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Spotlight on our Speakers: OPENING THE WINDOWS: the Balance between Exposure and Privacy in Writing and Life

10 Jan 2017 1:57 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)
FIGT17NL is proud to present “Spotlight on our Speakers Series.” We will be showcasing our network of researchers, educators, counselors, relocation specialists, artists, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, students and parents that will be speaking at our annual conference.  

To get us started, we’re delighted to welcome Kristin Duncombe, who is a strong supporter of Families in Global Transition and one of the first to sign up to attend. We asked her what makes the FIGT conference so special and in answer, she beautifully explores the role and importance of sharing both in her life and her work.


As a practicing psychotherapist AND the author of two memoirs, I am accustomed to people asking, “how do you deal with exposing all that personal information, for all to see – including your clients?!”

I did think about this a lot before my first book, Trailing, came out, and though I could not know for sure how it would feel to throw open the windows on my life, I did know one thing for sure:  My need to publish the book was greater than my need to protect my privacy.  And so I launched the book, with a note to readers in the back that explained, among other things, that I was “compelled to tell my story…because of the way the personal and professional are ultimately woven together. A therapist is, before anything else, just another human being with his or her unique history. My firsthand understanding of some of the issues described in this book, such as trauma, depression, anxiety, and relational struggles informs the work I do with clients today.”

Since taking that risk, and then doing it all over again by releasing a second book that was equally personal, I can unequivocally say that exposing my life experiences has not only not hurt my therapy practice, but has helped it.  I am convinced that the psychoanalytic model of therapist as an anonymous blank slate upon which patients project their fantasies is passé, and that increasingly, what people seek, in addition to insight, is the knowledge that they are not alone, that there are universal experiences that bind us human beings together through the understanding of shared experience. Although my books are never the focus in the therapy sessions I conduct, my clients will sometimes say, “I know you really do understand what I mean by X,Y, or Z, as you wrote about that in your book.”

Being understood.  Being recognized.  These are particularly poignant and necessary elements for those of us that comprise the TCK global family. So many of the adaptation crises that arise for us global nomads springs from the sense of not belonging.  Although there are always exceptions to the rule, what if we all flung our windows open more frequently?  I believe in so doing we would optimize our chances to find ourselves in others, and what could be greater than that?

Kristin Duncombe is an American writer and psychotherapist who has lived in Europe since 2001. She has based her career on working with international and expatriate families following her own experience of growing up overseas as the child of a US diplomat, and having lived internationally most of her adult life.

She is the author of Trailing: A Memoir and Five Flights Up, both memoirs that address, among other things, the specific challenges and idiosyncracies of the expat existence.

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