Moving abroad either temporarily or permanently can easily have an impact on your mental and emotional health. Whether you notice it right away or find yourself feeling hopelessly melancholy a few months after your arrival in Prague, there are places to go where you can speak to someone. Professionals are available to discuss any problems you are encountering as you adapt to the local culture and customs, the long winter season, homesickness or any other issues.
Common issues facing expats
Dr. Belle McDonnell, a psychologist and therapist who runs Creativity in Prague, says many of her clients are in “bi-cultural relationships that can cause problems in communication because of their separate cultures. That seems to be common in my practice here and not so much in the US. Often they need to understand how cultural communication affects their relationships.”
She adds that there are of course many different issues that bring clients to her door, but very commonly, the issue involves the transition from a person’s native culture to that of the Czech Republic. “Some have communication problems with their loved ones or are adjusting to spending so much time in isolation because of the weather. In winter this is especially true,” McDonnell says.
In the experience of Svetlana Coalson, a therapist and counselor who owns Balanced Lifestyles Counseling in Prague, adjustment to a new culture is not the primary reason for people to seek therapy. She believes that in most cases, there are already other issues lurking, such as family, relationships, a job-related anxiety or depression. “So helplessness, isolation, identity-related and cultural problems that they experience when they move here just make other issues feel more acute. But I am a therapist, not a psychiatrist, I do not prescribe medication, and I can imagine that psychiatrists see more cases of people looking for psycho-pharmacological help to deal with changes. However, we should also remember that most people who choose to live and work abroad are at least relatively mentally healthy-people with serious psychiatric diagnoses tend to stay home, close to their support systems.”
According to Coalson, some policies of Czech VZP insurance cover a certain number of psychotherapy sessions “in case the patient has a psychiatric diagnosis and was referred to therapy by a psychiatrist. However, in my experience, it is virtually impossible to find a therapist (especially a good therapist, who is not desperate to get clients) providing Czech insurance-covered services in foreign languages. Providing services in foreign languages is considered by most Czech specialists who mostly work with Czechs to be a ‘nadstandartni’ (extra) service, and usually doctors charge foreigners more than they would charge local self-paying patients. Some psychiatrists, however, do see clients with local insurances for medical consultations.”
There are foreign medical insurance providers like Cigna International, Allianz, Bupa and Aetna that have some policies covering a limited number of therapy sessions, usually with a deductible. “But policies vary widely even within one insurance company, and these insurance policies are usually very expensive, and in most cases are provided by the employer,” Coalson points out. “Most psychiatric services are considered medical services and are covered by many insurance companies, but that involves getting a psychiatric diagnosis, which will stay in the patient’s files, and some people try to avoid this option and choose the self-paying (confidential) option instead.”
Choosing a therapist
· Make sure the specialist is fluent in your language. “Many local specialists speak good enough English to prescribe medications, but are not fluent enough to provide psychotherapy,” Coalson says. Also, awareness of multicultural specifics is very important. Coalson adds that some specialists without multicultural experience “tend to see normal cultural-diversity-and-expat-lifestyle-related issues as symptoms and problems.”
· Check if the specialist has the precise education, training and experience necessary to provide the specific service that you require.
· Find out if the specialist is able to prescribe medication. Only medical doctors (psychiatrists and GPs) have a right to prescribe medications in Prague, and many GPs will not prescribe medications for mental health problems, but will instead refer you to a psychiatrist—who will more than likely be a non-native English speaker.
· Try one session and see if it works for you. If you feel that the specialist’s personal style of working, their approach or personality does not fit you, don’t give up, and keep looking until you find someone who is right for you.
Specialists in Prague
Some English-speaking therapists and psychologists based in Prague:
Dr. Hazel Mycroft
Lotus Counselling Services, (www.lotuscounsellingservice.com); specializes in women’s issues including eating disorders, body image, relationship issues, sexual abuse and rape.
Dr. Belle McDonnell
Creativity in Prague, (www.creativityinprague.com); specializes in marriage and relationship counseling, career counseling, family therapy, depression and anxiety, parenting issues.
Festina Lente Consulting, (www.festinalente.cz); specializes in psychotherapy, perinatal counseling (the period three months before and one month after a woman gives birth), educational consulting, special needs.
Balanced Lifestyles Counselling, (www.praguetherapy.com); specializes in relationship and marriage crises, major life concerns, self-confidence issues, grief and bereavement issues.
Dr. Libor Behar
Behar Center, (beharcenter.cz); specializes in panics, phobias, obsessions, psycho-educational evaluation for children, support during and after trauma and catastrophes.
Counselor. (www.counselinginprague.com) Trained in crisis prevention and intervention by Covenant House (www.covenanthouse.org), Gail Whitmore has over 15 years experience dealing with depression, suicide, relationship concerns, sexuality, grief counseling, domestic violence, sexual assault, eating disorders and more
You can also have a look for more therapists in our directory.