World Traveller turned Expat Psychologist
Having visited more than 55 countries and living in many such as Nigeria, Switzerland, Belgium, and Syria, Taisia Slobodjaniuk pioneered what she calls ‘Expat Psychology’. Today, she has her own international psychological practice at the Hague in Netherlands and Switzerland, called Geneva Expat Psychology, through which she offers high-quality support to people who live far away from home.
“The idea of this practice was born shortly after I arrived in the Netherlands. I was surprised to hear from fellow Dutch psychologists that there’s no practice to help expats specifically. I felt that as an expat myself, it would be a perfect opportunity to build a service that helps expats to face their challenges.
At Expat Psychologist, we offer support not only to the expat community but also to their spouses and children. Our client circle includes ambassadors, international students, people who are working for international companies, NGO’s or UN-umbrella companies. Our clients come from many different backgrounds with even more versatile stories and all sorts of challenges. Our goal is to always be there for our expat community – so they know that help is readily available to them whenever they need it,” says Taisia.
Growing up in an orphanage, Taisia was aware that she’d been dealt a different set of cards in life. Thus she was determined from a young age to fight her circumstances and come out on top as a winner, and to experience all the beauty that the world had to offer. She studied Psychology, completed her MBA, and focussed on her dream of travelling the world.
“Since I can remember, I was always a very curious kid who loved exploring! This strong sense of curiosity and ‘wanderlust’ directed my whole life, and as soon as possible, I started to travel and met incredible people from all over the world. Living such a life also brought a diverse set of challenges, such as being uprooted from familiarity, a sense of isolation, and the need for connection – all of which I observed within other expats who moved to a new country,” recalls Taisia.
Besides the challenges, living around the world also fueled her passion to help others. For instance, discussing mental health with Nigerian soldiers and finding ways to assist them in improving their lives was a pivotal moment wherein Taisia knew this was what she wanted to do. Her goal now 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.
People, as we discover, are Taisia’s greatest passion. “I’m grateful that I get to follow my passion not only in my work life, but also in my personal life. Whenever I travel and see how different parts of the world and cultures live, and whenever I help people in my work, especially ones that struggle to find someone who understands them well i.e. gifted individuals, I feel fulfilled,” she says.
How does she manage all the challenges along the way, we ask her. Establishing a life in the Netherlands brought several challenges throughout the last decade since she began living there, says Taisia: “In the beginning, we, expats, were almost like guests here in the Netherlands. So I had to adjust myself and the practice to the new surroundings, which includes getting to know the locals and getting familiar with the Dutch language, which is a challenge. As all cultures and countries, the Netherlands also has those subtle unwritten rules that dictate not only everyday life but also work environment. So it was an interesting challenge to see how I could establish and manage a team in a new country, where both local mentality and my own aspirations could work together in harmony.”
As talk turns to harmony, Taisia shares her thoughts on mental health:
“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 such 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.”