By Margaretha Madoures
In response to the recent article posted on Foreigner.fi asking for better access to mental health in Finland for foreigners, I spoke to Annabel and Jane about their experience as practitioners with the types of problems foreigners in Finland face.
Both Jane and Annabel have had the experience that immigrants approached them after failing to get publicly paid access to psychotherapy. Jane notes “The financial strain that results from not having enough access to publicly funded mental healthcare is difficult to handle for many clients.” Annabel gives an example: “I have some clients that specifically request appointments the day after their payday and only once a month”. Financial difficulties such as these have a negative effects on the therapy outcome when clients cannot afford enough therapy sessions, or perhaps even to start therapy at all.
For immigrants it is often not clear which options exist to begin with, as a commenter mentioned under the article of Foreigner.fi.
Theoretically, HUS will pay for psychotherapy in English, but available English-speaking therapists are rare. This is partly because HUS requires practitioners to be registered with VALVIRA. This is particularly hard for practitioners with foreign degrees. “We are active in this matter however and are currently working towards bettering this situation” reports Annabel.
Another reason for why easier admittance to Finnish licencing of foreign-trained practitioners is important is the cultural perspective. Jane adds “As foreigners we often have a better understanding of why it is hard for other foreigners to build up their lives in Finland. We have our own experience with immigration and are therefore better equipped to understand other foreigners’ experiences.”
Furthermore, it is understandably difficult for immigrants to express their problems with Fins and Finnish culture when they are talking to a Finnish person. “One example of how a therapist who is also an immigrant can better help immigrant clients is a better understanding of differences when it comes to interacting with Finnish spouses, compared to other cultures”, says Jane, who is offering couples counselling at Compass Psychology.
Compass Psychology is helping to convince the Finnish administration to increase accessibility and ease the licencing process for foreign-trained practitioners.
Currently there is a petition addressing this topic organised by a community group that you can sign here. You can also share your own experiences directly and openly by adding the hashtag #IamSuomiToo