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working abroad | london | senior psychological wellbeing practitioner | yoga teacher | blogger

Coming into the festive season with summer holidays, travel and celebrations at the front of everyone’s mind, I thought what a better way to finish up 2014 career profile Wednesday share with a series on working abroad. It is something I have never experienced but has always been on my mind… and I deeply admire those who have made that move and packed up their bags, bid farewell and took on the world first hand. Welcoming my very first profile for the working abroad feature is Ariadne Kapsali, who has such a beautiful journey and story to tell taking the overseas leap at the young age of 17 to pursue her study…

I work in the National Health Service in Psychology, offering psychological interventions based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for people with common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. I also work privately as a yoga teacher and organize yoga, meditation and self-development workshops and retreats. I am the proud creator, owner and blogger at Yoga and Other Stories , a space where I explore issues around finding balance, living authentically and wholeheartedly.

Ariadne Kapsali, Senior Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner and Yoga teacher/Blogger, London United Kingdom.

I trained in Psychology and completed a Masters in Health Psychology and a Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) interventions. Four days a week, I work as a Senior Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner within a Psychology service based in Central London. My role is a mixture of offering short term CBT treatment for common mental health problems, as well as being part of the management team. Half of my working week is focused on seeing clients and running therapeutic groups and workshops and the other half is working on improving ways the service is running, looking at opportunities for development and supporting other members of the team. I coordinate and facilitate group supervision and will soon be offering clinical supervision for practitioners in training. My role involves training and supporting new members of our team and being the link between management and practitioners at my level.

The rest of my working week is taken by running yoga classes and one on one sessions, organizing yoga workshops and working on my blog. It is the perfect balance!

So… what do/did you actually do?
My days vary incredibly from week to week and month to month. I will share what my Tuesdays have been like for the past few months as they represent this variety perfectly! 

7am – Alarm rings – I snooze a few times (in the winter a few more…), before I take myself out of bed and have a shower. If I’ve not snoozed too much, I will do a few sun salutations or sit on my bolster for a few minutes of meditation practice. I get dressed, pick up breakfast (usually a homemade chia pudding which I eat at work) and walk or cycle to the office. 8.45-9am – Arrive at work. Check and respond to emails: clients arranging appointments and referring themselves to the service for support and various other emails from staff. Check my diary to make sure I am organized for the day. 9.30am-12.30pm – For the past few weeks, I have been involved in running a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction group for people with anxiety and chronic health conditions. This has been the highlight of my week, as it combines my two loves: psychology and yoga/meditation. I get to teach, learn and practice mindfulness while witnessing the amazing transformation of people in the group. 12.30-1.30pm – I have lunch and cycle to the doctor’s surgery, where I have my afternoon clinic. 2pm-5.30pm – I am based in a North London GP surgery and see clients who have been referred for support with their anxiety or low mood. I usually see between 2-5 clients within this time, and offer a combination of assessment, treatment and telephone sessions based on CBT principles. I support people learn practical tools to manage their stress, challenge their negative thinking and improve their day to day routine. 5.30-6pm – I write my notes, check and respond to emails and then cycle home. 6.15-6.45pm – The cycle home is usually around 10-15 minutes, so I am lucky enough to have time for my own yoga practice or to have a herbal tea before my private client arrives for his class. 6.45-8pm – Weekly one-on-one yoga class with my client ending with a short meditation and a lush relaxation. 8pm – onwards… Check my blog and respond to comments, write a blog post if I am inspired, waste time on social media (!), cook dinner and spend the evening with my man. Have a shower + sleep, sleep, sleep!

What made you decide to work overseas? Has this always been a passion of yours?
I moved to London when I was 17 years old in order to study Psychology at University College London. It was my dream and plan all along to study in England, as the university system in my home country Greece did not match my career ambitions. The field of Psychology in England is very developed and much more forward thinking compared to that of Greece and I felt that studying and working abroad would expose me to an incredible amount of opportunities that would simply not be available back home.

I have also always been intrigued by living abroad and being exposed to other cultures and different mentalities, and London is the perfect place to experiment with this.

What is your current role?
As a Senior Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner I offer one-to-one brief interventions based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I trained in this model, but also use tools based on motivational interviewing and other counseling skills. I usually see clients for up to six sessions, which last approximately 30 minutes. We work on identifying their current triggers for anxiety, depression, panic, etc and what thoughts and/or behaviours might be playing a role in keeping their problems going. We then look at learning practical strategies to start to challenge their thinking and creating more helpful coping mechanisms. I also teach relaxation and breathing as helpful ways to manage stress. I also facilitate workshops and groups based on the same principles and occasionally offer telephone sessions.

The other part of my role is focused on service development. I am involved in projects which look at improving our referral rates, reducing waiting times for clients receiving treatment, improving client satisfaction and managing issues that might come up. I have an interest in supporting practitioners develop professionally and look at ways that this can be matched to the needs of the service.

As a yoga teacher and blogger, I have a completely different work life! I manage my own time and have been fortunate to be able to have one day of in my week (currently Mondays) dedicated to this. I currently run one group yoga class and offer private one-on-one evening/weekend sessions. I use my own time to schedule classes and privates and to work on my blog and this sometimes means working during the weekend. This has never bothered me though as I absolutely love what I do.

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Have your found working overseas to help your career opportunities?
The work that I do and the opportunities I’ve had in London would not have presented themselves in Greece. For the past eight years, since I started working in psychology services in the National Health Service, I have had a steady flow of opportunities coming my way. Of course I have worked very hard to get where I am, but I have been extremely fortunate in being able to work in a variety of settings allowing me to explore the various ways in which Psychologists work in the UK. I don’t believe this would have been possible in the same way in Greece due to the fact that the field is not as developed and opportunities are limited.

London also provided me with the opportunity to train as a yoga teacher and start working even before graduating. I have networked with some very interesting people and through these networks I have been introduced to even wider and wilder possibilities in my field and beyond.

What do/did you love about working overseas?
I absolutely love the professional variety I have had. London provides an extreme amount of possibilities. It is of course competitive, but I have been able to challenge myself professionally over and over again. Until I started my current job, I used to change roles every year or so, which was a conscious choice of wanting to explore my field. I believe this has been a significant factor in helping me narrow down my desired career. I love that in my field I am offered opportunities to develop my skills within my role and there are always new ways of working to consider. London offers an immense amount of options and flexibility, which once you know how to manage, can be molded into something amazing.

I also love that in London nobody raises an eyebrow when I say I work in Psychology and part time as a yoga teacher. It is considered quite normal to be doing more than one thing and you meet so many people who are still figuring things out, no matter what age they are.

Over your career, what has been your ‘love this’ moment?
I remember when I first started having my ‘own’ clients; I absolutely loved the mixed feeling of thrill and fear! I got the same feeling when I first started teaching yoga. Scary, but beautiful! I also get to work with so many different people from different parts of the world and have learnt so much from all my colleagues, classmates and friends over the years.

What would be the least favourite aspect of working overseas / challenges?
London is a harsh place when you are starting out. It is big and very expensive and as a result it can make you feel very small and insignificant. Looking for work when you know you are going against another 400 equally qualified applicants can be really disheartening and you need to build quite a hard exterior to keep morale high when you get rejected from work you know you can do very well.

Another challenge for me is knowing whether your plan is to remain where you are. Working overseas is great, but if your plan is to ultimately go back home (or move somewhere new) you will need to start thinking about it. Uncertainty has always been my little demon, which I am constantly working with!

Any advice for anyone aspiring to work overseas?
I would say, absolutely GO FOR IT. If your heart is in it, take the leap and do it. Working and living abroad has undoubtedly made me a better person. I am more open-minded and independent than ever, flexible in my approach and resilient in many ways. My worldview has changed. My values have evolved and my life is simply so much richer by this experience. Even if you don’t end up loving it as much as you hope, going through it will be a fantastic life lesson!

Remember to connect with Ariande at Yoga + Other Stories – if you have any questions about working aboard or Ariande’s incredible story, please join the conversation below.