Debriefing and Coaching

I was able to discuss things with Helen that I wouldn't discuss with friends (as I'd edit what I said to avoid appearing critical of the life I've left behind and they are still living) or my husband and children (as they all have a vested interest in the assignment). Helen's sensitive and perceptive questioning helped me to identify and process some of the stresses and challenges that have been affecting me but that I have not really been fully aware of.

Find out more about these aids to repatriation

Coming “home” after an international assignment is a relief, isn’t it? Everything’s familiar again, you’re back with friends and family, a language you can speak… But is it that simple? The honeymoon period after arriving back may well be a bit like that, but for many, feelings of overwhelm, loss, disorientation, loneliness, being misunderstood, isolation and general disillusionment are pretty common as you readjust back to your passport culture. Maybe your expat experience overseas isn’t valued by your peers – whether professionally or personally; maybe you have adapted so much to the culture you were in that you have lost sight of who you have become. The rest of this page takes a look at the benefits debriefing and coaching can give you when you return home after living overseas.

Why Debrief?

Debriefing has traditionally been reserved for the mission and military sectors, but there is a good case for spreading it wider. Why? Debriefing
  • is mostly appreciated by those who experience it
  • gives an opportunity to share the challenges and joys of the placement in a safe place of understanding and acceptance
  • reduces feelings of isolation and helps normalise the feelings you are encountering
  • helps prevent depression / anxiety
  • is recommended by the People In Aid 2003 Code of Good Practice.

What is Debriefing?

Personal Debriefing is a structured conversation based around an individual’s experiences. It is not the same as an organisational debrief, which looks at the outcomes for the organisation as well as the individual in that context. During a personal debrief (usually a conversation of around 2 hours), time is spent:
  • looking at the facts, thoughts and feelings involved in the challenging parts of your placement
  • making you aware of symptoms of stress and which ones you have experienced
  • talking about adjustment to loss
  • looking at the positive and life-giving aspects of your placement
  • looking forward – addressing your time since re-entry and your future
The benefits of debriefing are great, and it can stand alone. I would suggest that coaching is a good follow-on from debriefing (and of benefit for those who have not been debriefed): for some, when you return, it’s not clear what you will do next; you may have lost your ongoing vision for where you are going in life; you might be facing an identity crisis – you were one person overseas, but who are you now? – and struggle to know what you have to offer to the world; or so many facets of life may feel out of control that you feel like you need some help in moving forwards out of the chaos. This is where coaching comes in.

What is coaching?

If debriefing can be described as looking back and integrating your experiences, coaching is about moving forwards. It is about identifying what you really want out of life, and setting goals to help you move in that direction. As a repatriation coach, I can help you to find a pathway through your transition, looking at
  • which areas of life you have control over and can make progresswhich areas of life you have control over and can make progress the priorities you have in your life at moment, and which of these need addressing more urgently
  • your values and the conflicts between them which might arise as you move forward
  • the unique qualities and talents that you offer to the world, giving you a greater confidence in who you are and what gives you life
  • your dreams (even if these take some time to get hold of) and the impact meeting them can have on the people and things that are important to you
Having been an expat and re-pat myself, I bring understanding and empathy to my coaching. Returning from an international placement provides an unprecedented opportunity to re-evaluate your life and the direction it is taking. Investment in yourself at this time can only lead to a happier and more fulfilled you and therefore a happier family, greater integration of your international experiences, and a readiness to embrace your next stage of life. Get in touch with me to have a chat.

"I hoped to find an empathetic hearing from Helen… Given that she has been through a re-entry process, I hoped that I would be able to explain clearly some of the difficult situations experienced on the field and on return. I am glad to say that my expectations were met. The process has been very helpful. In particular, the ability to share with someone who truly understands was very encouraging." “Helen is a professional and experienced debriefer and coach who has been of significant help to BMS [Baptist Mission Society] during a time of staff shortage. Mission personnel have commented on how much they appreciated being debriefed and coached by her giving them the opportunity to open up to someone who was experienced, insightful and understanding. Helen’s reporting and feedback has always been swift and punctual with mission personnel commenting on the accuracy of her reports. We are very happy to recommend her.”