• Migrating to a new country and settling into a new life comes with a whole host of emotional and psychological challenges

  • Dr Sai Joshi specialises in supporting immigrants with their mental health

In an ever-globalising world, immigration has become an intricate part of many individuals' lives. The decision to leave one's homeland and embark on a journey to a foreign land is often accompanied by a multitude of challenges – challenges that can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. 

As someone who has experienced these challenges firsthand, I specialise in counselling for Asians who have immigrated to Europe. My personal journey as an immigrant has empowered me with a unique perspective and deep understanding of the emotional rollercoaster that migration can be.

Migration isn't merely a change in geography; it's a profound transformation that encompasses cultural shifts, language barriers, and the pangs of homesickness. These adjustments can trigger a wide range of emotional responses – from excitement and anticipation to anxiety and loneliness. Recognising these emotional complexities, migration counselling has emerged as a vital resource for those navigating the uncharted waters of life in a new country.

While therapy can be effective and supportive between diverse people, counselling on the subject of immigration can take on an even more profound dimension when facilitated by a native therapist who intimately understands the cultural intricacies and challenges associated with moving to a new country. As an immigrant myself, I've witnessed the transformative power of counselling with a native therapist in the lives of my clients. Here's why it matters:

1. Cultural insight and empathy

A native therapist is uniquely equipped to comprehend the nuances of the immigrant experience. Having lived through the process of acculturation, they understand the sense of displacement, the feelings of being a 'stranger,' and the tug-of-war between two cultural identities. This empathy forms the foundation of effective counselling, as clients feel understood and heard in their struggles.

2. Tailored guidance

Counselling sessions with a native therapist are tailored to address the specific challenges faced by immigrants. From language barriers to identity crises, the therapist can offer practical strategies to cope and thrive. This guidance is infused with cultural sensitivity, ensuring that solutions are rooted in the client's background while also promoting adaptation.

3. Overcoming stigma

In some cultures, seeking help for mental health concerns remains stigmatised. A native therapist, who is familiar with the cultural norms and sensitivities, can provide a safe space where clients feel comfortable discussing their struggles without fear of judgment. This contributes to destigmatising mental health and encourages open conversations.

4. Building resilience

Migration often demands a high level of resilience. Counselling aids in developing emotional strength by acknowledging the hardships and celebrating the triumphs of the immigrant journey. This validation fosters a sense of empowerment, helping clients face challenges with newfound confidence.

5. Bridging the gap

A native therapist serves as a bridge between the client's cultural background and their current environment. This bridge is essential for maintaining a connection to one's roots while embracing the opportunities of the host country. Striking this balance contributes to a healthier sense of self and identity.

Migration is an intricate dance of emotions, cultural shifts, and personal growth. Navigating this dance can be immensely rewarding with the right support. Counselling strives to empower immigrants with the tools they need to not only survive but also thrive in their new homeland. 

As a fellow immigrant, I am committed to helping my clients navigate this transformative journey, holding a lantern of empathy and understanding to light their way. Remember, you are not alone on this journey, and seeking help is a courageous step toward building a brighter future in your new home.

Dr Sai Joshi is a verified Welldoing psychologist in East London and online

Further reading

What's in a name? A therapist's reflections on belonging

The mental health toll of racism

How therapy can help when you feel lost