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When the tears of my migrant client become my own

Today, for the first time in my clinical practice, I felt how the tears of my client felt very much like my own.

My client, like myself, is a migrant with dual Latino American-European nationality. Resident of the UK since June 23rd last year, he like me, does not know what future awaits for him and his family. Like me, he does not know if anytime soon we will still be allowed to call this country 'our home’. Like me and many other millions in the UK, my client feels displaced. My client, who already holds a low concept of self and worthiness, a result of several episodes of sudden abandonment he experienced in his formative years and early adulthood, is the small example of what we, as a society, are harbouring at times - social division and imminent segregation.

The reason why I want to share this with you all is not because I want to make you aware of the pain and struggles migrants like myself experience as a result of the very selective UK immigration system. My real motivation is the urge to open up the conversation on how much damage, both emotionally and psychologically the use of ‘grading scales of human value’ currently used by government, is causing to individuals and society as a whole.

As I sat across from my client I could feel the heaviness of his pain, the unmeasurable amount of frustration his body was struggling to contain…the anger, almost unspoken but felt in every part of the therapeutic room, the anger I can see through his eyes suddenly red and filled with tears, the anger we both understand.

As I feel his tears becoming mine, a burning question came to mind… how do we, therapists, health care professionals, coaches, and any profession that supports emotional and mental well-being to clients, support this new wave of national and global rejection that is taking place against large groups of people?

How do we achieve this at a time where almost on a daily basis we hear authorities like the Prime Minister say that migrants numbers will be cut, that only the ‘brightest and the best’ migrants are the ones who are welcome to make this country their home. The country, millions of minority groups and EU nationals are not sure they can call home anymore.

My client proceeded to make a painful prediction for which I was not prepared, but one that reflects the depth of this current social race division is already causing to society but more importantly, to the value and human worthiness of millions.

His prediction?... a terrifying one, that in a future not too far from now, it will not be surprising to hear that Europeans or ‘low value’ migrants could be required to wear a symbol on their arms to distinguish them from the ‘high quality’ crowd.

As I reflected on my practice later in the day, I realise I too need emotional support for my own uncertainty of where I stand as an EU migrant of this country. I too do not know what will happen next.

As a Person Centred therapist I am only prepared to be congruent and stay with the here and now but I realise my training had not covered rejection at global scale, this is new and this is big.

As I saw my client sitting on the sofa in front of me, I noticed a new emotion in me. jealousy.

I’ll tell you why.

I felt jealous of the freedom he felt to cry over the uncertainty he feels for his future in the country he had called home for so many years. Jealous because he had the space to say how unwanted he feels, jealous because no one shut him down, jealous because he had someone that listened, jealous because he had someone who truly cared, jealous because his tears were seen. Jealous because he cried freely, jealous because I wished it was me.

I hope this candid blog awakens in you the curiosity and awareness of what I consider to be one of the biggest most damaging social impacts modern history is facing. I hope we open up conversations on how to support one another so that we can be emotionally equipped to support those we have ethical and professional responsibility for, our clients.

As I finished the session I reflected to my client in the way I feel my training does best, staying with the here and now.

So I proceeded to finish the session with a message that felt natural to share, perhaps one I meant for us both: That this wave of global rejection to certain groups of nationals and race is not the first to happen in the world, that maybe this could be a healing process to find strength in self.

That maybe this could be the opportunity to find peace in ourselves and in who we are, that maybe this is the opportunity to like oneself and break the culture of disrespect for our ethnicities by starting to respect it ourselves, that maybe, we can use this opportunity to work through our social and statistical value category of ‘migrant’…, a high-value migrant, a high-value human being.

Authors Bio


Claudia Turbet-Delof is an MBACP Person Centred Counsellor that has worked and volunteered in the Charity Sector for over a decade supporting children, young people and families through emotional and personal development support programmes. One of her passions is equality of gender. Claudia volunteers as Vice-Chair and Trustee for women’s rights charity, LAWRS. (Latin American Women's Rights Services)

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