Conquering the globe as an Expat Psychologist
Taisia Slobodjaniuk’s extraordinary life is the stuff dreams are made of. A young Taisia faced diverse challenges early on – growing up without a family, living with a sense of isolation, and the constant need for connection. “Growing up in an orphanage and having different experiences than most made me aware that I was dealt a different set of cards in life. And thus I was determined from a young age to fight my circumstances and come out on top as a winner, and to experience all the beauty that the world had to offer.”
The adult Taisia, who is a complete go-getter, overcame all her challenges and has since travelled to 55 countries, and counting! “I was always a curious kid who loved exploring. This strong sense of curiosity and ‘wanderlust’ directed my whole life, so as soon as possible I started to travel. I had the chance to live in many countries such as Nigeria, Switzerland, Belgium and Syria, and met incredible people from all over the world.”
Almost a decade back, Taisia found herself in the Netherlands. In the beginning, as an expat she was almost like a guest in the country. With time, she had to adjust to the new surroundings, get to know the locals, and get familiar with the Dutch language, which is a challenge. As all cultures and countries, the Netherlands also has subtle unwritten rules that dictate not only everyday life but also work environment.
“I would constantly look for someone to speak to, but it was really hard to find someone who would understand the expat life’s issues. One day, I happened to discuss this with one of my Dutch colleagues, and Voila! The idea of an EXPAT Psychologist was born!”
Once she surmised that there was no service offering support to expats, Taisia knew that using her experiences living in different countries, and her broad education in psychology including stress and conflict management, she could help expats work through their hardships. She then proceeded to set up her own practice in The Hague, and became the Expat Psychologist.
At Expat Psychologist, Taisia and her team offer high-quality support not only to the expat community but also their spouses and children. Their client circle includes ambassadors, international students, people who are working for international companies, NGO’s or UN-umbrella companies. All their clients come from many different backgrounds with even more versatile stories, and with all sorts of challenges. Taisia’s goal is to always be there for their expat community – so, they know that help is readily available to them whenever they need it.
“My greatest passion is people. And I am grateful that I get to follow my passion not only in my work life, but also in my personal life. I consistently implement two essential qualities in my personal life: curiosity and open-mindedness. That is why I love travelling, discovering and experiencing every different culture and cuisine in the world. It brings me great joy to be able to help gifted people manage their overexcitabilities and create a kind of bridge between their home country and the new country.”
It was this love for people that made Taisia realise her true calling in life. “Discussing mental health with Nigerian soldiers and finding ways to assist them in improving their lives, was a pivotal moment where I knew this was what I wanted to do for everyone wherever I went. Even now, my goal is to create opportunities and make support accessible for people like the staff in Nigeria; to seek help whenever they need it without any shame or guilt for learning how to take care of themselves.”
It helps that Taisia has a broad educational background – Master of Science (MSc) in Psychology, Conflict Management, Occupational Psychology, Stress Management Coaching and Consultancy.
Yet, “Creating my career as an international business woman, becoming the founder and leader of this private international psychological practice called Expat Psychologist in The Netherlands and Switzerland, by studying psychology and completing my MBA, has been my biggest achievement so far.”
She also considers it a huge personal achievement to have been able to visit 55+ countries, and not only experience their culture but also develop new perspectives and viewpoints to better understand and help people in her work-life. “For that, I’m truly grateful. My desire to travel inspires me to help more people and vice versa. Some people live to work, and some people work to live – but I get the best of both worlds.”
Being an expat or setting up your business are both challenging activities. How did Taisia overcome the challenges of both simultaneously? “There are definitely challenges every day, especially when you are an expat. Establishing my private practice in a new country and, at the same time, adjusting myself to the new surroundings was a big challenge. As the Expat Psychologist’s Founder, the most difficult challenges are language and cultural differences. I make sure that my team has a wide range of differences to exclude no one. Building a multilingual team to overcome these challenges is a challenge in itself. However, even if helping people with these differences makes the work harder, it is also undoubtedly rewarding.”
Summing up her years of globetrotting and counselling, Taisia leaves us with a crucial message – “Through my travels and experience being an expat, I have seen many views on mental health. The message I want to get out there to anyone reading is that seeking help is brave. There exists a widespread negative stigma when it comes to therapy, but I believe that reaching out to a professional for help is one of the most courageous things you can do for yourself to start improving your life.”