Meet the Therapist: Dora Darvasi
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I felt lost having moved here from Hungary at eighteen; I was missing a sense of home. I met intuitive, honest and emotionally available people through training and therapy who inspired me.
Becoming a therapist felt immediately right as helping others at times of need and crisis was the adaptation I made growing up; a way I dealt with some of the challenges that went on. I found power in embodying that role consciously, leaning into what feels second nature to me.
Where did you train?
Following a year at Birkbeck, I have completed a BACP accredited training programme in Gestalt Counselling at The Gestalt Centre in London and followed this up with an MA in Counselling and Psychotherapy at UEL.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I work as a relational Gestalt therapist. I was drawn to Gestalt because of its immediacy, creativity and transparency as an approach. I’m present as a whole person in the room rather than a detached clinician. I engage with my clients actively and with honest curiosity. I use my embodied awareness in their presence to deepen their understanding of what’s going on for them; supporting them to come to terms with their losses as well as inviting them to notice possibility in their lives.
Clients share an appreciation of my presence, sensitivity and affectionate humour and that they feel that they matter to me.
How does Gestalt therapy help clients understand their symptoms?
I support clients to engage with their symptoms as a reasonable response to a difficult situation in a dysfunctional society. For far too long therapy as a field got away with pretending to hold a neutral political position, as if its Eurocentric, heteronormative, white elitist and conformist roots and understanding of the world was universal.
Through acknowledging the context clients came from, the context they live in, we work at finding any sense of support, power and responsibility they have through choice, however small or fleeting.
Through therapy they begin to connect to their felt experience and their own thinking with curiosity, making use of their resources rather than getting stuck in anxiety, shame and self-hating depression.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see people of all ages, gender identities, sexualities, people who are immigrants and people who grew up here. Teaching GSRD (Gender, Sexuality and Relationship diversity) and being part of the LGBTQIA+ community, more queer people are drawn to me, who often express that they feel safer knowing that we share an important aspect of our identities and our belonging (or lack thereof) to the larger context.
In terms of difficulties people bring, I work with clients who are stuck in some way, feel anxious and are going through loss or a relationship crisis. I support people who have suffered relational trauma and want to reflect on where they come from, what happened to them.
I also see people where the work is about questioning, reflecting on and engaging with their sense of fulfilment, fears and pleasures, and how they can carve out new ways of living and relating to themselves and others.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
More people seem to be at ease with the idea that reflecting and engaging with how they think and feel as they move through life is useful, if not a necessity. There’s also more understanding of trauma and its lasting impact.
There is plenty of information available now online and people do make use of that and I think that’s a good thing, especially for those who have no other means to try to understand what is going on for them. What is less helpful is pop culture adapting words from psychotherapy such as narcissism, enabling, trauma dump, attachment and gaslighting.
These words are less about self-expression and more about pathologising self and other. We can overuse them to a point where they lose meaning. People can then become very well-versed with the language of therapy, the linguistics and narrative of their experience without engaging with themselves at depth, finding their felt sense, their own words and ways.
What do you like about being a therapist?
Being a therapist is an enormous privilege. I like how each therapeutic relationship is different and people relate to both therapy as a process and to me differently. Attempting to understand who my clients are and what they need and want is something that deeply moves me.
Supporting people to be more at peace with themselves, expanding the boundaries of who they are and who they can be is endlessly interesting to me. Therapy preserves some of the intimate human to human contact that seems to be rarer, or at least less apparent with the way things go.
What is less pleasant?
Although I like solitude, working as a therapist can be isolating. I pay attention to keep in touch with colleagues, friends and various groups of therapists.
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
It’s been over five years since I joined Welldoing. I enjoy contributing as well as reading other therapist’s articles. There’s a lovely team behind it who are available and sensitive and open.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Clients do bring in books at times and I love hearing what they find helpful or exciting. They also notice my bookshelf and different people are drawn to different books, which then becomes part of the work, part of our relationship.
What you do for your own mental health?
I’m in weekly therapy and am part of a practitioner group with other therapists. I write academic papers, fiction and the occasional poem. I cook whenever I can. I read. I go to the movies. I see friends. I love a market, any market. I travel and video call my nephew whenever I can.
You are a therapist in Bank, London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
I used to work in East London for years and ended up in Bank accidentally a year and a half ago as the building I used to rent my office in didn’t survive the pandemic. They moved me to their other centre. I like being close to both the Barbican and the river, with Borough market also a short walk away. My clients come to see me mainly from East and South London with London Bridge being close.
What’s your consultation room like?
I work on a quiet corridor on the fourth floor of a listed building. It’s like an old ship with steep stairs and a maze-like feel. Clients appreciate the cosy, living room like style of my consulting room, which couldn’t be further from the usual corporate style offices in the area.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That, for better or worse, it is not a well-regulated profession and that so much of good therapy comes down to the individual therapist. So as hard as it is to give it another go if you’ve had a bad experience, it is worth trying different therapists to find one you feel safe with and can connect to.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I’ve learned that the engaging and reflecting never stops; that so much of the work is about connecting to not just what needs to be done but what has and is being done.