If you have ever been to school, have ever been a teacher, or have ever been a parent, then you know how important teachers are in children’s lives.

Teachers do so much more than teach content – they are mentors, guides, supporters, cheerleaders, and so much more.

In international schools, especially when children and young people live far away from extended family and support systems, teachers can be called upon to support children and young people as they go through difficult times. These may be times of transition and upheaval, times when a young person’s best friend is moving away to another country, times when young people are preparing to go to university, sometimes in their passport country and without their parents.

One thing we have heard from teachers is that although they very much want to support the children and young people they work with, they often don’t feel prepared to, or they feel they don’t have the training to do so.

A former colleague tells of a time one of his students had to leave his school because her family were relocating to another country. She was twelve years old and one of her classmates was her closest friend in the world; they took every class together and spent much of their free time in each other’s company. Their friendship was typically intense for this age group, made more so by the constant fear of separation characteristic of international schools, and as the date approached, they began to visit our colleague during break times, after school and even over lunch.

Our colleague did what he could; he wanted to help and offered generalised advice, but upon reflection he realised he did not have the skills or training to thoroughly address the children’s concerns. He recommended they go see the school counselor, but they wanted him to be their support person, as he was the teacher who knew them best. The leaving ceremony, and the parting that followed, was fraught with the grief of imminent loss, and our colleague felt helpless. He vowed to learn more about the Third Culture Kids he taught in international schools, in particular, about how to support this population through the difficulties associated with transition.

This former colleague was one of the many cases that has inspired us to create our newest course, Supporting Children and Young People in International Schools. In the course, we begin by exploring what makes international schools and Third Culture Kids unique, then move on to understanding the impact of transition, and finally we explore how teachers and schools can support children and young people in international schools. Our aim is to provide a course that gives teachers and school leaders a solid understanding of the social-emotional development of children in international schools, how transition impacts them, and practical ways teachers and schools can support children and young people throughout. We look at interventions at the individual, classroom, division, and whole school levels.

If you work with the globally mobile population and would like to develop the skills to deal with the difficulties associated with this lifestyle, you could consider our course, Supporting Children and Young People in International Schools, an essential component of your professional development. You may find that this training makes you more attractive to potential employers during the next round of recruitment, but most of all, you will have learned how to address the kinds of issues you are likely to encounter for as long as you teach in international schools.

 

Let’s face it. It is solidly mid-summer. How many of us thought that we would still be so far away from the finish line at this point in the year?

We have seen so much, heard so much, felt so much and learnt so much. If like me your brain is fried, it may be time to think about stepping off the Covid Information Highway for a while, in order to breathe, recharge and armour up for the next part of the journey. This month’s newsletter is dedicated to “Downtime” because we believe that overcoming the challenges we face will be more difficult unless we give ourselves permission to engage in ‘inactivity’.

What is Down Time?
Downtime is sometimes mistaken for “leisure time”, which may refer to hobbies and sports. However, ‘downtime’ is a different type of “activity”: that of inactivity, where people engage in doing absolutely nothing. One way to think of downtime is being un-goal-focused, where people are just in the moment, with no plans for the immediate future. The problem with downtime is that it is often thought of as a waste of time, people are seen to be idling, lazing, daydreaming. These terms suggest that downtime is neither understood nor highly regarded. The battle, therefore, is to validate its need in our daily lives.

The Benefits of Down Time

‘Downtime’ is a vital ingredient in our well-being. If we do not allow ourselves to disconnect and engage in ‘downtime’ stress builds. Stress-related illnesses impact individuals and can result in a variety of ailments including heart disease, obesity, depression and anxiety.

Four Levels of Stress
FATIGUE: here people become negative and critical about their daily lives.
PAIN: (Physical and Emotional) resulting in irritability, leading to conflict between people.
BURN OUT: here both mental and physical exhaustion manifests, often leading to:
BREAK DOWN: where a person withdraws from daily life, unless they can draw on coping strategies to counteract stress.

So ….. How Much Down Time?
Life can be hectic, and it is sometimes difficult to find time and space for ‘downtime’. Everyone has a different set of demands on their time. When planning for downtime, each individual has different needs, we cannot give you a formula here. True downtime should be highly prized and follow a person’s own agenda. It helps if people are proactive, building it into a regular routine, rather than reactive, as a response to problems that have already arisen. We seem to have built a world full of ‘doers’, so ‘not doing’ seems to have become a problem. We may feel under pressure to keep producing, but we cannot keep up that pace forever. Over-working, or not taking time off may lead to a less productive lifestyle. Somehow, we must find a way to see downtime as a positive resource and engage in it guilt free.

Downtime can be employed on a planned or an ad hoc basis. When we consciously choose to engage in downtime, some of the easiest strategies to implement are smaller breaks throughout the day promote relaxation. For example: a scheduled walk, a refreshment break in a different setting, a quiet meditation session, or connecting with family and friends. Downtime may also occur naturally between activities: while waiting for an appointment or when commuting from work. Perhaps during this time some good old-fashioned daydreaming, letting your mind wander off, can have excellent benefits. Allowing yourself a lazy Sunday morning with no plans, can provide effective downtime – as can unscheduled moments in our day, as Melissa discusses below.

Message from Melissa:

There is beauty in stillness, and value in inactivity. I will never forget the time that my husband and I were caught in a rainstorm at a park, sitting on a bench until the rainstorm subsided and then being able to watch the incredible display of birds coming back out after the rain. They swooped, played and danced, and this spectacular show is something we would have missed, had we been absorbed by technology or thoughts of work. I think that part of downtime is allowing oneself to simply enjoy “being” and appreciating the moment. After a very stressful few months where we have all had to adjust to a new sense of reality and feelings of an unseen threat all around us, taking some time for down time would be a very welcome thing. Be well.

In addition to the benefits downtime provides for our personal well-being, downtime increases a person’s overall performance. It enhances our ability to focus and problem solve. People are most productive when they alternate between periods of intense focus and periods of downtime. With this in mind, we conclude our newsletter with a reminder of some of the courses Theia Training offers in addition to new courses that are on our horizon.

Our summer intake is almost over, so if you are interested in taking the Certificate in International School Counselling or Working Therapeutically with Expatriate Clients, please get in touch or sign up soon. We are also excited to announce that we have two new courses launching this autumn – one for teachers and one for young people who will be entering university. We will share more information about these courses in our next newsletter – watch this space! In the meantime, in order to sign up for our courses please visit our courses page!

In this blog, I explore what can be an unrecognised population who may show up in your counselling practice: those returning from working and living abroad.

We are living through unprecedented times, and the demand for counsellors, coaches, and therapists is great. For some people who work abroad, their time overseas is ending abruptly and unexpectedly. I recently read an article about the overseas workforce in Dubai, and how many people are returning to their passport country as their businesses deal with the economic fallout caused by Covid 19. It would seem that this is a pattern repeated in many countries, as economic uncertainty ends many overseas contracts.

This will lead to difficult emotional transitions for repatriating expats and their families. We know that grief and loss make up an inevitable part of the overseas experience, with high mobility being one of the features of this lifestyle. For the counsellor specialising in working with this clientele, and in working with Third Culture Kids* this will provide unique challenges. But we feel it is important that counsellors, coaches and therapists in their “home” countries are aware of this returning population and have the training and knowledge to work effectively with them.

Case Study (fictionalised)

Margaret and her husband Jacob have been living in Singapore for the last 5 years. Margaret’s passport country is the USA, and Jacob’s passport country is the UK. They have two children, Lucy, aged 7, and Sam, aged 14, who are both dual nationals. The children have always attended International Baccalaureate International Schools, first in Dubai and then in Singapore. Margaret and Jacob have suddenly found their jobs under threat, and after some very difficult discussions have decided that their only option is to move to the UK, where the family have only ever visited on holiday. They leave abruptly, without the chance to say goodbye to the people and places that mean so much to them. They have very different feelings about this; Jacob is glad to have the chance to introduce his family to his home country and Margaret is very concerned that they are having to relocate without jobs and financial security. Lucy is worried about starting at a new school, and Sam is angry that he will have to switch educational systems. He will be unable to complete his International Baccalaureate Diploma and will instead enter the British educational system at a crucial time without really understanding the exam system. Upon moving to the UK, they struggle to find jobs, not only because of the economic climate caused by Coronavirus, but also because UK employers do not understand (or value) their international experience. Jacob is beginning to show signs of depression, and Margaret is becoming increasingly anxious.

As a counsellor, reflect for a moment about how you would work with each of the different members of this family. Although fictional, elements of the case study are quite common, and a knowledge of the expat profile, as well as how repeated cycles of transition and grief and loss impact upon this population, is essential for the counsellor. It is also very important that the counsellor have the knowledge and skills to differentiate between expatriate grief and depression. Additionally, it is well known that Repatriation Shock can be one of the most difficult stages of culture shock to deal with, and this is a particularly poignant time for counsellors to embark upon specialist training in working with this population.

The situation with Covid 19 may lead to some difficult and abrupt repatriations; it is likely that many of these returned expats will seek psychological help upon their return to their home country. It is worth repeating that these returned expatriates will have lost their home, their jobs, their access to friends and familiarity all at once. It is therefore important that counsellors, regardless of whether or not they have lived and worked abroad themselves, can understand and effectively work with this population.

It is for these reasons and others that we have developed our course, Understanding and Working Therapeutically with Expatriate Clients. It is designed for counsellors, coaches, and therapists to understand and develop expertise in working with this unique population. In the course, we explore the lifestyle and effects of living and growing up overseas, and we look at the developmental needs of children growing up in this environment. We look at transition, which is one of the main features of working with this population. There are often abrupt departures, if not by clients directly, then by their friends and close colleagues as their contracts end or they leave to attend to emergencies at home. We then explore specific counselling interventions that can be used when working with this population.  We examine how key psychological and emotional aspects of expatriate living may impact individuals and families, we identify and evaluate factors that affect expatriate mental health and wellbeing, and build on therapeutic skills, introducing a variety of interventions developed to serve the needs of this unique population. And, very relevant to the current situation, we explore Repatriation Shock.

During this time of worldwide upheaval, it is very important that counsellors understand the needs of the globally mobile population who may have to return to their passport countries quickly and unexpectedly. We hope that counsellors around the world will look to enhance their skills and knowledge in order to help this often unacknowledged population on the bumpy road ahead.

Stay well, Melissa

*children who have spent their developmental years growing up abroad as a part of the overseas working culture, many of whom attend international schools

It seems like yesterday that we as a family found ourselves in a situation that created turmoil within our expat community. It was May 2004, and ongoing unrest in our host country had seen the swift and untimely dispersal of expatriates to distant corners of the world.

One moment we had 700 children in our school and the next, we were down to just nine. My husband and I did not have access to our passports, but our children, aged six and three, did. We put them on a flight with someone we trust back to the UK, with a letter saying who they were and that their grandparents were waiting in the arrivals lounge. That day was the longest day in our lives. When the plane landed and we heard they were safe, the relief was huge. We were able to join them three weeks later. I had promised my eldest that I would collect her from the local primary school at the end of the day and, after a delayed flight, a cancelled coach ride and a fifty mile dash in a taxi, we made it with just fifteen minutes to spare. Of course, we spent the summer wondering if we were going back, what we would be going back to and if our friends would be returning. But by late August everything had settled, and we returned to our host country.

It is, perhaps, easier to understand the challenges facing those who leave suddenly and are unable to return. New country or repatriation, new job or unemployment, new schools, abandoned belongings and sometimes much-loved pets. The losses are endless. It is less easy to validate the feelings of those who return. Counting our blessings, jobs intact, we did not anticipate the challenges. We expected to return to the familiar, yet everything had changed. In its place was a blurred sense of home. Roads had closed, barriers were everywhere, roadblocks, and car checks. There were new rules and routines to follow. We no longer had access to certain foodstuffs, activities, favourite places to visit. One of the biggest changes was the human landscape. People had left, a few new people had arrived. For my children, their classrooms were unfamiliar, friendship groups broken, known and trusted support systems unavailable. It was as if we had moved without moving anywhere and that was difficult to come to terms with. The life we had known had gone. Our choices were to keep moving forward or leave.

A few years later, a reunion took place. One night, several people assembled in a wine bar in York, England – a rabble of older looking former staff, and grown up students who had been children when it had all changed. Stories and memories were shared. We laughed and there were a few tears as we realized that we had weathered the storm. We had not lost touch with each other, the world we shared had just paused. The goodbyes we did not say back then became important hellos. As expats, we can choose to focus on the amount of times we say goodbye, or we can also focus on the thousands of times we say hello.  We can dwell on losses or we can use them to shape what comes next.

Although the numbers at the reunion represented only a fraction of our school, they taught us something important, that the invisible bonds created through shared experiences are stronger than we may ever believe. You see, expat friendships run deep. My children are confident that they could go to most cities in the world and meet up with someone from their past, and just continue from where they left off. For expats, even with the passing of time, it is easy to merge a yesterday with a today.

So it is, in this current pause, that we are all sharing a life experience we did not plan for. It is challenging, but let me introduce you to what could make a difference to how you navigate through this turbulence. Firstly, time! As Expats, we have learnt that time is our friend. In time we got used to new ways of living, crafted friendships, rebuilt support systems, became more confident about our reinvestment in life. Secondly, people! Expats are experienced in dealing with unexpected life events but that does not mean we do not feel the impact. We just learn to look to each other for support. If there is something good to emerge from our present situation, it is the opportunities for connection and reconnection this journey has afforded us. So today, make a conscious decision to hold on to the connections you have made or rekindled. Do not say goodbye at the end of this crisis. Keep saying ‘Hello’. As change is inevitable, there will always be challenges on some scale. Time and connection are important, because together they give us the sense of belonging necessary to navigate the turbulence of life.

Stay Well, Kathy.

I had considered writing about something else this week, but Coronavirus and isolation are still dominating my thoughts, and I suspect those of many others. It is an interesting and, in some ways, difficult time to be an expat.

I live in England and consider it my home; my children go to school here; my husband and I work here. Although I am happy where I am, I still feel the poignant pull of going home to the country where I grew up, and I find the yearly trips back crucially important. Most of my extended family is back there, as are the places I miss that have so much personal history attached.  

It is an odd feeling knowing that my annual trip home is now in jeopardy. I cannot see us being able to travel this summer, and we might not even get there in the winter. Knowing this, I find myself living in my head a lot at the moment – fantasizing about the places and people I love on the other side of the sea. Somehow, knowing I probably will not be able to get back ‘home’ this summer has shifted my psychology and I feel like I am living here, but living a half-life in my head over there. I find that my dreams are full of airports, airplanes, and travel; sometimes successful and sometimes aborted. 

Having been an expat for most of my adult life, I am accustomed to living apart from the family in which I grew up. But I always knew that if I wanted or needed to go back and see them, I could. This feels different. I am aware, very suddenly, of the vast distances separating me from my family and the landscapes of where I grew up. Vast distances that are unbreachable without access to flights. The world has ground to a halt, and this has left many of us expats stranded psychologically in ways we have never been before. Although I am happy in my life here, and my day to day remains fulfilling and somewhat normal (as much as it can, despite shifting to home schooling and only going outside once a day), my head and heart are feeling the distance between my current home and my other home. 

I am trying to breach that gap by being more regularly in touch with the people who matter to me, and by planning on having an amazing trip when we next go back. Having ideas and plans about what we will do when we next visit is an exercise that I find helps me to feel connected. I also find that having a mindfulness practice can help to pull me out of my head and into the present moment. For the present moment is all we really have; thoughts about visiting the country of my birth are just that: thoughts. And as I find I am pulled psychologically towards another continent, I need to equally anchor myself here: noticing the beautiful weather we have been having, playing with the children, appreciating the family I have here, and enjoying nature in the beautiful spring. Those are my ways of coping. We will all have our own, and in the current circumstances these will be evolving to meet our changing needs.  

Stay well,

Melissa

There is no doubt that the Coronavirus is keeping many families apart at present, but for some families, expat families, this can mean being thousands of miles apart.

You may argue that this is part and parcel of expat life and, in a way, you would be right, as such families do spend a considerable amount of time separate from their extended families. Only this time it is different, as for many expat families there are limited opportunities to return home during this crisis, if any at all. Like many, on April 5th, 2020, I watched as The Queen addressed the nation regarding the coronavirus crisis and heard her poignant message “We’ll Meet Again”. As I write my blog, I should be enjoying Easter break with my family. However, I am sitting in my villa in Oman, my husband is sitting in his apartment in Saudi Arabia, and our two university-aged children are holed up in our house in the UK with the family cat, the only one who appears content at present as she has company 24/7. So how did this scenario happen?  

As an expat family we have enjoyed moving around the world together, appreciating new places and new experiences. Without doubt, it’s been a fantastic way of life. However, despite the perceived glamour, expat life has its challenges, and amongst the gains there are losses. Losses increase as expat families age and begin to splinter. First, my eldest left for boarding school, after deciding that she would like to experience Sixth Form education in her home country and prepare for university life. My youngest followed, two years later aged 14. The nest was emptying. A year later, my husband had reached maximum age for work Qatar so he moved to Saudi Arabia, where you can continue working. As there was no position for me, I remained working in Qatar. So it was that for a while we had four people in four different countries. People would often ask me if it was hard, I always replied that it wasn’t. And it really wasn’t at that time. We spent our holidays in the UK when the children would be home, so it didn’t seem any different than if I was waiting for them at home. Boarding school suited them both, it provided two expat children with an opportunity to experience their home country, in the only way available for them. Distance was never an issue, I never really felt we were apart despite the 4,000 miles between us. I believe there is a difference between physical distance and emotional distance. Though we were physically miles apart, emotionally I think we have always been a close family. For me, six hours flying from one country to another was no different than navigating the UK traffic. It’s just time. It’s hard to explain, but I don’t think I see borders (mountains, oceans and countries) like home country people might. I have travelled so much that the world seems to blur into one place rather than a collage of countries, if that make sense. I always took the stance that as long as everyone was alright, I was alright. Life was mostly uncomplicated, even if it looked crazy from the outside. If there was a problem, I could always get back. 

The thing is, we are now in this moment. Barely two months into my new job in the beautiful city of Muscat, we are in the throes of the Coronavirus pandemic. We are now all separated once more, but this time it feels different, there is no way back at present and that is hard. Suddenly the borders are reappearing. Now we experience the negative aspects of expat life. To fight the anxiety that comes with this situation, I have spent time reflecting on how to stay grounded and cope with the situation many expatriates are finding themselves in. Having trained as a Counsellor, I am aware of making sure that even during difficult times I can still see the positives, and to keep in view the personal strengths and safety nets we all have in place. So, I began to focus on the gifts that expat life develops within you and how we can, as a family, use them during these times 

Firstly, the lack of opportunity to touch base on a physical level means that expats are experienced in maintaining virtual relationships. This is our normal way of living, and though we understand face to face is better, the shock of this enforced way of connecting is not new for us. We are skilled in this and we have learnt to manage it over long periods of time. Our daily virtual family gatherings help to keep us connected. We even have an internet pub, The Bull and Bush, that we have met in for many years before now. 5pm is happy hour, it is well attended, complete with crisps, peanuts and last orders. I appreciate that connecting virtually may have its challenges, but we have to remember that this is our norm, it has served us well for years so there is no need for us to subscribe to the same worry and concern others are experiencing. We see it as an opportunity to connect rather than focusing on the disconnection that results from it.  

Second, the ability for expats to build connections and maintain them to survive each new place means they do not shy away from asking for or offering help. Expats place deep value in the relationships they forge and tend to go above and beyond for each other in times of need. In our absence, my family and friends at home, including the ‘Old Expat Boys Club’ have always willingly stepped up. This ensured my children were able to return home safely from university, belongings intact. A relief for sure! I am confident they will continue to provide them with a safety net for as long as they need. Another expat gift is Resourcefulness or the ability to think outside the box. To be able to quickly navigate, adapt, build support systems and survive in each new place, expats must be resourceful. Expats know how to quickly mobilise during difficult situations. They have an ingrained survival mechanism that clicks into place at a moment’s notice. This helped ensure my previously bare kitchen and house was stocked within no time – yes, even toilet rolls. Last, is the expat ability to stay in the moment during stressful times rather than worry about the knock-on effects. This is where we are for now, this is what is happening, everything is just a moment in time, let’s make the most of it or deal with it in the best way we can. This is often the mantra of the highly mobile. 

No doubt, as the world returns to normal, for those of you who are counsellors, you may engage professionally with expat clients, as many may be repatriated. It is important that counsellors understand the challenges facing these families. It is said that expatriates suffer more losses in the first eighteen years of their life than most other people in their lifetime. These losses are far reaching and will impact your client on multiple levels. In the wake of Coronavirus, economic uncertainty is real for many. For expats, it may only be the tip of the iceberg. Remember that when an expat loses a job, they lose not only their financial security, but their house, the country they have lived in and may have called home, access to friends and connections built over the years, their children’s school and school identity, their personal history and pets and possessions often left behind. This is in addition to the more tangible loss of any family members who may no longer be around on their return. Taking the time to increase your knowledge and skills to recognise and work with a population who remain largely invisible in our home countries is vital in helping you work more successfully with this unique clientele.  

Stay Well,

Kathy

As I write this blog, my family and I are entering our fourth week of isolation here in the UK.

As the coronavirus ravages the globe and changes the way we live and work, there is so much information out there about how we can cope and stay mentally healthy. We may find that we are on our own for long periods of time, or that we are with our families much more than we are used to. For some of us, this means home schooling and a complete change in how we work. For others, this can be a time of uncertainty as we don’t know what is ahead of us professionally.

I feel somewhat prepared for dealing with isolation, however, as I went through an experience that was in some ways similar a couple of years ago. I went through a long period of illness, which meant that I could not work and spent a lot of time on my own at home. This time was very, very difficult in many ways. But I figured out ways to cope and come through that time, and I thought I would share some of the insights I learned during this period in order to help others.

At first, it was hard to come to terms with what I was losing – my health was poor, and I had to put my career on hold for a time. I spent a lot of time in thought. Eventually I decided that I needed to use the time to re-evaluate where I was professionally and personally and to use the time to grow. I listened to a lot of podcasts and I spent a lot of time reflecting. But one of the main things that got me through this time was professional development.

I found that taking an active role in my own learning gave me something to focus on that was productive. The voices of my teachers and mentors became so important to me, as they were a window to growth and to the outside world. Focussing on enhancing my skill set helped me to have a sense of purpose and to feel that I was still somehow contributing to my own career, even if I couldn’t work at the time. Because of the profound impact professional development had on me at a time when I really needed it, I feel passionate about working in the professional development field and making these opportunities available to others.

It is my sincere hope that this reflection provides another perspective on what can help to keep us mentally healthy during the coronavirus crisis. Many of us are in lockdown, having lost our daily routine, our normal way of working, and contact with the outside world. Having a sense of purpose and forward momentum is a way of transforming enforced seclusion into an opportunity for growth.

I wish you all good health.
Melissa

I have to admit, I go to bed early and I tend to wake up early. When I wake up, I often start by thinking of all the things I need to do that day; sort of making lists in my head. It’s not the most peaceful way to wake up, but I just find that it’s what I “do.”

Well, yesterday I was listening to a podcast about the importance of how we wake up. I am already aware of the advice to start the day with some meditation, and I do meditate regularly. I just generally don’t do it when I wake up, despite knowing the advice. Old habits die hard, I suppose.

This morning, however, since it was at the front of my mind, I decided to use the time in between when I woke up and when I needed to get up to do some mindfulness meditation. I decided to do a body scan, having practiced Jon Kabat Zinn’s guided body scans for many years. I started with my feet and scanned slowly up to my head. And this morning was then different from most mornings. Rather than lie in bed and think about what I needed to do, I found myself drifting back to sleep, relaxed. I then woke up later, with the alarm. The differences didn’t end there – I didn’t want to open my laptop when I woke up, which I often do. This morning, instead, I wanted to read a book.

I think this is powerful. Not just because we know that how we wake up matters, but because despite knowing this, I usually don’t do it. Like I said earlier, old habits die hard. So this experience today will hopefully be the beginning of me trying something new and developing new habits.

In our most current course, the Certificate in International School Counseling, we have a module that covers wellbeing and how wellness practices can impact schools. We also cover types of breathing and meditation that help and that can be easily taught to children, teachers, and members of the school community.

I aim to write another couple of courses which incorporate powerful wellness research, one on wellbeing, and one for counselors/therapists on incorporating neuroscience in your practice.

Change doesn’t require drastic action or grand gestures; it just takes for us to wake up well in the morning. I hope reading this inspires you to look at your morning routine, and to incorporate some wellbeing practices when you wake up!

I remember my first days as an International School Counselor. I had finished my Masters’ degree in California, and had interned as a counselor to students of school and college age before spending two years in England as a high school counselor. When I discovered that there was a network of international schools worldwide, and that most of them had counselors, I was incredibly excited. I went to a recruitment fair and landed my first international school counseling job.

I arrived at my new school, a large International Baccalaureate (IB) school in the Middle East. It was exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure. As the Middle School Counselor, I needed to jump in to my new role and to understand both the academic program and the socio-emotional development needs of my students. And the truth was, I didn’t know anything about the IB. I frantically did as much reading as I could, but I felt lost when people would talk about “the Exhibition” or “the Learner Profile.”

It was clear that I would need to know about these things and to be able to talk knowledgeably about them, but I arrived without the knowledge or context to be able to make sense of them. I even researched IB training for non-teachers. I couldn’t find anything. So I decided that I needed to do all I could to learn about these areas on my own. I had the support of our fabulous Middle Years Program Coordinator and a great IB coordinator, and I learned what I needed to in order to best support my students and the school as a whole. I found ways of integrating the Learner Profile into my guidance work, and I worked hard to make sure the Middle School counseling program was visible and accessible.

When I arrived at my IB school, I had never heard of “Third Culture Kids.”  I would hear colleagues talking about TCKs and the research about how to help them. I felt that there were some teacher colleagues of mine who knew more about this complex area than I did, and again, I found myself on the back foot as I tried to learn as much as I could to help this unique worldwide population.

Having been through that, I realise now that it didn’t need to be so difficult. I could have arrived at my first international school job with the knowledge necessary to hit the ground running. My dear friend and colleague, Kathy Swords, and I have written a Certificate in International School Counseling program. This is a comprehensive eight-module course designed specifically for the international school population. It will help not only new international school counselors, but also experienced international school counselors looking to enhance their knowledge and skills base, as well as having a qualification that will make them stand out when recruiting.

In our course, Kathy and I first explore the Expatriate Profile, examining the most up to date research. We look at how counselors can support expats through transitions, and offer practical counseling applications of this unique experience. We also explore the history and current state of international schools, and the types of international schools (British, American, and International Baccalaureate) that counselors are most likely to work in. We explore the curricula of these systems, and look at how counselors can integrate their program into the school life of each system. Our intention is also that counselors are prepared to understand the different systems and to identify where knowledge gaps can show up for students who transfer between systems, and how counselors can help when this happens. We look at situations in international schools that can bring specific challenges to the work of a counselor, and offer an ethical decision-making model from which to work. We spend some time exploring the use of mediation in international schools. We conclude the course by integrating cutting-edge research around wellbeing and neuroscience into the international school counseling program.

In addition to providing targeted professional development in international school counselling, part of our aim in creating this certificate course is to help international school counselors to stand out in the recruitment process; to give international school counselors enough knowledge of the different systems out there (IB, American, and British) that they can move into a different system feeling prepared and knowledgeable; and to make international school counseling the best it can be.

We realise there is a shortage of professional development specific to international school counseling, and we aim to provide something of real value to the world of international school counseling. We have designed our Certificate course to be completed entirely online, making it accessible to counselors the world over. This also makes it an affordable training option, removing the burden to individuals and schools of costly flights, hotels, and other expenses.

We are here to support you as you make your way through the course. Each participant will have either Kathy or me as a course facilitator, helping and encouraging you along the way.

It is our sincere hope that this course makes transitioning into and between international schools seamless. I hope you are more prepared when stepping into your international school counseling position than I was!

In order to sign up for this course, please click here.

We are delighted to announce that our course, Understanding and Working with Expatriate Clients, will be launching October 1st, 2018.

This is a three-module course directed at counsellors and psychotherapists who work (or want to work) with expats. We created this entirely online course to meet the needs of counsellors and therapists all over the globe. We feel it is a comprehensive course with a good balance of theory and ready-to-use interventions, with a focus on both working with adults and children. We love working with this unique population, and hope that this course will give other counselors and therapists the skills and confidence to work with expats too. To sign up, please send us an email at contact@theiatraining.com.