Personal Empowerment Groups for Expat Spouses!
Updated: Oct 15, 2019
Facilitated by expat specialist: English-speaking counsellor, psychotherapist and group facilitator, former expat Henriette Johnsen.
Often well-educated and coming from good jobs in their home country, it is not uncommon for spouses to experience social isolation, profound loneliness, depression and anxiety alongside an identity crisis once the initial settling in phase is over.
Research shows that many expatriation contracts end prematurely due to trailing spouse unhappiness. Don't be part of this statistic! Take support from other expats as well as my therapeutic and psychological skills, knowledge and experience in combination with my extensive understanding of expat life whilst empowering yourself to create a meaningful expat life.
The overall aim of this course is to empower you to build a greater sense of agency in your expat life.
What is a Personal Empowerment Group?
Expat life impacts and changes you in ways no one can prepare you for. Personal Empowerment Groups are support groups for expat spouses who want to gain greater self-awareness in relation to how expat life has affected them and apply this knowledge to creating a meaningful life whilst being an expat.
Sometimes expat spouses are described as ‘trailing spouses’ in the sense that they are somehow trailing after the working spouse who is employed in the expat country and the reason the move has been made. This can lead to feelings of lack of self-worth and identity or lack of direction or meaning in the life of the trailing spouse even if the trailing spouse is permitted to work in the expat country although often, they are not.
If you are tired of living in the waiting room, tired of sitting on the side lines and want to join the playing field, joining my Personal Empowerment Groups can help you make the shift.
What has inspired me to create Personal Empowerment Groups?
There is a saying that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger! In my personal experience, this is certainly true, but for years, I have wondered if it really is necessary to go through emotional hell to build emotional resilience.
Obviously, it isn’t, but as someone carrying lots of psychological scarring from childhood and not well equipped for adult life, I reached a stage in my expat life where I knew I could no longer go on. The emotional survival strategies I had learnt in my childhood no longer served me any purpose, and I learnt the hard way that I had to do comprehensive psychological work on myself to find a way of living a more meaningful and content life.
Drawing on these experiences as well as applying my teaching and group facilitating skills, my psychological knowledge and my vast experience of counselling and therapeutic work, I am passionate about helping expats become stronger and more confident in taking charge and claiming their place in the world to create a better expat life.
I know how lonely and challenging life as a trailing spouse can be. I wish I could have had some structured support alongside others in the same boat when I was a (novice) expat. The wellbeing of the spouse and family is key for a successful expat experience; and my dream is to empower expat spouses to create meaningful lives for themselves - lives which are so fulfilling they will be cheering for the working spouse to extend the duration of their expat contract.
Why would you want to take part in an empowerment group?
Not only will you save a substantial amount of money compared to individual counselling or therapy, but when working in a group you can meet and work with people who, like you, wish to gain a better understanding of themselves and make changes to their life.
In a confidential setting, we will develop a close-knit community focussed on the emotional wellbeing and development of its participants. You will be able to share personal struggles, be heard and understood as well as have support to create a good expat life - just as you will be able to experience the wonderful satisfaction of supporting someone else to feel listened to, understood and to make significant changes in their life.
During group work, many people develop their people skills and empathy as well as experience being accepted in ways they have never been before. Furthermore, it can be liberating to develop awareness of how your presence can make an important difference in other people’s lives - what you bring to the table will be enriching to the other members of the group. Your voice matters!
As such, group work is powerful, and research show that group therapy is effective in developing individuals. Often, having others witnessing one’s story, struggles, sorrows, dreams and hopes can be healing and instigate great personal growth and empowerment.
How does it work?
Over the course of two months, we will meet for three hours every second Monday. You can see the dates below. There will be no sessions during school holidays. Each week will have a theme, and there will be homework to complete in between sessions. This will be key to the outcome of your experience.
Each group will consist of a minimum of four and a maximum of ten participants, all expat spouses.
The group language is English, and everything discussed in the sessions, whether within the group, in smaller groups or in pairs (even during breaktime) must be in English and is confidential.
Each session will have a check-in round where every participant will have the opportunity to let the group know how they are and what is occupying or troubling them. Each session will have a theme and what the participants bring to the table during check in will influence our process.
Our way of being in the world is coloured by our psychological/emotional rucksack; in other words, how we are in the world today is determined by our earlier experiences. As such, the past continues to live with us in the present. Part of the work in the group is to help support each other to separate the past from the present and to find ways to not let the past disturb our current processes in creating a good (expat) life. Therefore, some of the work can be characterised as individual therapy, some of the work as group dynamic process.
As I have touched on in some of my blog posts, expat life adds another layer of complexity to our experiences and there will be plenty of opportunity to explore and discuss these around the themes.
There will be a code of conduct which all participants must commit to adhere to in order to make the group a safe and emotionally secure and supportive community. For all, it is key that the participants, to the best of their ability, embrace and support each other.
Sessions will be themed and structured around exercises as well as work and discussions in pairs, smaller groups and the whole group to build greater self-awareness and sense of agency in your life. Examples of themes are:
· Our stories;
· Exploration of how expat life has changed your identity;
· Building your strengths and applying them to expat life;
· Transitioning from old to new life - how to make the most of your expat
Throughout the course, whatever common denominators are present in the group will be integrated in the above; and there will be an ongoing focus on how to live a good expat life.
There will be homework, and you will have access to a closed, exclusive online community of expat spouses where you can take support from the other participants in between sessions and after the duration of the course.
What will you learn?
First and foremost, you will gain a greater understanding of yourself and your way of being in the world. You may experience behaving differently in the group than in the outside world; the group will be a safe place to practise other ways of being in the world. In my experience, it can have great healing effects to work on yourself in a group and it allows you to find ways of being in the world that work better than those based on your earlier experiences.
Built on well documented psychological research, compassion and the power of truth-telling and taboo-busting discussions, you will gain greater awareness of your (expat) identity, build your strengths and use your creativity, kindness and empathy to empower yourself to create a good expat life in Denmark.
Sharing your own story and hearing others can provide great healing and make a significant change to how you perceive yourself; often, the group becomes important and plays a vital part in the lives of the participants.
In the group, you will learn how to be present in the here and now, truly listen to others, give and receive feedback, and focus on your own development in and outside the group.
The exercises and group talks will enhance your ability to reflect, help you to connect with yourself on a deeper level and you will build greater self-awareness enabling you to better tackle the struggles you may have in relation to building a better life for yourself. All this in a safe and confidential environment where you can be you without pressure to be or act in a certain way.
Having witnesses to your life’s narrative offers you another perspective on your story and can help you work with your interpersonal skills, the way of looking at yourself and your life, as well your dreams and goals in life.
As such, group work is for everyone feeling ready for a change in life. Are you ready to embrace expat life and create a plan for how to do so?
If so, learn more, enrol or contact me here.