength and courage to continue, while she began to make her first social openings, first with members of the group itself.

Creativity, the most interesting element of visual psychotherapy, began to help her every week and more to unfold her soul and her talent, helping her to improve her self-confidence and better understand who she is and what she wants in life.

She realized that she wanted to pursue the subject of her studies professionally and in addition that this move abroad was not only to follow her partner, but to avoid the unhealthy relationship with her family but also her rude and oppressive boss. in her last job.

Freed from repressed emotions and situations after a year of visual psychotherapy, she started practicing on her subject and spread her wings to fly ...

E.S 26, What I see from my window

Art therapy uses all the senses and especially the touch, while both sides of the brain are active.


  1. Kieling, Baker-Henningham, Belfer, Conti (2011), Child and adolescent mental health worldwide: evidence for action, The Lancet

  2. Meltzer, Gatward, Goodman, Ford (2003), The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents in Great Britain, International Review of Psychiatry

  3. Mok, Webb, Appleby, Pedersen (2016), Full spectrum of mental disorders linked with childhood residential mobility, Journal of PsychIatric Research

  4. Morris , Manley, Northstone, Sabel (2017), How do moving and other major life events impact mental health? A longitudinal analysis of UK children , Health and Place

  5. Oishi, Schimmack (2010), Residential mobility, well-being, and mortality, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

  6. Stubblefield (1955) Children's emotional problems aggravated by family moves, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry

  7. Susukida, Mojtabai, Murcia, Mendelson (2015), Residential mobility and risk of major depressive episode among adolescents in the National Survey on drug use and health, Public Health

  8. Tunstall, Cabieses, Shaw (2012), The characteristics of mobile families with young children in England and the impact of their moves on neighbourhood inequalities in maternal and child health, Health and Place