I pride myself in being able to spot a TCK within the first five minutes of a counseling session. How? Is it because their attire has an international flavor? They have an accent? They are late for their appointment? They have a backpack with them containing their laptop? Or because they have already made a new best friend with my receptionist?
No, it is not due to any of the above reasons. Although these would all be good clues for some of my TCKs. No, I have more solid evidence which gives me some good clues. It is my Client Intake Form.
I have designed my Client Intake Form with the Adult TCK or the Cross-Cultural Kid in mind. I have added the following questions:
2. Number of moves
3. Countries lived in longer then four months
4. Fluent in what languages
5. Passport country
6. Length of time in current home
Each of these questions gives me a clue as to their rate of mobility as well as their exposure to various cultures. Each of these questions could result in a long discussion around their global lifestyle. It is important to ask their age in each of their international and international moves, along with talking about where they have been. All of this is valuable information in understanding and helping my client.
If I see that their passport country is the United States, I might ask them how they are doing at adjusting to their “home” culture. Often I see a look of surprise come over their face and they state, “Oh my goodness, how did you know I am lost”?
Other clues might be:
1. Their employment with an international agency or an NGO.
2. Some of the symptoms they often check on my Client Intake Form are: restlessness, loss of identity, grief, transitional challenges, relational Issues, depression or anxiety.
3. In answering the question, “Briefly describe your problem” they often give clues to their life as a TCK. An example might be “I struggle with making meaningful friends as people are so superficial”.
When I look at the Intake Form this helps guide my first session and connection with that client. I have only 50 minutes to connect with my new client.
If I don’t quickly connect, they won’t return to see me as they might conclude, “This new therapist will not understand my world.” I have crafted my Intake Form with the TCK in mind. It serves my purposes as a counselor specializing in TCKs.
The fact that someone is a TCK does not protect them from things that other human beings struggle with as well. I must focus on the reason they presented for therapy and not just their TCK-ness, but their identity as a TCK will flavor all of our work together as therapist/client. This work begins when they first step foot into my office.