The Love Doctor
Tell us about your approach to psychotherapy.
I practice what is called effective sychotherapy, it comprises of several what we call modalities, for instance we include elements from psychoanalysis, cognitive behaviour therapy, hypnosis and coaching, etc, not just one ‘modality’. We really look at a client as an individual with holistic issues – their dreams and desires and all of that. So we adapt to each individual. I find a single modality approach difficult, and potentially dangerous because such a rigid approach rarely helps and in some cases will hinder progress.
When did you decide to become a psychotherapist?
My mum is a clinical psychologist where I’m from in Poland. No matter how much I fought against following in my mum’s footsteps, I ended up doing the same thing! I had years of effective practice at home, and I liked it and I went to university in Leeds to study; then did a postgraduate in Effective Psychology with the National Council of Psychotherapists in Bradford. It was so eye-opening, I really enjoyed the experience. I practice from the Lifeways Centre at Stratford, but I’m also doing my masters in Clinical Psychology and I lecture at Coventry University in Mental Health. I’ve been seeing clients since September so it’s a new venture and very exciting and interesting.
What can you offer clients?
I’m 32, which means there I’m seen as quite young for a psychotherapist; there are good things and challenges associated with that. Good things are that I’m dynamic and open to learning, I’m not set in my ways and am up on the latest research. The challenges include the fact that people tend to go for older, more experienced psychotherapists. But the right clients are finding me, and I do attract younger clients. I think younger clients are more accepting of themselves; they are open to coming to a psychotherapist and dealing with things they are unsure about. The older generation will think: ‘No one’s dead, I don’t really need to go and see a psychotherapist’. But you don’t need to have ‘issues’ to see a psychotherapist.
The way I see it, people are happy to go to the hairdressers once a month, and that’s my stance with psychotherapy; why not check how happy you are in your life?
So, same with relationships, don’t wait until they are broken?
Yes, absolutely. People accept things because they are afraid to be alone or because of something that happened in their childhood. There are myriad things that makes people put up with things which they could sort before problems overwhelm them.
Why do people tend to come to see you?
The thing that keeps popping up is the lack of emotional connection or the lack of expression of emotions, which is core to relationships and happiness overall. People in Britain often seem to struggle to talk about their emotions, and that seems to signify vulnerability, associated with fear. That has to be overcome in order to build successful relationships. Younger people also have issues with emotional expression, but that can be down to their culture. I don’t want to patronise or stereotype, but social media has had a huge impact on how we express emotion. Just in terms of how we use emojis as shorthand… and the type of contact we have has changed significantly. We live in such interesting times; there’s been a real shift in the way we communicate, and express our emotions.
When people find they are not happy with their relationship; what are the key points they should address?
Establish specifically what they unhappy with. Is it temporary, out of their control or something to do with them? Again I think it’s important to look at it holistically: look at yourself and the other party, as well as all the circumstances involved. It’s important not to skew it in any way. Look at the routine – which areas are unhappy: romance? sex? And the big thing is to be honest about what you want – people often aren’t. I’ve seen people stay in relationships that are not functioning happily, but they would rather carry on than be on their own.
How can a bad relationship be saved?
It is important that people convey their emotions: like anger. It’s actually a really important emotion. When we are children we are taught to suppress it. If a child is angry they are told to be quiet, and so they learn to turn that emotion into things like sadness or frustration. Upset is tolerated far more than anger; and so that’s how we function later in life, we are conditioned. So in a relationship – whether romantic or platonic – you try and contain anger, but if that doesn’t get channelled in a healthy way it overflows, and that can lead to a variety of problems. So I think it is healthy to say: ‘I feel angry because…’. Nobody can attack you for how you feel, it’s honest. We have such busy lives, it’s easy to not find the time to have those conversations, but you need to make sure they happen.
What if a couple are unhappy but have children, should they stay together for the sake of the family?
I think sacrifice is important, but that sort of sacrifice can end up with you forgetting who you are. If you are not expressing yourself that can end in resentment. So it’s really important that people remember who they are: whether that’s finding time for yourself or pursuing a career.
Finally, with Valentine’s coming up, is there too much pressure to have a perfect relationship?
Everybody wants to be loved and accepted, and have that amazing feeling, that’s our expectation as human beings. However the way media portrays gender and sexuality is incredibly regimented – we call that polarisation. ‘You are supposed to have such-and-such a relationship by this age’: we see that programmed into younger people. We tell them that the nuclear family is what is accepted, it is ‘normal’; and ironically this means we can end up with the opposite. For example England’s divorce rate is crazy – one in three; and I think the media and our cultural traditions and values have something to do with it; it’s too much about unrealistic expectations. The younger generation are increasingly turning to virtual relationships – Facebook and dating apps – but we see what we want to see on there. It is a cartoon look at life – seeing through rose-tinted glasses. Everyone on Facebook seems to having an amazing time, and so that feeds into that cycle of expectation… and inevitable disappointment.