Health & Fitness Wellness

Counselling in Hong Kong: common issues expats face

While setting up home in a new place is full of excitement and adventure, it can also bring with it a lot of stress and emotional upheaval for expats. Adjusting to a new culture, making friends, as well as helping the kids settle into new schools and routines can take its toll on family members. If you or anyone in your family is feeling overwhelmed and struggling to cope there are a number of places to seek help. We spoke to professionals from five counselling services about common issues expats face and treatment options available.

counselling: There are many factors which can put pressure on a marriage in Hong Kong
There are many factors which can put pressure on a marriage in Hong Kong

Marital issues

Dr Quratulain Zaidi

Clinical Psychologist

HongKong is sometimes called the marriage graveyard? Well, there are many factors in Hong Kong that can put pressure on a marriage. Jobs for expats can be extremely demanding and working spouses may be irritable and preoccupied, or suffer from stress-related problems, such as disturbed sleep and fatigue. This can lead to tension and cause arguments between couples. High-powered jobs can also create an inflated sense of entitlement, and business socialising can offer temptation for extra-marital affairs. Meanwhile, the trailing spouse may be dealing with resentment about career sacrifices made for their spouse. It’s important that individuals’ feelings and emotions do not get pushed aside for more functional needs. Don’t underestimate the power of spending time with your partner. It’s also helpful to talk about how to safeguard your marriage if this city’s temptations come your way.

Mind N Life

Suite 1202, Chinachem Hollywood Centre, 1 Hollywood Road, Central

2521 4668 | mindnlife.com

It's important to seek counselling if you are struggling after the birth of your baby
It’s important to seek counselling if you are struggling after the birth of your baby

Postnatal depression

Gira Patel 

Mental health practitioner

Postnatal depression is common, affecting up to 1 in 10 women. Onset is any time within a year of giving birth and is not just due to hormones. Having a baby as an expat can add another level of emotions to the experience of a newborn. Persistent low mood, tearfulness, anxiety, insomnia, loss of enjoyment, indecisiveness, withdrawal from baby and others are typical and distinct from ‘baby blues’; occurring soon after birth. Frightening ideas of hurting the baby or suicide necessitate urgent professional help. Counselling, guided self-help and cognitive behaviour therapy can provide valuable support, treat symptoms and reduce risk of recurrence. In more severe cases, a doctor can determine if a course of antidepressant is needed.

Dr Lauren Bramley & Partners

9/F, Pacific House, Queen’s Road, Central

2877 6068 | laurenbramleymd.com

counselling: Culture shock can have many impacts on expat children
Culture shock can have many impacts on expat children

Child behavioural issues

Dr Doug Seiden 

Clinical Psychologist

Expat children suddenly find themselves transported to a new world, without friends or the familiarity that builds a sense of security. This loss can be compounded by the stress of adjusting to new environments. Culture shock in children can involve sadness, anxiety, irritability, regression and acting out, or more serious reactions sometimes termed “expat child syndrome”. When tried and trusted parenting skills stop working, a therapist may be able to provide advice on how you can help your child adjust, child therapy to increase problem-solving or emotional regulation skills, family counselling, or a helpful combination of these.

The Jadis Blurton Family Development Center

19/F, Kennedy Town Center, 23 Belcher’s Street, Kennedy Town

2869 1962 | blurton-fdc.com

counselling: The loss of support networks can create a sense of isolation for expats
The loss of support networks can create a sense of isolation for expats

Isolation and loneliness

Scarlett Mattoli 

Psychotherapist/Psychometrist/Coaching Psychologist & Supervisor

Expats are distanced from traditional support systems, and can find that new friendships, especially given the frequent movement of expats, can be superficial or short-term leading to a feeling of loneliness. Partners also often feel isolated when brought out as the ‘trailing spouse’. Some initial steps anyone can take if experiencing low mood are to take some exercise, as this gets the blood flowing again, primes neuronal growth important for learning and gives a change of perspective. Arranging a regular schedule around group activities can also provide great social support. The best strategies for dealing with a sense of isolation and loneliness involve proactively engaging with others and seeking out some professional support if needed.

Psynamo Group, Mental & Allied Health Consultancy

1201 Car Po Commercial Building, 18-20 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central

2789 9907 | psynamo.com | flourish@psynamo.com

counselling: Learning to set boundaries is a good way to deal with workplace stress
Learning to set boundaries is a good way to deal with workplace stress

Workplace stress

Sebastian Droesler

Counselling Psychologist

Handle workplace stress by learning to assert yourself to manage workload and expectations. This doesn’t mean you have to say ‘no’ to a request, but don’t say ‘yes’ either. Learn to set some boundaries. For example, say: “I can have a draft by end of this week, but not tomorrow.” It’s also important to manage your multi-tasking by stretching out time dedicated to individual tasks to maintain focus for longer. An example may be you are writing an email and the telephone rings with a person following up on a question. Do you continue the email or take the call? Choose the task which is more likely to be finalised. Treatment can help by teaching some efficient mental strategies and easy-to- implement formal practices.

Counselling Hong Kong

6/F, Cosmos Building, 8, Lan Kwai Fong, Central

9640 8681 | counsellinghongkong.com | sebastian@counsellinghongkong.com

Read more in our Health & Fitness section:

How expat couples need to support each other