We are living at times when immigration is on many of our minds. The topic of immigration has interested me greatly not only as a person and as a therapist, but also because I am a zero generation German immigrant to the U.S. In addition, my family immigrated to other countries and my mother was a child refugee in Germany. Overall my family’s history taught me how to a start anew with the motto, “Home is where you are.”
Immigrants frequently face difficulties in several ways. Let’s take a closer look at how therapy can support individuals. I see that immigrants balance at least two cultures. They can struggle with questions about the importance of maintaining an original cultural identity or how to develop more meaningful connections with the new host culture. It is in the process of working through these loyalties that immigrants develop coping strategies such as assimilation, separation, integration or marginalization.
An associated common struggle is loss. Many people miss their original culture: the place where one comes from, the place one knows, the place that used to be home (perhaps still is in a transmuted way). There can be a loss of family, traditions, comforting or familiarities of relating to others. As a therapist, I understand the need to grieve these types of losses and to look for ways to hold on to or respect, rediscover and care for these important cultural identities.
Learning about a new culture, developing new routines, experiencing cultural gaps and cultural moments, which I will explain shortly, educational and professional challenges, social opportunities and general early immigrant life with its constant minor, day-to-day life issues or language difficulties create life stressors. Resolving these immigrant stressors successfully can lead to excitement, renewed energy and deeply personal learning opportunities.
Cultural moments happen between people of diverse cultures. When one encounters a cultural moment, they occasionally feel a sudden decline in understanding or a complete, momentary disconnect from others. These moments can be accompanied with an ‘aha’ learning moment but also a nervous twitch or a deep gut-wrenching punch feeling like something just went wrong. Cultural moments show us something about the host country, the person, the original culture, something one usually does not think about or see.
In my work, I assist others in addressing the loss of the original home and making a new home, which are imperative psychological processes in gaining a new sense of self, establishing roots and connectedness and living a successful life in another culture and new home. It can be very satisfying to witness others in their enculturation processes specially if they are choosing in empowered ways how to best integrate what a new culture can teach and offer.
Imme Staeffler received her doctorate of psychology, Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology, from Meridian University in Petaluma, CA. She is an intern Supervised by Dr. Vernita Marsh and Associates, who enjoys working adults, couples and late teens. She appreciates assisting with issues of anxiety, depression, life transitions, relationship challenges, recovery from trauma, living with long term illness, caregiving, as well as those seeking more creativity and satisfaction.
"Happiness starts with a healthy mind, body, and spirit."