Here to support
2019-09-25 | By Olivia van den Broek-Neri
Perhaps what makes ACCESS unique is our supportive networks, offering assistance to internationals across the Netherlands.
On-call counselling service
The ACCESS Counselling Service Network (CSN) consists of licensed professionals with
practices all over the Netherlands. The CSN’s strength is its diversity of psychologists, with different disciplines, specialities, backgrounds and languages–English, Dutch, German, Spanish, French and Italian. The CSN has two counsellors who can be reached by telephone or via the ACCESS website between 8:30 and 20:30 daily.
Member of the CSN, Nuria Maldonado, MSc. moved from her native Spain to Utrecht in 2016 with her Dutch husband and their two dogs, so she understands expat life and the difficulties people can face when moving to another country.
“Two of us counsellors are on call,” says Nuria. The on-call counsellor screens the call, finds out where the caller lives, which language(s) they speak, and their needs. “From this information, the on-call counsellor finds the CSN counsellor that best fits,” she says. The fee for the counselling is set by the individual counsellor.
People contact the CSN for a variety of reasons, from anxiety and depression to losing a job or experiencing burnout to marriage problems. “Normally all of our cases have an extra layer of complexity because most internationals, if not all, are going through a stage of migration grief,” says Nuria. Migration grief can be anything from missing your native language, to missing a close friend.
“Expats are often ashamed to feel bad as they can feel they are in a privileged situation,” Nuria says. While feeling an underlying guilt for their unhappiness, they might contact the CSN for one problem, before realising that they are dealing with additional problems. “While they don’t initially come for migratory problems,” says Nuria, “they often begin to deal with their migration grief once the denial is gone.”
Nuria encourages anyone to seek help when having problems, and the CSN is there to support and advise confidentially.
ACCESS childbirth preparation courses
Giving birth in a different country can be daunting, which is why ACCESS has designed
courses for expectant couples. Weekly classes and one-day intensive courses take place in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht (check online, access-nl.org/childbirth-courses, for details and availability). It is recommended that expectant mothers are at least 26 weeks pregnant or during their third trimester when starting the course.
“It’s just amazing to be able to provide the right information to people, and accompany them during this big event,” says Bintou Keita, coordinator for The Hague and Rotterdam Childbirth Preparation Courses.
Bintou has known of people contacting ACCESS about the courses before they have arrived in the Netherlands, and often the courses fill up quickly. “Our courses also help internationals integrate into the community,” she says.
“You’re in one of the best places in the world to give birth!” Chitra Natarajan leads the ACCESS childbirth course in Utrecht, and is a certified HypnoBirthing practitioner and Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. “We provide expectant parents with an understanding of the system, so that they can be prepared,” she says. Topics discussed during her course include ‘When do you call the mid-wife?’ ‘What happens during the contractions?’ and ‘Can I have a homebirth?’
Aside from valuable information about giving birth, participants form a bond, and often stay in touch after the birth of their children. This bond helps the mothers, as “often without a family here, the group becomes her family,” says Chitra.
ACCESS Training Network
Building a career in a different country can be difficult, so the ACCESS Training Network (access-nl.org/what-we-do/meet-the-trainers) offers professionals who can assist in an individual’s career journey and personal development.
Cross-cultural consultant Caitríona Rush has been a member of the ACCESS Training Network for eight years. “Being part of the network means we can meet and support each other,” says Caitríona, who is originally from Ireland.
Caitríona helps expats adjust to life in the Netherlands. “What’s normal in one country is not in another,” she points out. Once people know these differences, they can adjust to their life easier. “You don’t have to become Dutch, but just be aware,” she says.
“If you take a look at certain things that are happening in an expat’s life, there’s usually a lot of transitions going on,” says Jac Rongen. These transitions, he calls them triggers, can include increased travel and learning a different language.
Jac approaches these triggers by beginning with teaching archery. “Archery might seem like a game, but it gives you access to the person,” he says. “The body reflects what is happening in the head.” From there he helps the individual deal with their personal issues.
“Every time you make a transition you need to reorient,” he says, “which is really hard.” Expats may find themselves getting ill more often or experiencing burnout, and Jac feels that dealing with the initial triggers can help prevent these secondary issues.
Ida Rutten returned to the Netherlands with her husband and three sons after living abroad for 12 years. “We moved to four different countries,” she says. “So I know the feeling of getting started again and finding your way.” Ida set up her video coaching business to assist those beginning their job search. “The answers are in yourself,” explains Ida. “I am partnering with you to find your answers.”
Find out more online
Detailed information about the CSN, Childbirth Preparation Courses and the Training Network can be found on the ACCESS website. “In the training network everybody has a different niche,” says Ida. “Browse through and see what fits you best.”
About the author
California-native Olivia van den Broek-Neri works as Project Coordinator Communications & Events at Holland Expat Center South in Eindhoven, and was previously an ACCESS volunteer.