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Culture Shock: How to Help Clients as a Registered Professional Counsellor

Culture shock is often used casually, but it is defined as “the loss of emotional equilibrium suffered when one relocates from one culture to an entirely different environment” (Johnson, n.d.). In simpler terms, this describes the feelings one gets when entering a new setting that causes stress, uneasiness, and feelings of loss of one’s homeland. Culture shock can happen when moving to another country, studying abroad, or even during periods of drastic change in one’s personal and/or social life (Jacobson, 2022).

As a registered professional counsellor with training from Rhodes Wellness College, you’ll likely encounter a number of different clients who are experiencing emotions and challenges in their everyday lives that they would like help overcoming. Our counselling training courses prepare you to counsel others in trauma and abuse, addictions, family and relationship problems, and more. Combining the skills acquired during your diploma program, you can enter the field ready to help anyone dealing with difficult times, including culture shock. Continue reading to learn how to best help these clients.

How to Recognize Culture Shock in Your Counsellor Therapist Career

Culture shock may be brought on by a number of factors in an individual’s life and may present differently depending on the person’s unique situation. Generally, symptoms of culture shock include depression, loneliness, anxiety, homesickness, disorientation, frustration, self-doubt, and more (Jacobson, 2022). The extent of these symptoms may be felt differently depending on the client and may also be seen in the short-term or long-term (Jacobson, 2022).

Stronger forms of culture shock often experienced for longer periods of time, can further infiltrate the lives of individuals and cause more serious implications (Jacobson, 2022). The symptoms listed above may advance into the desire to socially isolate, a distrust in one’s surroundings, animosity toward the new host country (or new situation), and even physical manifestations such as recurring illnesses like the flu, colds, and headaches (Jacobson, 2022). In your future counsellor therapist career, it will be essential for you to adequately assess each client’s unique situation and identify symptoms of culture shock if they are present in order for you to help them see progress.

Learn how to recognize symptoms of culture shock as a registered professional counsellor.

How to Identify Each Stage of Culture Shock

Once you begin working as a registered professional counsellor, you may discover clients at various stages of their experience with culture shock. Generally, individuals go through three phases: the initial honeymoon phase, the distress phase, and the adjustment phase (Evergreen, n.d,).

The honeymoon phase is the initial reaction to the drastic change in one’s life, whether that is a physical location or extreme social or personal changes, and is usually exhibited by a level of excitement and fascination with their new “normal” (Jacobson, 2022). In your counselling career, you may note that a client has undergone a great change; however, they seem generally happy at this stage, with a sort of love for their new environment (Evergreen, n.d.).

The next stage is the distress phase, also known as the negotiation phase, which is where most of the above-mentioned symptoms appear. This usually begins about three months into living with the new environment, which will be an important variable to track once you’re working as a counsellor, and generally lasts up to 3-9 months (Jacobson, 2022).

Finally, the adjustment phase will begin when the client has overcome the challenges of integrating into their new life. As a counsellor, you may notice that they seem to have found their stride again, learning how to cope with the challenging feelings brought on by culture shock (Jacobson, 2022). 

Clients may experience different symptoms during the three phases of culture shock.

Tools to Help Clients Experiencing Culture Shock

Various forms of therapy have been recommended for overcoming culture shock, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychoanalytic Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, and Interpersonal Therapy (Evergreen, n.d.). With training from Rhodes Wellness College, you’ll find that your advanced counselling skills, as well as your training in Solution Focused Therapy, will be of value for these clients experiencing culture shock.

Additionally, you can make general daily life recommendations to your clients to help them adjust to their new “normal.” It can be comforting to assure them that it takes time to feel comfortable in a new environment and that it is not abnormal to take a few months to adjust (Johnson, n.d.). While they may be tempted to withdraw from social situations, encouraging them to avoid isolation may help keep their symptoms from worsening (Johnson, n.d.). Accepting social invitations, keeping an open mind to new people and cultures, focusing on personal strengths and resilience, and self-care and relaxation time are also recommended (Johnson, n.d.). With your guidance, your clients experiencing culture shock can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel and become hopeful for a bright future.

Interested in beginning clinical counsellor training?

Contact Rhodes Wellness College for more information!

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