Recently, we have been spending some time getting to know one of our sponsors, Therapy in Barcelona. Founder, Leigh Matthews, showed us around her beautiful premises while we chatted about her practice and about the mental health of internationals.
Therapy in Barcelona
43 year old Australian Registered Psychologist, Leigh Matthews, moved to Barcelona in 2011 after meeting her Barcelonian husband in 2010. Following a thriving private practice in Brisbane, Australia, she founded Therapy in Barcelona in December 2011. Initially a solo practice, Leigh worked as she raised her son following his birth in November 2012. However, by 2017, Leigh found herself referring numerous potential clients on to other practices, and fielding many requests from therapists to work with Therapy in Barcelona. That situation provided the inspiration to expand the practice so that it could embrace new clients and collaborating colleagues. And so, in September 2018, Therapy in Barcelona moved out of the home office into a sanctuary-like space in a quintessentially Barcelona building in the heart of Eixample with five colleagues.
Therapy in Barcelona is run by internationals for internationals. It specialises in the particular complexities that intercultural life can bring to adults, couples, families, children, and adolescents. Despite the palm trees and sun, many internationals feel isolated in their challenges in Barcelona as they are dislocated from their support networks. The aim of the practice is to offer clients seeking help a welcoming space from first contact throughout their journey facilitating mental wellbeing. Each therapist has a different specialist background, and many are multilingual, ensuring clients can be paired with a therapeutic approach tailored to their needs, in English or their native language. Additionally, during fortnightly round table discussions amongst the professionals, client issues can benefit from a kaleidoscope of perspectives and best professional practice is supported.
The key responsibility of operating a therapy practice is to help a person manage one of the most critical transitions of their lives: nobody leaves a course of therapy unaltered. Assisting in that hinge moment in someone’s life is the reason Leigh started out on this path, and it is the driving passion behind Therapy in Barcelona.
Mental wellbeing for internationals
Barcelona as a place can be a blessing or a curse psychologically. The quality of life is a great attraction of the city, but for those who do not feel as amazing as everybody says they “should,” the disconnection between expectations and reality can lead to anxiety and loneliness. Culture shock, even in a sunny and vibrant cultural environment, can happen to the best of us.
International couples also face the pressure of adapting to life in a different context or of navigating a relationship that bridges different cultures. Seeking help to cope with a change in situation or to facilitate communication can be a godsend to strengthen a relationship—or even to calmly manage a separation.
Third culture children and adolescents face their own challenges in the situations for which we, also grappling with the novelties of our Spanish lives, cannot always prepare them. In today’s complex world where most children and teens lead notably different childhoods from those of their parents, being an international family adds fuel to that fire. Professional intervention at critical junctures in a child’s life can give them useful tools to navigate the rich, multicultural lives that we have foisted upon them.
Therapy can be a practical tool in managing life and one’s expectations of life. As part of the onboarding process, collaborating therapists complete the sentence “Therapy is…”. A favourite answer is “Therapy is basically like a mental spa and a great gift to oneself”—it is a way to seek relief and treat one’s mind as any other body part. However, equally important is “Therapy is not about stopping suffering, it is a safe space in which to learn new ways of relating to difficult experiences, to create a meaningful life”—it is not surgery, and is not something that will happen to you, but rather is something that requires active effort from the client. That therapy encompasses both the relief of a spa and an active working environment speaks to the breadth of its nature.
Leigh’s key pieces of advice for mental wellbeing:
- Cover the essential bases of good health: sleep, nutrition, exercise and human connection.
- If you need to, ask for professional help. It’s 2020, any stigma you are worried about no longer exists! Therapy is there to help you put together a toolkit to thrive in your own life.
- Know your ‘why.’ To paraphrase Viktor Frankel, when you have a why you can endure almost anything.
- Cultivate self-compassion. It is often easier to be kind to others than to oneself, but treating yourself as you would others can enhance your capacity to cope with difficulties. Be your own ally: next time you are hard on yourself, try to identify this as a moment of suffering and offer yourself words of comfort.
- Build a community. It can be tiny, expansive, whatever works—and appreciate that it can take time, effort and luck to find your people, but it is a valuable investment in self care.
- Take on the mantra, “everything is welcome.” Drop comparisons or judgments, and develop an attitude of curiosity and acceptance—look out for kernels of pleasure or interest in even the most challenging of intercultural situations.
You can contact Therapy in Barcelona via their website.