Clients who are adjusting to new challenges due to immigration, career transition or other life changes are often dealing with multiple stress factors simultaneously and need different forms of support at the same time. A professional collaboration between employment services, settlement services and wellness services including personal counselling, offered at the same location, can enhance client outcomes, especially for newcomers who are experiencing multiple barriers. These barriers and challenges include: language, stress related to adjustment and settlement in a new country, overcoming past trauma, financial restrictions and unemployment.
(Personal counselling in this article refers to the services offered by a certified counsellor with a background in psychology and counselling psychology or social work with a specialty in mental health, in order to meet psychological and emotional needs of clients.)
In our “Women Connecting with Women” program at Skills for Change, we offer personal counselling and support for emotional and psychological wellness as well as workshops and support groups to empower women. The majority of our clients are newcomer women. Our philosophy is to provide a safe and supportive space for women to help them reduce their stress, improve their mental and emotional well-being, and improve their self-confidence, based on a client-centred and non-oppressive approach. A Canadian certified counsellor with a master’s degree in counselling psychology offers these services. In this article, we will review some of the most important categories of clients’ psychological needs, based on our experience.
Emotional support matters
Clients who are in crisis or are experiencing high levels of stress need professional emotional support to reduce and manage their stress, to become stable and feel safe before they can think about effective ways to achieve their career goals. Many clients who were experiencing crises were able to become empowered through receiving personal counselling and support, and then they became psychologically well-equipped to apply for employment and/or start their own business plan.
Addressing trauma and multiple stress factors
Adjusting to a new life and a new place and finding employment are among the stress factors that newcomers face (Crooks, Hynie, Killian, et al., 2011). Additionally, many newcomer women have survived violence and abuse, and are still overcoming the impact of the trauma. Our experience of working with newcomer women suggests that clients, especially individuals who are survivors of trauma, show greater success and a faster progress regarding career and other life goals if and when their mental and emotional needs are met. Personal counselling and trauma informed care can be provided by a Canadian certified counsellor.
Other than cases of crisis and trauma, many clients struggle with obstacles or internal barriers that can be easily removed or significantly reduced through proper professional support (e.g., personal counselling and wellness workshops). The psychological (mental and emotional) factors that can be improved include the client’s mindset, perspective, confusion, lack of concentration, lack of motivation, lack of self-worth, feelings of loneliness, homesickness, guilt, shame and fear. Personal counselling for psychological support helps clients through effective listening, showing empathy and non-judgmental understanding. The clients are empowered to improve their well-being, gain a new perspective, and connect with their own character strengths and abilities. They also learn to reduce and manage their stress in a healthy and effective way.
Our experience shows that as the clients’ emotional and psychological well-being improves, some of their internal barriers such as feelings of shame, inferiority and worthlessness are also reduced, and they feel more emotionally and mentally stable. They report that through making this progress regarding their psychological well-being, they also feel more prepared and confident regarding pursuing their career goals. We connect clients who are seeking employment with our colleagues offering employment services.
Many newcomer clients who are generally well still experience low levels of self-confidence. They are dealing with multiple challenges and also have questions such as “Is my English good enough for employment in Canada?” and “Will employers recognize my education and work experience that was done outside Canada?” Many newcomers such as immigrant physicians also realize that they now need to consider career alternatives, as their previous degrees may not be immediately applicable in a new country. These clients are very talented and skilled but need psychological and emotional support to realize that adjustment, and experiencing a lot of stress may be affecting their self-confidence.
One of the reasons why newcomer women benefit from emotional support provided by personal counselling is that many of them may be marginalized in the labour market. Immigrant women are more prone to experiencing barriers with regard to securing employment compared to women born in Canada.
After a few sessions of personal counselling for psychological support, many clients are able to believe that they will be able to use their strengths and expertise in Canada if they take the necessary steps (e.g., attending employment workshops to work on their resume), which they can learn about through employment services.
“Many newcomer clients who are generally well still experience low levels of self-confidence.”
As mentioned earlier, newcomer women are managing several challenges simultaneously. These clients may benefit from emotional support and psychological/personal counselling in order to clear their mind, organize their thoughts, and identify their needs and goals. They also learn more about what motivates them, and the vision they have for their futures. This kind of support and personal counselling can help clients on their path of exploring and clarifying their purpose and goals including career goals and options, complementary to career counselling and employment counselling.
Improving focus, life skills and self-regulation skills
Clients can benefit from support to help them develop and improve skills such as money management, time management, emotion regulation and self-regulation in order to become more independent. Also, some clients who are experiencing environmental stress related to family conflicts or other relationships are able to improve their relationships or life circumstances after receiving personal counselling and support. This can empower them to make healthier decisions and improve their life circumstances and relationships.
Many individuals, especially newcomers or clients in transition, are able to focus better on making progress and moving toward achieving their career goals much more effectively after stress factors related to life changes or past trauma are resolved, and their mental and emotional well-being is restored or improved.
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