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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
DECEMBER 2012
37
N
obody knows more about transitions than
Foreign Service employees, except perhaps
their children and spouses.
Career FS members become quite adept
at scoping out schools, housing and ameni-
ties when they are bidding for postings.
Information regarding their concrete needs is readily available.
What are not as readily addressed are the emotional needs of
family members before, during and after a major transition.
According to a worldwide study conducted in 2010 by HDFC
Bank on expat preferences and issues, the factor of greatest
concern to expatriate spouses was not what kind of hous-
THE IMPACT OF
TRANSITIONS
ON FOREIGN SERVICE
FAMILIES
Those who work overseas, particularly Foreign Service members,
experience frequent transitions. Here are some tips on coping
with the disruptions they can cause.
BY T. DHYAN SUMMERS
T. Dhyan Summers, an American psychotherapist based in New
Delhi, is the founder and clinical director of Expat Counseling and
Coaching Services. She uses Skype to provide individual counsel-
ing and psychotherapy, marriage counseling and career coaching
services for the English-speaking expatriate community worldwide.
ing they would have or even the schools their children would
attend, but the kind of emotional support they would receive
once at their new post. Tis was also the single most impor-
tant factor in determining whether an expatriate employee
remained at his or her posting.
Te State Department provides information on posts
through the Overseas Transition Center. To balance the posi-
tive spin found in many post reports, written to attract bidders,
FS members also consult alternative sites that tell it more like it
is, such as
www.talesmag.com. Bu
t even this information, while
informative and helpful, doesn’t necessarily prepare families
and individuals for what lies ahead.
To help Foreign Service families more efectively negotiate
the emotional and psychological phases of the expatriate life-
cycle and, in particular, to evaluate the “soft side” of a potential
posting, I have developed what I call the “4S System”—situa-
tion, self, support and strategies.
Te life of those who work overseas—especially members