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Choosing a Therapist in Barcelona: Why and How?

Choosing a Therapist in Barcelona: Why and How?

Could you benefit from seeing a therapist? Not sure? Leigh Matthews, Founder and Director of Therapy in Barcelona and an Australian Registered Psychologist helps us get a better understanding of when you might need a therapist, and how to choose the right one for you.

When it comes to the best cities to live and work in worldwide, Barcelona ranks 8th in the international firm Resonance Consultancy’s 2021 report. Despite the Mediterranean climate and more relaxed pace of life, expats find bureaucracy, house hunting, language barriers, being dislocated from support and the culture shock hard work. Being an expat isn’t all sun and palm trees. In fact, it is acknowledged that expats suffer greater rates of mental health challenges than their counterparts in their countries of origin.  

Why should you consider seeing a therapist?

Your mental health is the foundation for a satisfying experience living abroad. As an expat you will face a lot of challenges. This is normal. You may also suffer shame and loneliness as you conceal the challenges from friends and family. The pressure to maintain the facade of the perfect expat story can be immense. 

What can be wrong when you live in Barcelona? 

Well, a lot of things, as it turns out:

  • Culture shock.
  • Language barriers.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Homesickness.
  • Loneliness.
  • Being single and finding the expat lifestyle makes relationships challenging.
  • The pressures of expat life on a marriage or partnership.
  • Feeling untethered.
  • Adjustment to work and culture.
  • Absence of professional and social networks.
  • Trouble making friends.
  • General life issues.
  • Partner or family unhappy in Barcelona.
  • Challenges of raising a family without a village.
  • Ageing parents in passport country.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Existential issues, such as feeling that your life lacks meaning or longing for a sense of belonging.

In one study, 50% of expats surveyed were found to be at “high risk of internalizing problems, such as anxiety and depression.”  

Given the high rates of mental health issues among internationals, many seek therapy. A therapist can help you explore your concerns in a confidential and non-judgmental setting and offer you tools to navigate your challenges.

Should you use large online therapy platforms or go for a more boutique therapy option?

Online therapy platforms may be attractive to internationals. However, the convenience they offer can come with significant costs, as these platforms are often not founded by therapists, and have dubious regard for privacy. Your sensitive information will likely be shared with a web of third-party services like Facebook. In general, these online therapy platforms cannot provide you with the confidentiality and safety that a team of therapists like Therapy in Barcelona can offer you, both online and in office, whichever modality you choose.

What’s the difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist?

Therapists and psychiatrists are both trained to help clients with their mental health and wellbeing. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can diagnose mental disorders and prescribe medication. Therapist is an umbrella term encompassing the work of counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists. Therapists work with less severe concerns, do not prescribe medication and, as well as being great listeners, provide strategies for clients to change their relationship to thoughts, feelings and others to improve their lives. 

The therapists at Therapy in Barcelona work with psychiatrists when formal diagnoses or medication is needed, but this is not always the case; many clients are already very high functioning and simply seek ways to improve their lives. If you’re not sure what kind of help you need, you can contact Therapy in Barcelona and the professionals there will refer you to an English-speaking psychiatrist in Barcelona if you need that form of support.

What happens in therapy?

As well as being there to actively listen to you and hold space for you when you need to fall apart, a therapist also pinpoints issues and clarifies concerns. They help you make sense of the mess of feelings and worries. They help you discern patterns in your life. They explain what’s going on and what can be worked on in simple terms you understand. You may need to explore the past but you will also be working on goals and changes. Sometimes the changes can be big, so that means a longer process in which the relationship with the therapist will help you to, for example, build trust, develop confidence, improve relationships, etc. Some strategies will be immediate, like pinpointing your need to stop drinking caffeine by the early afternoon and get some exercise to help your wellbeing and improve your sleep hygiene. Whatever your needs and goals, you should feel heard, supported and safe. Your therapist should behave professionally and will explain their policies about cancellations, rescheduling of appointments and lateness. Your therapist should ask for feedback and make you feel it is ok to let them know what is working and not working in therapy. These are all key features of great therapy.

What are the steps in choosing a great therapist in Barcelona?

1. Read the therapist’s bio or about page.

Look for someone who is qualified, experienced in your concerns, approachable and responsive when contacted. Is the type of therapy offered proven to be effective for your type of concern? How many years of experience does the therapist have? Do they have at least a master’s degree or equivalent (six years) of training? At Therapy in Barcelona the professionals are selectively chosen, all with master’s degrees or equivalent; they practice and grow their skills together.

2. Find a therapist who works with your issues.

Matching clients to therapists’ strengths has been found to improve therapeutic outcomes. At Therapy in Barcelona, a whole team of therapists with a wide range of specialties are available to you to increase the likelihood of finding the right match for you.

3. Avoid package deals.

The fit between you and the therapist will be key to a great therapeutic outcome. You want to be able to change therapists if you don’t feel a fit after a few sessions. You may have to try more than one therapist to find the right one for you. The team at Therapy in Barcelona allows you to change therapists easily if your initial personal match doesn’t feel right. 

4. Take your time.

Know what you want from therapy and ask directly if the therapist is able to help you with your concerns and goals. An ethical service, like Therapy in Barcelona, will refer you to another professional if its professionals do not have the experience or skills to assist you. 

5. Define what you are looking for.

Be clear about your availability, your preferences for online or face to face therapy and if you have a preference for a male or female therapist. This information will help you to narrow down the options. Therapy in Barcelona has a large team of therapists which makes finding a match that works for you easier.

6. Find someone who speaks your language.

Find a therapist who speaks the language in which you can comfortably access and express experiences and feelings. Therapy is twice as effective in a client’s native language. All of the therapists At Therapy in Barcelona are English-speaking and multilingual. Aside from English, therapy is available in languages such as Dutch, Swedish, Portuguese, Finnish, French, German, Spanish, Afrikaans, Arabic and more.

7. Find a culturally sensitive therapist specialized in working with expats.

Internationals come with a unique set of experiences that are more readily understood by therapists who are expats that specialize in working with internationals. Therapy in Barcelona believes expats deserve therapists who take into account the unique complexities of living in a foreign culture.

8. Trust your gut.

If the fit doesn’t feel right, it’s time to ask for a change of therapist. A professional therapist will understand how important this is and have no problem with helping you change therapists. Beyond years of experience, type of therapy or age of therapist, it is the therapeutic relationship that is the key factor contributing to positive therapeutic outcomes. Do you feel like they care about you and your goals for therapy? Do you feel heard, respected, supported, accepted? Do you trust this therapist? Can you really tell them all that you need to? Are they intuitive, empathetic, warm and accepting of you? Are they nonjudgmental, but also able to pull you up and gently challenge you when you need to reflect on behaviours or thought patterns that may be causing you problems in your life?

When searching for a therapist, it’s important to remember what to look for, what to avoid and remember that not every therapist is right for every person. 

Therapy in Barcelona is an international team for an international community. If you are interested in speaking with a therapist, reach out to the professionals at Therapy in Barcelona. They can match you to a therapist that can address your concerns and help you achieve your goals. And, if it turns out that they don’t offer the right service for you, they’ll point you in the right direction.


Leigh Matthews is an Australian Psychologist and Founder of Therapy in Barcelona, an international team of English speaking therapists in Barcelona and online. Leigh has been living in Barcelona for ten years and is in an intercultural family with her Catalan husband and son. Leigh can be found on LinkedIn, Instagram at @therapyinbcn and on Facebook at @therapyinbarcelona. You can join Therapy in Barcelona’s Therapist Led Peer Support Group for tips and inspiration while dealing with the pandemic.