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Pioneering Mental Health Care For Expats And Creatives – Exclusive Interview With Valeria Pierdominici

Originally from Milan, Italy, she has been living as an expat herself for several years, living in Turin, Barcelona, Vienna, London, Berlin and Amsterdam, since 2004. Based on personal experience, she also understands the complexities and difficulties of living, adjusting, and settling in a foreign country. Valeria is a Clinical Psychologist and Psychosomatic Psychotherapist supporting the expat community in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 


She is also pioneering mental health care in the art world, offering specifically unique support in the prevention of mental illnesses of highly sensitive artists during their fragile and powerful creative process. Valeria is a therapist of travellers, highly educated people coming from all over the world.

Image photo of Valeria Pierdominici

Valeria Pierdominici, Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist

Hello Valeria, could you tell us about yourself and life?


My name is Valeria Pierdominici. I was born in Savona, Italy, near the Mediterranean sea. I have lived and traveled on the road discovering several European countries – Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and England. One of the most beautiful and unique experiences was living on a boat in the village of Porto Venere, in the Gulf of Italy, where writers such as Byron and Mary Shelley once lived.


"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” – Nelson Mandela

I eventually settled in the international city of Amsterdam. I loved it here and soon naturally defined myself as an Amsterdammer. I have a tiny house overlooking a canal and bridge. I love water, the blue sky and long walks on the North Sea beaches. Now, I have acquired Dutch nationality.


Here I am the founder of Protea Expat Therapy practice. I have chosen this name because I love the flower as a symbol of resilience and adaptation to many different climates in the world. At my practice, I appreciate and aim to foster the resilience, ability to adapt and the capacity for growth we all possess.


I was always interested in people, intently listening to and deciphering their incredible life stories. Despite my young age when I started, I shared a low threshold for boredom. Thankfully therapy sessions are fast and intellectually challenging. I have supported many people in the last twenty years to improve their mental health by resolving conscious and unconscious matters easily.


I am graduated in Clinical Psychology at the University of Turin in 1998. In 2007 I specialized in Psychosomatic Psychotherapy in Milan. I have practiced at the St Anna Hospital in the beautiful city of Como overlooking its beautiful lake as a clinical psychologist and at the Vienna City Administration as an independent researcher in the field of family and children research. Within my expertise and study there is the therapeutic support for patients with tinnitus. I have been working for the international medical centers in Amsterdam for several years as a multilingual Psychologist and Therapist.


My service is an international mental health practice for highly educated people, entrepreneurs, film makers, writers, lawyers, architects, inventors, designers, artists, refugees, academics and creative minds through the methodologies of Psychosomatic Psychotherapy and Jungian Psychoanalysis, including the arts like vocal psychotherapy, creative process study during the filmmaking, for example, and coaching tools.


Everyone who does not fit in an existing category of diagnosis.


This approach uses Jungian psychoanalysis and psychosomatic psychotherapy combined with music therapy, improvisation workshops and traditional one to one psychotherapy. When integrated, great results can be achieved in resolving the causes not just the symptoms.


Amsterdam is the perfect place for these people to start their therapy because they can reach me easily in the city centre by bike. Also, I reach them internationally through my online work.


What is the mission and vision behind Protea Therapy? How does your business strive to achieve these goals?


The mission of Protea Expat Therapy is to reach multilingual people who do not enter the classified box of mental health care: Some cannot get a diagnosis, or even if they have one, they are unable to or will not follow the specific allocated therapy for different reasons. So this is the place, my therapy practice, where anyone who is beyond the box of a diagnosis can feel comfortable.


Multicultural and multilingual individuals who are highly sensitive and have values and interests in life that in some way may be very specific, unusual or exceptional. Also, LGBTQIA+ and fluid professional identities as well. Let’s call them categories without categories, owing to their independent brain power and finding it difficult to be understood in other contexts because of their complexity.


Could you explain the range of therapy services provided on your website? Are there any specific areas of expertise or specialisation that your therapies offer?


I am a psychosomatic psychotherapist: the mind and body cooperate to find health. The messages the body communicates to the world through the conversations are essential to listen to. So, the direction is psychosomatic and based on Jungian psychoanalysis. Of course, I have also studied diverse approaches – among the others – cognitive behavioral therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and business coaching.


Image photo of Valeria Pierdominici

How do you ensure that your therapists are qualified and experienced in their respective fields? How do you maintain a high standard of professionalism and expertise?


That is a good question. There were times when I pondered upon expanding my practice and hiring personnel. Instead, I chose to develop a small therapy practice and have a personal supervisor to maintain privacy, endeavouring to keep the method simple and reachable and be in the city centre. All on a ground floor studio with a characteristic garden space where I can study alone and still provide an international service.


Can you describe the online therapy process for clients visiting your website? How does it work, and what can clients expect during their sessions?


Most clients come via their general physician, others have heard about my work via words of mouth. Often, this happens, through people who have already been through this process. They reach my website and decide to connect with me through the booking process. I mostly receive direct bookings. They may go via telehealth therapy, one-to-one therapy, family/relationship therapy, video session one to one, burn out prevention intensive or therapy for artists. After they have read my profile and decided to make an appointment, the booking process is easy. I am also available via phone which simplifies the communication for most clients to make an appointment.

Does Protea Expat Therapy have any distinctive features or approaches that differentiate it from other online therapy platforms? What makes your services stand out in the market?

My services stand out in the market because of my relationships with universities, schools and companies, looking for a person who can support their clients in English, Italian or Spanish. They have a complex resolution to their correspondingly complex issues here. So, there is a one-to-one recognition of skills where the listening ability and presence are of unique fast understanding. Also they do not need to give a time frame to their therapy as there will be time, once therapy starts, to continue the process in case of traumas or more difficult issues if they come up during the treatment. I have a network of other doctors and psychiatrists who share the same view: to adhere to the goal of improving health for my clients collaborating with interdisciplinary work, in case of need and in agreement with the client's intentions. 

How do you prioritise client privacy and confidentiality when they engage in therapy sessions on your website?

I am the sole person who has access to their information. Additionally, they feel safe knowing that no other party may read their emails or messages.

How does your ideal work method oppose the private insurance companies that require client details for insurance claims?

Because of that, I only generally have customers who come independently to my therapy practice. They pay for my service and can keep all information about themselves. Sometimes, a client asks me to share information with their insurance company, organisation or doctor. In this case, I write a letter to the appropriate address and check it with the client. In this way, they are in complete charge and control of their information.

 

Tell us about your most notable career achievement so far.

Well, my career achievements have been straightforward and uncomplicated. I had a dream, and I have achieved my dream. I said to myself, this is what I want to do and then grew organically towards that goal with hard work, intuition, and support from the neighbourhood, my friends. Within this simple value, supporting the mental health care of vulnerable highly skilled people, I believe I am happy with every health benefit I can see in my clients during the therapy process. A kind and personal approach where presence and respect of differences and creative life paths are the keys.

Image photo of Valeria Pierdominici

What would you consider your finest career achievement as a therapist?


I think it must be the collaboration with the Amsterdam Film Scene supporting filmmakers during their writing and filmmaking. Every single hour of therapy means a lot to me: each of them has a special light, a special story, and the time somehow stops. That makes my life deep and meaningful. I could not live so many lives in just one day if I would do any other profession. My career achievements are the achievements of my clients who come to me and eventually reach their goals in life and, above all, their happiness via their individuation process: to become who they really are and feel fulfilled by it, despite their mental health issues, anxiety, traumas, identity issues, migrations, losses or limitations.


If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be and why?

I would wish greater freedom for the client in their choice of therapist despite languages or location for mental health to be more accessible, especially from the insurance, but also more accessible to multilingual support. 

Do you mean that when someone is trying to seek therapy, they are not given enough choices or are unaware of their possible options?

Yes, especially regarding therapy conducted in the client's mother tongue. There ought to be more sensitivity and autonomy regarding their language preference. If that could happen, there would be many more therapists and institutions offering services in considerably more languages and cultural backgrounds in Amsterdam.


So here you are emphasising the lack of flexibility and accessibility to other languages within the system?

Yes, but also within the whole world of public healthcare. But not only in mental health care but also within the medical and hospital system. Multicultural approaches open the doors to more health for more people in the city.


Was there a pivotal moment that brought you to where you are today?

Yes. The moment I accepted my role and identity as an artist and a therapist was significant. Realising this fact created the unique service I am now offering. Remember that my core base was for intelligent and skilled people, existentialists who did not find a place to be listened to and therapeutically helped to find a way out in their sensitive approach to life. 


3 best ways to get better mental health?

  1. Remember the goals you wanted to reach when you were 5 years old, and never forget them while looking for a job or a partner. Sometimes we look far away for happiness, while we already knew long ago what we wanted.

  2. Have discipline and study books about how to have a happy life. Many people already searched before us how to live a happy and healthy life and we forget that. Get inspired by people who made many mistakes and learn from those mistakes instead of searching for a perfect fix. 

  3. Listen to your reasoning when you make a decision and trust your opinion, even if they are sometimes unusual or too creative. The answer lies in you only and you have to find people around you, who believe in you, to understand what to do to feel better. If you don't find a way yourself, then ask for help from someone who can listen. That is the first step to overcome obstacles, thinking together about how to look at them 

Visit my website for more info!

 

Photo credits:

  • Orrin Keep 

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