challenges for digital nomads

Being a digital nomad comes with a lot of unique challenges. Many digital nomads often describe the lifestyle being much better than they ever imagined, but also much more difficult than they ever could have imagined. One of these often unforeseen challenges is seeing a therapist. We’ll dive into these challenges and how to address them so that you can stress less about being on the road. 

challenges for digital nomads

1. Constant change of location

Challenge:

Many digital nomads move around from frequently,  and it can be quite overwhelming to find a therapist in each location. Besides the obvious challenge of finding a new therapist every time you move to a new country, finding a therapist in rural areas is also a challenge. 

How to address this: 

Find a location independent therapist who offers telehealth sessions. This will help you solve the problem of having to find a new therapist in each location you visit. 

2. Language barrier

Challenge: 

Being able to communicate effectively with your therapist is crucial to the success of therapy. If your therapist is not fluent in your native tongue, there could be many things lost in translation. It can be difficult to find the right words for your feelings if you are not fluent; this could set back your progress in therapy. 

How to address this: 

Use the search filters in websites like Psychology Today to find a therapist who speaks your native language. Most therapist directory websites offer filters to help you find a therapist by language. You can also try a simple google search such as “spanish-speaking online therapist, “ for example. 

digital nomads

3. Access

Challenge:

As you may already know, there are some parts of the world who do not have adequate mental health resources. Therapists may be hard to find in some countries where mental health is not taken very seriously. Even if there are a handful of therapists in the country, there may be a waitlist to see one. Moreover, you could also struggle to access a therapist due to a lack of WiFi in your area. Not having a reliable internet connection to be able to access telehealth sessions may add to your anxiety and stress. 

How to address this: 

Invest in a mobile hotspot to ensure you have WiFi wherever you go, so that your therapy sessions are not interrupted. Having regular access to therapy services will go a long way in your mental health journey. 

one in four adults are affected by mental health disorders

4. Stigma

Challenge:

The stigma around seeing a therapist has a long history and spreads across many different cultures. However, it is more pronounced in some parts of the world than others. It can often be hard to challenge people’s perceptions of mental health and their understanding of therapy. Many people still believe that there is something wrong with you if you see a therapist. These are incorrect and antiquated assumptions may make it hard for you to seek help when you need it most.

How to address this: 

Remind yourself that your mental well-being matters. Don’t let the stigma create self-doubt and shame. Try talking to people who are currently seeing a therapist about their experience. Remember that you are not alone. According to the World Health Organization, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental disorders at some point in their lives. You can speak out against the stigma and explain to those around you that therapy is for everyone. Teaching others about the importance of mental health and the benefits of seeing a therapist helps end the stigma. 

5. Quality

Challenge:

Finding a qualified therapist can be daunting in certain countries. Only a handful of countries in the world regulate counselors and therapists. The internet is a wonderful tool, however, beware of people who do not have qualifications and claim to be therapists. Companies like BetterHelp or TalkSpace may seem convenient for finding a qualified therapist, but many of these therapy companies are not run by therapists. It’s important that the companies are run by people with knowledge and undestanding of the complexity of therapy. It’s possible that ethical standards, confidentiality, and informed consent are not upheld in these companies to the same level. You can find an article detailing more issues on this written by a therapist who worked for BetterHelp here.

How to address this: 

Don’t be afraid to ask a therapist you are thinking of seeing about their qualifications and experience. Do a bit of research if you are still unsure of what the credentials they give you mean. Furthermore, you can also ask what code of conduct they follow. This will give you a better idea of how ethical they will be throughout your sessions. A professional mental health professional will have no issue providing you with reassurance that their qualifications are valid and that they have the tools needed to best help you in your mental health journey. 

digital nomads

6. Understanding of lifestyle

Challenge:

While many therapists may have traveled abroad on holidays, most therapists are not digital nomads. It is possible that some therapists may not even be familiar with the digital nomad community or be at all knowledgeable about the type of lifestyle this entails. It can be hard to connect with a therapist who doesn’t understand your life choices or the unique challenges you face as a digital nomad. Nomads have expressed their frustration about how challenging it was to find someone who didn’t judge their lifestyle. One particular nomadic client mentioned that she often would find herself explaining or defending her lifestyle for the majority of a therapy session, and she wasn’t making much therapeutic progress for that reason.

How to address this: 

Find a therapist who is also a digital nomad or perhaps an avid traveler who understands the lifestyle well. While being a digital nomad and a therapist is not the norm, there are some of us who love to travel and have decided to combine our passions for traveling and helping others. If you find a Digital Nomad Therapist who is not accepting any more clients, ask that therapist for a referral. The odds of a digital nomad therapist knowing others who also understand the lifestyle are great. 

time zone challenges

7. Time zone

Challenge:

As probably all digital nomads have realized,  time zones are your worst enemy. Time zones can be particularly challenging when seeing a therapist because most therapists have set office hours and will not be flexible to accommodate your new time zone. This can make it hard to find a time to have a session that is not in the middle of the night for you. 

How to address this: 

Talking to a therapist who has some flexibility in office hours is ideal as you may need to have sessions at different times or on different days. Using a time zone converter or a tool like Calendly will make scheduling easier when you are in a different time zone than your therapist. Have a conversation with potential therapists about this and explain why it will often be difficult for you to fit a session into traditional office hours. If the therapist you speak to does not have that flexibility, ask if he/she can recommend a therapist who may have the flexibility you need. 

8. Consistency

Challenge:

It can be so hard to be consistent with your therapy sessions when you are a nomad. Between managing your visas, accommodation, and workload- it can often be overwhelming trying to find time to sit down with a therapist. There are times in our lives when it is not essential for us to have weekly therapy sessions. However, there are some presenting problems which are addressed more efficiently with consistent sessions. 

How to address this: 

Prioritize therapy sessions as much as you can. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health and needs to be treated as such. Although it can be tedious to make the time to even schedule a session, remind yourself of how good you will feel once your mental health is in great shape. Try having a conversation with your therapist about consistency. Make sure it’s clear how often you should strive to have sessions. 

Talk about the barriers that are stopping you from being as consistent in therapy sessions. Communication between you and your therapist is key so that you don’t lose a spot as a client if you miss sessions. It’s important to ask about cancellations and no-show policies, in case there is a mix-up or an emergency that makes you miss a session. Ask the therapist if they offer packages since this may incentivize you to book sessions as well since they often include savings. 

therapy

9. Finding a therapist who specializes in what you need

Challenge:

Most therapists specialize in certain kinds of treatment techniques or presenting problems. If you are seeking therapy because you are experiencing depression, for example, you may not benefit as much from seeing a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. The most common problems among digital nomads are loneliness, depression, anxiety, and relationship troubles. While these problems are experienced by those who are not nomadic as well, being a digital nomad often can heighten these problems in different ways and add unique challenges. 

How to address this: 

Make sure your search for a therapist includes the specialty that you need. If you are unsure what your presenting problem is, have a chat with a therapist about your symptoms and emotions. A therapist will be able to determine from an initial consultation the type of specialty services you may need and can provide further guidance or a referral. You can use the filters in Psychology Today to search for therapists by specialty as well. 

10. Connection

Challenge:

Research studies show that “good quality [therapy-client] relationships…are statistically correlated with successful outcomes” (Horvath and Symonds 1991). This means it is important to find a therapist you connect with. As a client, you have to feel comfortable with your therapist and trust that person to guide you in the right direction. Being able to trust your therapist with anything that’s on your mind is essential to your success in therapy. Finding someone you connect with on a deeper level and can fully trust may take some time. 

How to address this: 

Take advantage of the free consultations many therapists offer. These consultations are offered at no cost to ensure it’s a right fit for both parties. It is during this consultation when you can ask questions to get a sense of whether or not the therapist holds the same values as you do. After the initial consultation, you will be better able to assess if the therapist can help you with what you need. If it’s not a right fit, ask the therapist to refer you to a colleague he/she may think could help you. Communicate clearly with the therapist to ensure you get the referrals you need. 

You can be a digital nomad and maintain good mental health

Taking care of your mental health while traveling can seem like a huge hassle. However, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to prioritize your mental wellbeing. Are there more challenges to seeing a therapist while living a nomadic life? Yes, quite possibly. If you have chosen this lifestyle though, you have probably come to understand that it isn’t all beaches and margaritas as portrayed on social media. The life of a digital nomad can be really hard. Living in a constant survival mode state when uprooting your life, maintaining any kind of routine, and constantly leaving friends are just some of the cons of the nomadic life. 

However, If you have decided this lifestyle is for you, there are definitely ways to stay on track of your mental health to live a happy and fulfilled life. Seeing a therapist is a great way to take care of your mind. If you are interested in the types of services I offer as a digital nomad therapist, feel free to follow me on social media under the handle @globalcitizentherapy or check out my website here.

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