“I need help with…”

 

Adaptation Issues

NCPS can provide short-term sessions related to adapting to life in France. For example, feeling overwhelmed and anxious, lonely, sad or even angry can all be a part of the adaptation process. We can help you find concrete ways to navigate and understand your situation and enjoy your experience here. Adaptation issues can include (listed below) Depression, Anxiety, Eating Problems, and Psychosomatic difficulties. Here is an article published on the Counselling in France website on “Depression on Arrival“. It may feel familiar to you.

Depression

Most everyone occasionally feels blue or sad, but these feelings are usually fleeting and pass after a certain period of time. When a person has depression, these instances can last for extended periods of time, sometimes feeling almost constant. Depression interferes with daily life and the ability to function and causes real pain and suffering for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her. Clinical depression is a common but serious illness, and most that experience it need treatment to get better.

Depression doesn’t manifest itself in the same way for everyone. Some sleep too much, others can’t sleep, some overeat, and some lose their appetite. Oftentimes people suffer from an inability to concentrate and poor memory, as well as social withdrawal (not wanting to see friends or family, no longer enjoying pleasurable activities).

Depression is more than a collection of symptoms. Treatment must include not only effective symptom relief (sometimes with medications, if needed) but also focus on how depression can slowly erode a person’s sense of self.

Depression can be reactive (post-partum, or due to a recent event), seasonal (people sensitive to light changes), or due to longer-term, deeper issues. Oftentimes the present-day concerns are related to the past, in that sometimes the way we grew up will influence our perceptions and beliefs today. Some of us are more vulnerable to depression than others, based on genetics, early family life, or trauma.

If you believe you have depression, an initial session can help us evaluate the best course of treatment for you here in Nantes. The most recommended treatment is often a combination of anti-depressant medication and psychotherapy. We can put you in contact with a caring English-speaking psychiatrist (a medical doctor specialized in mental health issues who can prescribe appropriate medicine) and, on our end, provide insight-oriented, interpersonal psychotherapy.

Anxiety

Coming from another culture can exacerbate anxiety and fear. If you no longer have familiar psychological “landmarks” (those things that helped you feel comfort in your home country) and are faced with the stress of a new situation and a new language, feeling anxious is a normal response. However, if it feels debilitating it can seem like one is a prisoner of these emotions.

Here are some examples common to expats:

  • Fear of leaving the home to go to school/work
  • Fear of speaking to others
  • Worries about the future (one’s career or studies)
  • Worries about family and friends in your home country
  • Fearing unnecessarily for the well-being of other family members

We treat anxiety by examining the erroneous beliefs that are at its root, and slowly incorporating behaviors that initially feel very challenging. This can bring quick relief from the paralysis that accompanies anxiety.

We can then delve deeper into how these beliefs came to be, and what unconscious purpose they may serve psychologically. For example, the anxiety may be a way of preserving one’s self, in a paradoxical way, from something very desirable. Someone who very much wants to be in a couple may have a fear of meeting people, or someone who wants to succeed at work may be terrified of public speaking. Exploring these issues more deeply creates a better understanding of one’s self and a lasting therapeutic outcome.

Eating Disorders (anorexia, bulimia, compulsions, orthorexia) and Addictions

Moving overseas may exacerbate an existing eating problem, or possibly create a new one. Sometimes we use food and weight issues to soothe the anxiety that comes with feeling untethered and foreign. Some people may use overeating to feel anchored and safe, others may adopt a strict regimen to get in shape. Both of these approaches are often used to fend off feelings related to homesickness or loss, or the chaotic shifting of our minds confronted with a new language and customs. Here is an article I wrote about this issue published on the Counselling in France website.

In the same way, some people will turn to alcohol, cannabis, or other substances for the same reasons. Finding a 12-step or similar program in addition to psychotherapy is often helpful.

Stress and burn-out

Stress and burn-out occur when people feel they don’t have a choice – they feel they are stuck in a situation (family, work, etc.) with no possibility of change or escape. People use a lot of energy to force themselves to remain in untenable conditions which make them unhappy. Either the conditions need to change, the person, or a bit of both – but this can feel frightening. Stress and burn-out cause true physical and psychological illness. In therapy we explore why this can be so daunting, and, even if a situation seems unchangeable in the immediate future, regain a sense of hope and creativity for what can come.

Isolation, loneliness

It’s important to monitor these feelings which, if too intense, could be a precursor or a result of depression. If it’s difficult to meet new people, psychotherapy can help you to explore why this is so, and encourage the small steps needed to break the cycle of isolation.

Psychosomatic disturbances

The pain (stomach trouble, headache, skin rashes, etc.) isn’t all in your head. In psychosomatic work, we understand that feelings that aren’t acknowledged (mostly anxiety, which increases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline) can “short-circuit” and manifest themselves as bodily complaints. This happens especially to children who frequently have stomach trouble when dealing with new situations. In psychotherapy we aim to undo the short-circuit, giving the mind the opportunity to fully recognize the impact of a difficult situation, allowing for thinking productively rather than somaticizing. With children, this is done through play therapy.

School-related Issues

These could be related to schoolwork (concentration, organization) or to the social demands of school (making friends, being a part of the group). Depending on one’s age or one’s goal, different modalities for therapy could be required. For example, a child having trouble reading may need a specialist in that field, and psychotherapy for dealing with the feelings around that. An older student may find that anxiety and/or depression may be interfering with their social life.