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 Counselling and Psychotherapy for Individuals, Couples and Families in London 

"The Meyerowitz Stories." Or the Story of Families

 
 
Every day I am increasingly stunned by how movies and tv series give me so much food for my thoughts as therapist. Although I do not even have a tv, as many of my friends and clients know by now, I have a benign addiction to clever series as I find them not only compelling and entertaining but also very stimulating for my work.
After I finished watching “Mindhunter” this week, a serie on the exploration of the mind of serial killers based in the 70s, I luckily bumped into the movie “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)”.
 
Trying not to give too many spoilers away, the movie is about Harold, a father in his mid 70s (an epic Dustin Hoffman) and his three adult children, Danny (Adam Sandler), Matthew (Ben Stiller) and Jean ( Elizabeth Marvel) and the complex relationships between all of them. Harold is what can be easily classified as a Narcissistic father. A mildly successful artist in the 70s New York art scene, he is not so famous anymore- and probably never was -but his three kids seem to relentlessly have to play the role of feeding his ego and nourishing his self esteem, at the expense of their own .

"A Little Life”. On Trauma, Emotions and Words.

16th January 2017

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Happy New Year! January is not necessarily my favourite month. Like many others, I find it a bit hard to resume energy after the Christmas holidays, to motivate myself in the dark grim London weather. So what I normally try to do is finding some nurturing rituals or routines while waiting that the energy comes back to normal levels again. One of these rituals is reading a book I was really looking forward to really savour with joy. I therefore finally started “A Little Life”, the shortlisted 2015 Man Booker prize book written by Hanya Yanagihara.
 
At first this book is about four Massachusetts University classmates growing up and becoming adults and successful professionals in New York City, which is already totally my cup of tea.
 
 
However, very soon the reader realizes it is much more and much “harder” than that. It is the story about Jude, the real protagonist of the book, a multiple traumas survivor whose life has been torn and shattered since the day he was born.

 

"Get some fresh air." The benefits on brain and mind

You have heard it many times from parents, friends, colleagues. Whenever you go through a challenging time, a heartbreak, an exam, a significant stress or disappointment in an area of your life that really matters to you, somebody at some point has suggested “go out, it will refresh your mind ” and most likely you thought: “as if it will help!”
 
"Why don't you get out and get some fresh air? You have been stuck at home the whole day!"
 
Truth is…it really does. I often have this conversation with my clients. Leaving the house when they are feeling quite low and unhappy, locked in a negative perception of their life, can make a difference . When they manage to find the sufficient energy and motivation to step out, the benefits may not be visible straight away but they are very likely to be there once they go back home. Why is that? Because something, even a small item of the perception of our situation and difficulties changes just by walking and briefly changing our surroundings. It could be a window shop, a word we overhear from a lady walking next to us, the coffee order we make, that bright red apple we see at the vegetables shop. The brain records new stimuli and this simple fact creates a mini shuffle in our thoughts. It is very similar to those magical kaleidoscopes we use to play with as children. If you shake them just slightly, what you will see will not look exactly the same as what you perceived before.
 
 
Of course I am well aware that people who are experiencing severe depression have a great difficulty even in finding the energy to leave their bed and not being able to go out contributes to their depression. But when they do, with the support of professional treatment, it is an achievement that provides them with a great sense of accomplishment. Problems will not suddenly disappear but there is likely to be a little more energy to face them.
If we not only leave the house but also succeed in doing some physical exercise, the benefits are remarkable. Yes, we have heard this one even more often. “Healthy mind in a healthy body”, “you should go for a run”. It is undeniable that exercising is healthy and necessary for our wellbeing. But what is really fascinating is what research has discovered fairly recently: aerobic exercise is the only activity that we know so far that regenerates our brain. Literally. It helps producing new neurons, most likely in the hippocampus , an area of the brain linked with memory and learning. Furthermore, the increase in neurogenesis ( birth of new neurons) has been associated with reduction in depressive mood in rats. (Bjørnebekk, Mathe, and Stefan Brene, 2005).
Additionally, several studies have come to the conclusion that medium-intensity exercise increases the activation of the frontal lobe, an area of the brain which is key for emotional regulation and problem solving. This may explain why many runners have so often reported not only increased positive mood but also solutions to their problems “magically” popping into their mind after their run. It is also worth mentioning that aerobic exercise has been associated with a more effective response to stress and anxiety , including a better protection for future stress. And how not to mention the secondary benefit of getting out and about , up and down: getting tired. After a walk, run, swim or gym class, we normally reach a state of a positive physical tiredness that helps switch our brain off, leading to a more restorative sleep . In turn, a good night sleep leads to greater energy levels in the morning which helps facing the day with a more positive perception of the reality.
 
It is important to acknowledge that sometimes getting to a satisfactory level of fitness proves hard to achieve in a short period of time and it requires some patience and motivation to keep going. This takes me to my initial suggestion to start with: Get out and get some fresh air.

Emotions: What to do with them?!

17 November 2015

As a beginner Psychology student, I assumed that emotions being a key element of human experience most of the undergraduate degree subjects would attempt the understanding of emotions and their use in therapy. After all, the definition of the word “emotion” is “strong feeling”, “state of consciousness", and its origin is in the latin “emovere”= to MOVE. That is what they do. Emotions move us, they stir us. Therefore of course they would receive a special attention from psychological therapies. Wouldn’t they?

 

                               

Distance and Relationships. Love and care while being apart 

12th October 2015

My “relationship” with distance started quite early on. One of my parent used to spend most of the week in another city for a big chunk of my childhood. A decade later or so, it was boyfriends living on the other side of the world. Then family, siblings, friends. Since then,  I have lived apart from some people I love dearly. Wherever I am, there is somebody I am missing. There is always a plane waiting to take me closer to somebody, farther from somebody else.

 

The "Baby Fog". Thinking of new parents.

25 April 2015

A baby is a miracle. It is one of the greatest privileges human beings may have: giving life, witnessing this miracle blossoming day by day , introducing a little creature to the world and being in the position of giving and receiving the most intense, unconditional love is an indescribable joy to parents and  to the whole family. 

However, this joy does not mean that at the beginning the whole process of becoming a parent will be an easy and a feel-so-natural one (is any happy life event completely easy, would it give us so much joy if it was? ) Pregnancy and birth are often a bumpy ride and an emotional rollercoaster too.

In my personal and in my professional life, I have had the chance to meet several new mothers and although expressions like “baby blues” and “post natal depression” are nonchalantly used everyday, it is still very hard and remarkably guilt provoking for a new parent to admit to themselves and their entourage how difficult, scary, de-skilling and exhausting the experience of becoming a parent can be.

The feeling that I have most frequently came across is isolation. . Most mothers I have worked with live in London, had busy professional lives before the baby arrived and live far away from their families of origin. Which basically means: not much emotional and practical support. Fathers help as much as they can but after two weeks of paternity leave, despite their heart sinking, they have to go back to work, leave mum and baby for the day and come back to them at night, most likely exhausted from their day and not so ready to relieve their wives back at the parenting fort.

 

What I am writing is well known to parents but what I do want to emphasize for my present and future clients: please do not be hard on yourself. No matter how wonderful, marvelous, breathtaking the experience can be, becoming a parent and looking after tiny little creatures may also be one of the trickiest things you will ever do.

I call it the BABY FOG: a feeling /state of physical and mental exhaustion, in which the perspective on things may become blurry because of sleep deprivation , the afterbirth, the hormonal turmoil, and the massive life cycle transition you are going through. But when in the Fog, please do not forget this: You will become better at it, you WILL go back to being yourself sooner than you believe and most important, you do not have to go through “the baby fog” on your own.

Ask for help: family coming to stay, friends, neighbours, mother’s helpers , babysitters . Try to reach out in your neighborhood/borough through baby classes, children centres, online communities. Also, there are great blogs that not only provide useful information but also help you to feel supported and to take away the edge of it with a little bit of irony. Some examples.

http://theuglyvolvo.com/

http://www.pregnantchicken.com/

If it still feels overwhelming and/ you are worried about your mood swings, thoughts and health, professionals are there to help you.

And yes, you can bring the baby with you.

A January reading: Ian McEwan's "The Children Act"

18 january 2015 at 17.00

According to some social media researchers, tomorrow, Monday or Blue Monday ( this year: 19th January) is supposed to be “the most miserable day of the year”.  Many people suffer from January blues and I have to say I also find this month somehow more challenging than others. Winter is still very far from being over, flus and colds are the highest peak of the year, in Uk it is the tax return deadline and the energy levels seem to be generally quite low. So in case you are wondering why your mood is not great, January is probably not helping with it.

However, there is always something we can do about it.  And it can be an interesting challenge. Some people focus on new year resolutions, starting new activities, classes,projects.  One of my favourite way of fighting the January blues is to focus on indoor pleasures like  reading. Instead of focusing on movies, it is a book I would like to write about today.

Ian McEwan did it again. Whenever a book of McEwan comes out, I cannot help myself being quite excited and I know that sooner or later it will be on my bookshelf.

For some reason, I was not particularly intrigued by his two previous fictions (Solar, Sweet Tooth) but somehow I knew as Family Therapist and as McEwan fan that the Children Act would have been different .

 

Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan

 

"Nightcrawler". The Dusk of Empathy.

“Nightcrawler” (2014) is what many movie critics described as a "must see" thriller of the end of this year. I went to watch it yesterday, encouraged by those reviews and also because I plainly felt like going to the cinema again. Is it a good movie? I think so. Enjoyable? I cannot say, because actually the feeling you are left with, rather than the violence content, can be quite unsettling.

Without giving too many spoilers, Nightcrawler is a movie about a guy, Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal) in his mid/late thirties, unemployed, who by chance one night is a close witness of a car crash and sniffs a career opportunity in L.A. night crime freelance journalism, mainly fatal accidents, murders, etc..  As “nightcrawlers”, there is one priority: being at the crime scene before anyone else, taking the most “graphic” shot to sell to the broadcasting news TV channels . Lou who does not seem to have any relationship/responsibility for any  living being other than a plant in his apartment and who is very likely to have an underlying mental health condition gets very quickly carried away by the night crime journalism. He discovers it may finally be something he is good at. “If it bleeds, it leads” is the motto and it becomes Lou’ s obsession, leading him to blur all lines of ethics and morality (and eventually , legality)  to the point that he is not just the observer of the crime, but the participant.

Quartet, Families and Life-cycle. A film review

5 October 2014

Yesterday I finally came around to watch “A Late Quartet”, the 2012 debut movie of director  Yaron Zilberman, majestically performed by Walken, the late Seymour Hoffman, Keener and Ivanir. It is a tale of a string quartet whose characters have played and grown together over a period of 25 years and who now have to face the end of their journey as a group. One of the members has been diagnosed with Parkinson and will depart the Quartet after one last performance all together.

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