Help for Expats in Sweden

Cottage by a lake in sweden

Welcome to SwedenAdvice and Support for Expats

Expat living in Sweden? Or living in another country and planning to move to Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö or the Swedish countryside?

Help is available!

I offer therapy, counselling and coaching appointments for individuals over Skype webcam, via phone or through email exchange. If you have previously met with me face to face, we can meet again when I am visiting Stockholm. For more information contact me now.

“Tools for Better Living”: 6 English Speaking Coaching Sessions for Expats in Stockholm and across Sweden

This fall I’m offering a flexible course that combines both coaching and counselling in a short series of consultations. These sessions are designed specifically for expats and other English speakers seeking direction. Are you looking for some tools for dealing with change or adjustment? Interested in taking a series of sessions to kick-start your motivation? Read on!

Those of us who have been expats in Stockholm for a number of years know the winters can be tough. Swedes know it too and, although most of them have grown up with the darkness and cold that comes with a Swedish winter, many still struggle. Whether you are in your first few years of living in Scandinavia, or you have lived here all your life, there is good sense in using the autumn to prepare psychologically and emotionally for what is to come.

6 Sessions of Coaching or Counselling, 5 Suggested Themes

This series combines the approaches of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Narrative Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Life Coaching, Relaxation Strategies, Skills Training (including Stress Management and Communication Training) and Mindfulness. I’ve based it around a presentation of the most common psychological tools I use in my practice but will tailor it to suit your circumstances.

My approach is based on the idea that, through conversation based meetings, we develop ideas and strategies together that neither one of us might have envisaged using before. In this way, you bring your skills and knowledge as a contribution to the sessions and I also introduce theories and tools as possibilities for you to start using. Of course all the sessions and everything you say to me is confidential.

The plan below is a guide only and we can modify it according to your needs.

Want to know more already? Email me!

#1   Who Am I?

Our sense of identity can be quite important to how we manage in new situations or cope with change. Who are you and what has contributed to your sense of yourself, particularly since you moved to Sweden?

The first appointment is a kind of assessment where together we discuss what you would like to cover in the course of sessions and share whatever aspects of your story you would like to tell me. You also have the opportunity to ask me any questions you would like answered. At the end of the session I can give you an interesting identity-based task to take away and complete in your own time, if you like. ‘Homework’ is always optional. Some people want it and some don’t, so you can make the choice.

If you would like to know more about me in advance, read the About Ash Rehn page on this website. And I welcome you to contact me prior to the session if you would like to know anything more about me. It is important that we can work together and for you to feel a sense of comfort during our meetings.

#2   Recovering Energy, Motivation and Establishing Routines

It is not unusual for people to want to meet with a coach or therapist when they are at, or have been at, a low ebb. I’m used to seeing people struggling with motivation, lacking energy or feeling like they have failed. At the same time, it is not always that way. It can be more like chaos that needs sorting out. So part of our work together might be looking at what you want or what you appreciate about your life or what you need. Sometimes this involves considering your ‘vision’ for life. Sometimes people feel stuck, sometimes they feel lost, sometimes they just want me to help them sort through ‘stuff’ or ‘issues’. Whatever the case is, we can discuss it together.

#3   Managing Stress, Coping and Empowerment Strategies

How you deal with change often depends on your past experiences, the techniques you have learned or the resources you have at hand. In our sessions we can consider the skills you are using now as well as what you might need to recover or discover. If you are caught in some Mind Traps (cognitive distortions in thinking) we can identify these and determine alternative psychological strategies to help you escape or re-establish balance. I can also show you some physical practices you can use at any time to reduce anxiety and your stress response.

#4   Career / Relationships / Friendships / Family: Planning and Goal Setting

Would you like to show me what your life looks like now and what your ideal life would be? Often this can be a way of envisaging the future as well. Collaborative consultations can offer the first steps forward to making changes across a number of the aspects of our lives. Together we can explore changes you want to make in any or all of these areas and what might be required for moving forward. It tends to be much easier to do this in collaboration.

#5   Improved Communication for Relationships

Frustration and Anger are two of the most common emotions I discuss with people who meet me in Stockholm or online. If our needs are not being met, we can find our emotions about certain events and incidents spilling into other aspects of our life. And that affects our relationships. Taking an alternative approach to your standard way of communicating is one way to lower the frustration you are experiencing. I can show you some other possibilities and we can practice these in the sessions.

#6   Awareness, Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Building Resilience

It is not generally possible to change everything overnight. Meeting and having a conversation about what concerns you can also be a way of tapping into some other perspectives. Part of this work is about holding onto what you have learned or discovered. Part of the coaching can even include awareness-building techniques like Mindfulness. In these 6 sessions, I offer a start to a process that can take you in new directions. You might decide to continue with something new we discover together during our work or you might even decide to continue with me. With your permission, I will follow up by email at least twice over the 2 months following the series. If you want to continue, we can discuss the possibilities to keep going, what you have achieved and what might remain outstanding.

Pay as You Go or Save with a Package of Sessions

This flexible course is offered as pay as you go or you can receive 6 sessions for the cost of 5 if you pre-pay the series. You can attend just the first session and decide if you want to continue with no obligation to pay for more. You are welcome to decide a few days after the first appointment whether you want to pay for the whole series or pay as you go. I do ask for a deposit of 200 crowns for the first appointment but you have 7 days from the session to pay for the balance. Please contact me for further details of the fee.

No Guarantees or False Promises, but Possibilities, Opportunities and Open Dialogue

It would be quite unethical of me to make false promises about how successful this short series of appointments will be for you, particularly when I have not yet met you. So I don’t offer a guarantee that you will achieve everything you ever hoped for in just 6 sessions. But I do offer to be fully present with you for the sessions and to work collaboratively with you in ways you find comfortable.

It is my professional experience that once people start talking, what they are struggling with often changes or even dissolves. It does not happen at the same pace for everyone, but making a start will give you a better understanding of what might be required. I have chosen a framework of 6 sessions as many people find this is just enough to launch them into self-sufficiency. The relief of talking to a professional in a confidential setting can be influential, as can the possibilities for dialogue, acknowledgement, exploration and even confession.

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Ash Rehn QindsmBook Now to Secure Appointment Times

  • A limited number of these sessions are now available daytimes and evenings during September and October.
  • Sessions are available both in-person ‘face to face’ in Stockholm and ‘face to face’ by Skype webcam (or audio-only if you prefer).
  • Possibilities for continuing include the option of email counselling once the course is concluded.

Make an enquiry about available times and fees now through my contact page.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Ash Rehn BSocWk, MA, MAASW (acc.)

Relationship Counselling: Ending the Blame Game for Better Communication

How often have you been in a situation where your partner has blamed you unfairly or found fault with everything you say? Constant put-downs and negativity mean criticism is thriving in your relationship. Here are some ideas about how to nip them in the bud and start having better communication with your partner.

First up, let’s talk about language. I prefer not to use terms like ‘critical people’ or ‘blamers’. Anyone can fall into speaking critically of others. Criticism can take the form of always pointing out what is wrong, constant negative comments or picking fights. If it’s coming from your partner, it could be a sign of unhappiness of lack of fulfilment. But don’t take it personally: people who have been taken over by criticism are generally in a bad way!

Send me a question or enquiry

Criticism: You Can’t Fight Fire with Fire

When criticism and negativity becomes obvious, it’s time for action. But you can’t fight fire with fire. Imagine reacting to criticism with criticism… it doesn’t work does it? Most of the time when we are burning up with criticism we aren’t even aware of it. Pointing it out can just fan the flames. We need to be a little more strategic.

Start by checking your own reactions. To reduce the physical stress response, breathe deeply into your abdomen and relax your muscles as you listen to what your partner has to say. Accepting criticism is like receiving a gift that you don’t need. There’s no need to take offence. Just don’t catch the negativity being offered. If you react to criticism, you have basically engaged with it. And if you react critically, you have lobbed it back. Ever heard the expression ‘someone is going to lose an eye’? Once we are playing the blame-game, we have already lost perspective.

Non-Violent Communication


One way of changing your response to criticism is to indicate you have heard what the person has said and you need time to consider it. This way, you keep some distance between yourself and the remark. The idea comes from Non-Violent Communication or NVC, an approach developed in the 1960s that involves awareness, expressing feelings and asking for what you need. I recommend the above book ‘Non-Violent Communication: Practical Skills to Connect and Communicate Skilfully in Every Situation‘ that describes this approach in detail. With practice, anyone can improve their communication but it’s important to be assertive and have boundaries. If you are in a situation of physical danger or abuse, don’t stick around. Get out and get help.

There are a few simple things you can start doing now to change the existing patterns of your relationship. If this interests you, read on!

Call or email me now for an appointment

A repeated scenario I have witnessed in relationships is one partner putting aside their own needs to try to meet the needs of the other. Which of course doesn’t work too well. It usually ends up with the self-sacrificing partner feeling resentful when their own needs aren’t met. But we can’t neglect our own needs!

Does this sound familiar to you?

The situation generally worsens when both partners suppress their feelings and ignore their own needs to try to make each other happy. Both can end up feeling trapped and not knowing what to do. At the same time, the solution isn’t just about looking after one’s own needs. When in a relationship, we have to find a way to be with the other person. We have to be aware of our own emotions and look after our own needs but remain conscious and sensitive to the other person’s feelings and needs as well. It’s not easy, but when both people are generous with each other, it tends to expand the sense of the relationship. If both partners are tight and mean towards each other, everything tends to get worse and worse.

From Blame-Game to Generosity

If you’ve ever found yourself ‘playing the Blame Game’ with someone, you will know the story. We can get caught in a cycle of blaming the other person or blaming ourselves for a silly mistake or the unpleasant emotions we are experiencing. Non-Violent Communication offers a way forward through taking responsibility for – and expressing – our emotions while empathetically listening to the other person’s feelings and needs. Partners can’t always meet our needs. We sometimes have find ways to meet them ourselves but still communicate them to our partners.

Finally, there is always the possibility your partner may be right, even if the way they are saying something is not ideal. Working out what to take on board isn’t always easy. I offer confidential appointments in English in Stockholm, online counselling over Skype and through email. Fill out my contact form to make a start on improving communication. To break the ‘blame game’ pattern in your relationship, contact me today through www.ForwardTherapy.se or call me on 08 559 22 636.

Counselling for LGBT People in Stockholm: 5 Reasons to Choose a Gay Therapist

Rainbow Illustration

Rainbow IllustrationWhen expats move to their new country, it can be an opportunity to make a new start. Sweden, with its relatively inclusive attitudes to lesbians and gay men, would seem like a natural choice for gay expats hoping to live their identity more openly. But coming out is often more of an ongoing process than a point in time.

 

LGBT expats in Sweden experience the same difficulties as other immigrants with adjusting to Swedish culture, climate and maintaining relationships. But some aspects of the transition to Nordic life are often unexpected. It’s been suggested that the ‘Law of Jante‘ has Swedes downplaying differences in favour of viewing everyone as equals. And living in a city such as Stockholm where being gay or lesbian is generally not regarded as anything unusual might also mean that it is less likely previous difficult experiences will be acknowledged. One way of getting recognition of what you have endured is to speak to a counselling therapist who is understanding and supportive of gay identity.

Coming Out

Coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is often discussed as if it were an event. But it is more likely to be a series of events or an ongoing process that continues through life. Some would say we never stop coming out. Even in Sweden, we have a society where the heterosexuality is still the considered the norm and the assumption that a person is straight often goes unquestioned. This assumption is part of what has been called ‘Heteronormativity’, a way of thinking that also suggests people fall into distinct genders (man and woman) associated with specific gender roles. The reality of life is, of course, quite different. Humans are as diverse as other species so biologically, sexually, gender-wise and in terms of identity, there can be much individual variation.

Making the decision to share your identity with others is a personal choice and needs to be treated as such. At the same time, the relief that comes with inviting others into your life can reduce anxiety and free up creativity. Talking about who you are and having an audience for your experiences is personally validating. Being able to be yourself around others is one of the rewarding aspects of living in Sweden that might be less possible in certain other places in the world.

Coming Out Later in Life / Gay and Married

For people who are older, coming out can be particularly challenging. I have spoken with many men who have decided, after years of marriage to a woman or having raised children in a traditional family, to explore other aspects of their sexuality and identity. Starting to identify as gay, bisexual or trans in your 40s, 50s or later can seem like entering a new world and an unknown world at that. If you are in this situation, it can be important to remember that you already know a lot about life even if the ‘world’ you are entering seems to have its own set of rules or conventions. Coming out after a straight relationship or later in life is a journey in itself. It can be helpful to have a gay counsellor to assist you to navigate the way forward.

Gay Relationship issues

Many of the individuals who consult with me at my practice at Hornstull or online are going through couples counselling, recently ended a relationship or are dealing with the aftermath of a break-up. It’s quite usual to have a difficult time when a relationship ends, and upset feelings can continue, especially when the end was unexpected or if you had been with your partner for a long time. If you are gay, lesbian or transgender, it can be therapeutic to talk about the feelings and to find a way forward with the help of a professional.

For gay people, finding a partner in a ‘heteronormative’ world is not always easy. Gay Internet dating has become one of the most common ways to look for and find love but some argue that it has turned people into commodities that are marketed. Not everyone finds it easy to ‘sell’ themselves to others over the net. In Stockholm there are a few gay venues, social groups and sports organisations. And many people meet their partners through work or friendship networks. Taking the first step or returning to dating after a break might involve some effort and motivation, not to mention support.

Family Relationships

Lesbian and gay expats in Stockholm and elsewhere in Sweden, even those who have settled into life here, sometimes have unresolved family issues that may or may not be related to their sexuality. In terms of sexuality, it can help to know as much as possible about being gay and gay life in case the time comes when questions are asked. Family members can take time to adjust to a new understanding about their loved ones and people tend to learn acceptance at their own pace anyway. For those who are struggling with particular relatives, geographic distance can be both a blessing as well as a barrier to resolution. Having the ‘sounding board’ of a gay therapist might make a difference when exploring options.

Dealing with Workplace Homophobia

I’ve just attended the Nordic LGBT Business Leadership Forum, an event organised in Stockholm by IBM to promote discussion about how organisations can maximise the power of diversity in the workplace and translate it to success in the market. Companies based in Sweden are generally much more inclusive of transgender, lesbian and gay employees than in other countries but that doesn’t mean homophobia and transphobia in the workplace does not exist here. Workplace equality and inclusion also means being able to talk freely about what you did on your weekends (if you choose to). Dealing with workplace harassment or simply feeling at ease with your colleagues can be dependent on a number of factors and it is important not to blame yourself if you feel uncomfortable. If your job is stressing you out, make an appointment to talk about it and get it off your chest so that you can work out what to do.

Finally, it is common for people to wait to come to see me until the point comes that they feel really bad about things. My advice is to act now instead of waiting. Often when you start discussing problems with a therapist, difficulties do start resolving themselves.

Counselling in English in Stockholm has advantages and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are always welcome at Forward Therapy Stockholm. Just contact me by email or leave a clear message on 08-559 22 636 if you are interested in meeting at my office, walking talk-therapy or online counselling.

Walking Talk Therapy for Mental Health in English in Stockholm

A Park to Walk in Stockholm

A Park to Walk in StockholmThe advantages of counselling and therapy shouldn’t just be psychological. Walking while talking is a new approach to talk therapy that benefits the body as well as the mind.

As a therapist who personally enjoys exercise and the positive effects of movement, I was not surprised when I read in the Sydney Morning Herald about research that demonstrated sitting was bad for our health.

I’ve written before about how exercise is important to both our physical and psychological health. Sitting for prolonged periods can reduce lifespan so decreasing our sitting time is just as critical to health as taking exercise. But modern lifestyles have many of us spending long work hours in front of our computers. It can be difficult to remember to take regular breaks let alone to keep moving our bodies.

So I am now also offering counselling, coaching and therapy in English in Stockholm while walking outdoors. This is a unique service for Stockholm that fits with making it easier and more beneficial for people to meet with a counsellor.

The Benefits of Walking Therapy

Taking a walk each day can lift mood, free thinking and help us manage emotions. For some people, it can be a reasonable alternative to medication. But there are other advantages to therapy while walking outside as well. We know sunlight is important for production of vitamin D and general health. Talking with a counsellor while taking a walk treats your whole person, body, mind and spirit. The practice of walking itself can quieten thoughts and relieve anxiety. It’s refreshing, relaxing and the rhythm of a walk can also help to sort out problems.

Like other forms of counselling, Walking Talk Therapy is an opportunity to discuss strategies, get things in perspective, or simply get a sounding board for the changes you know you want to make. Being out in nature is conducive to healing and improved mental health. Expats can speak English during the appointment and benefit both from the change of scene and a compassionate listening ear. People who have experienced disappointment, loss or even trauma may find that time spent in nature is therapeutic in itself. Those seeking to improve their physical health and motivation can find active consultations even better than sessions that are office based. So counselling appointments while you walk offer a combined form of treatment.

With my Walking Talk Therapy in Stockholm, you are welcome to request help with the same kinds of goals or concerns you bring to office based appointments. Many people who come to see me talk about depression or anxiety, family and relationship issues. But the areas I specialise in include:

How Does Walking Talk Therapy Work?

Usually we start the first appointment in my counselling rooms on Kungsholmen in central Stockholm. If you decide to proceed with a walking appointment, we can go to Rålambshovsparken or along Norr Mälarstrand by Riddarfjärden. These parts of the island are quite beautiful throughout the year and provide plenty of open space for private conversations while walking. We can hold onto important points by jotting them down or taking an audio note as we go. Walking Talk Therapy is suitable for therapeutic approaches such as CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) and narrative therapy.

If the weather is bad we can still meet in the office. The Swedish have a saying “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing” but it is always your choice whether we go out for a walk or sit inside and chat over a cup of tea or coffee.

So why not combine therapy and some exercise? It’s healthy, refreshing and better for both of us! For daytime appointments until 5pm you are welcome to choose a 50 or 75 minute consultation depending on how much time you have available.

My goal is to make it easier for people to see me so, of course, if you prefer to sit comfortably and talk we can still do that. I still offer a range of options including online counselling over webcam from Stockholm or anywhere in Sweden.

Call now on 08-559 22 636 and leave a message if I don’t answer.

Or contact me through the form on my website for more details.

I look forward to us walking together!

3 Advantages of Counselling in English in Stockholm

rushing for the train

rushing for the trainAnyone trying to find an English speaking therapist in Stockholm has a story why he or she moved to Sweden. When people email or call me about my therapy services they often want help with couples counselling, family difficulties or work issues and career direction.

 

Counsellors working with expats in Stockholm know living in a foreign culture is stressful and are aware of the difference it can make to access counselling in English.

 

1. It’s important your therapist understands you

Often when people start talking and opening up with me about the difficulties they experience, their problems start to ease and even to ‘dissolve’ in the conversation. Sometimes these conversations are about recovering tools and skills used in the past. This is why it is so useful to meet with someone else who is a native English speaker. The experience of therapy is better when your therapist understands the expressions, subtleties and nuances of your language as well.

Professional counselling is more than just listening and a good therapist should be able to ask you questions that will open up new perspectives and encourage you to think in different ways. But just ‘getting it off your chest’ is a start and can lead you to feel better, more motivated and more capable of using skills and tools for dealing with anxiety, depression and changes in mood.

 

2. Nothing beats experience

The problems people experience after moving to Sweden are not always attributable to just one cause, but can be a result of the interaction between several factors including the climate, Swedish cultural differences, family expectations, relationship issues or adjusting to life as an expat. Having myself relocated to Stockholm from an English speaking country I relate personally to the challenges of living in Sweden.

Resolving psychological matters is not always straightforward but my professional experience is that talk therapy and other appropriate treatment usually results in finding new ways forward. This is the power of therapeutic conversations: the possibility to make new meaning out of situations where you have felt stuck or lost or hopeless.

 

3. More options than the Swedish healthcare system

Sweden has one of the best public healthcare systems in the world. However it isn’t perfect and can be slow, bureaucratic and offers little choice of psychological treatment other than a limited course of CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) or perhaps a psychoanalyst who is selected for you. Deciding to meet a private English-speaking therapist means you can choose the approach that suits you and, most importantly, shop around to find a practitioner you like and can relate to.

If you are making the transition to living in Stockholm, or even if you have been here for some time, the freedom to attend counselling when and how often you want might be important to you. Having flexibility around your appointments and not having to queue for treatment can help you to cope and be a factor in your recovery. I always offer to work in with other health providers where appropriate and this is another benefit of using a private therapist who works primarily in English.

 

Available for all English speakers

Whether you are Australian or from New Zealand, British, Irish, South African, Canadian or an American from the US, commencing therapy, counselling or coaching with a qualified professional who speaks the same language can avoid the limitations of the public health services.

  • If you think you might be suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), anxiety, depression, cultural adjustment, drinking problems or stress…
  • If you want one-to-one therapy, counselling for a relationship as a couple or as an individual…
  • Or if you are just looking for a qualified person to be a sounding board’,

I welcome you to contact me and discuss the possibilities of working together in Stockholm.