Meet The Therapist: Monika Bakonyi
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I grew up under communism, which meant that both of my parents worked and I had to spend most of my childhood with other children in a learning environment. I remember enjoying “people watching” as a child and I believe this contributed to my natural curiosity about people. I consider myself observant and able to attune to others, which is essential in my counselling work especially when establishing the therapeutic alliance.
I worked as a swimming teacher for many years specialising in working with autistic children and children with physical disabilities. I also helped adults with water phobia. I realised that my work was as much about teaching swimming as it was about supporting vulnerable people through stressful experiences. I wanted to transfer and develop my skills and train as a therapist. My wish to help others coincided with my decision to return to my original academic background and study again.
Where did you train?
I trained at the Metanoia Institute in London.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I am a humanistic counsellor and I believe that, while we are born into different circumstances, we all have the ability to grow and change if we are provided with the right conditions. I am a relational therapist which means that the therapeutic relationship, based on trust and confidentiality, between my clients and I is paramount to the success of the therapy. The modalities I fall back on are transactional analysis (TA), Gestalt and person-centred.
I use mindfulness techniques when appropriate and psycho-education, especially TA theories. I am quite creative and use art and movement in my work. I provide both long-term and short-term contracts depending on the client’s needs and I see them once a week.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I have a busy private therapy practice in South West London. My clientage is multinational from different religious and racial backgrounds. They are mostly professionals with busy jobs. At the moment a lot of my clients are under 30 years old; this is something I am reflecting on.
I also work for Mind in Essex where the majority of my clients are white and British. As opposed to London, they often come from very difficult social and economic backgrounds, which manifests in complex issues.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I like meeting new people and I enjoy building the therapeutic relationship, especially when I start sensing the trust established between the client and myself. I am always delighted to see clients gaining awareness around the connection between past and present patterns and the tentative attempts to try out new ways of being inside and outside the therapy room. Learning about my clients’ lives and problems often spurs me on to do research which taps into my natural curiosity and need to learn.
What is less pleasant?
While I would like to see my clients at the same time each week, I had to become more flexible regarding time as my London clients are busy professionals. This is sometimes difficult. I am self-employed and I dislike the paperwork that comes with this. I don’t like endings so remaining aware of this and talking to my supervisor is essential.
How long have you been with welldoing.org and what do you think of us?
I joined welldoing.org last September and I have had clients coming to me through the website. I really like the articles and the feeds on Facebook. I have felt real interest in me and the approach towards me was friendly and supportive.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes, I do, carefully. One of my strengths is my theoretical knowledge and I am suspicious of the “magic wand” self-help book epidemic I notice in bookshops. A lot of my clients enjoy reading Eric Berne’s Games People Play (1964). I have recommended two apps, Headspace and Calm to my clients. I think Calm is one the best apps around at the moment.
What you do for your own mental health?
I see my therapist and supervisor regularly. I don’t meditate anymore but my training has taught me to have a slower reflective process, so basically, funny as it sounds, I think a lot! I have great peer support too. I swim 3-4 times a week, I try and cycle and walk as much as I can. I enjoy seeing my family and friends, cooking, reading and watching films. I have become much better at saying “no” when I am tired and need to look after myself.
You are a therapist in SW6, South West London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this areas?
My practice is a one-minute walk away from Putney Bridge Station, a really easy to get to location. This part of London (Putney, Fulham, Chelsea) is quite affluent and I am lucky to work in a beautiful building. Not all my clients come from the area though; they often work close by and see me before or after work.
What’s your consultation room like?
I have a beautiful room with two sky windows, so plenty of light. The walls are white and I have no pictures but I have very comfortable and colourful furniture and plants. The clients always comment on the plants! I have selected a few ornaments and cushions and I have a water jug with two glasses. I have some of my books in the room as I do a lot of my paperwork and reading there. And naturally, I have my clock; the one I have had since I started pratising.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I wish people knew that therapy can take a long time and it’s not a magic fix. I wish people knew that therapy is not the same as receiving advice. Most of my clients are surprised to realise that change often starts within the relationship between them and myself and the room provides a safe place for them to reflect and try out new ways of being.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I understood why my need for confluence in relationships stopped me growing as an individual and how this way of relating developed in my childhood. I now enjoy spending time with myself! On the larger scale, this has enabled me to reconnect with my Hungarian roots and appreciate the fact that I am different and the value this can add to my work.