The Foreign Service Journal, December 2012

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2012 37 N obody knows more about transitions than Foreign Service employees, except perhaps their children and spouses. Career FS members become quite adept at scoping out schools, housing and ameni- ties when they are bidding for postings. Information regarding their concrete needs is readily available. What are not as readily addressed are the emotional needs of family members before, during and after a major transition. According to a worldwide study conducted in 2010 by HDFC Bank on expat preferences and issues, the factor of greatest concern to expatriate spouses was not what kind of hous- THE IMPACT OF TRANSITIONS ON FOREIGN SERVICE FAMILIES Those who work overseas, particularly Foreign Service members, experience frequent transitions. Here are some tips on coping with the disruptions they can cause. BY T. DHYAN SUMMERS T. Dhyan Summers, an American psychotherapist based in New Delhi, is the founder and clinical director of Expat Counseling and Coaching Services. She uses Skype to provide individual counsel- ing and psychotherapy, marriage counseling and career coaching services for the English-speaking expatriate community worldwide. ing they would have or even the schools their children would attend, but the kind of emotional support they would receive once at their new post. This was also the single most impor- tant factor in determining whether an expatriate employee remained at his or her posting. The State Department provides information on posts through the Overseas Transition Center. To balance the posi- tive spin found in many post reports, written to attract bidders, FS members also consult alternative sites that tell it more like it is, such as Bu t even this information, while informative and helpful, doesn’t necessarily prepare families and individuals for what lies ahead. To help Foreign Service families more effectively negotiate the emotional and psychological phases of the expatriate life- cycle and, in particular, to evaluate the “soft side” of a potential posting, I have developed what I call the “4S System”—situa- tion, self, support and strategies. The life of those who work overseas—especially members