Meet the Therapist: Emma Azzopardi
What attracted you to become a therapist?
When I was in my late twenties, I went to counselling for some relationship issues. I found the whole process amazing because it made such sense to me and helped me to feel more grounded. I become enamoured with my sessions and my therapist and decided to retrain from a career in employment law to a TA therapist.
Where did you train?
Initially, I trained at Metanoia and achieved an MSc in Transactional Analysis. I’m preparing for a doctorate now so I am doing some additional CPD in psychology and the neuroscience of mental health at King's College London.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
My approach to psychotherapy is informed by transactional analysis, which I use as a way in and a means of making contact. In addition, I use relational psychoanalysis and interpersonal neuropsychology.
I use a range of techniques from these approaches depending on what is being presented and how best to work with the client to achieve their objectives. Together, we identify patterns that may be affecting the life and relationships of the client, how and why they came about and ways of updating our thinking and behaviour. This approach gives clients tools and symptom relief as well as addressing the underlying, unconscious patters which will bring about lasting change.
How does transactional analysis help?
With transactional analysis and indeed any kind of analytical work, we look at patterns of what is happening ‘out there’ (i.e. presently, in the life of the client), ‘back then’ (i.e. back in the client’s history) and perhaps most crucially, ‘in here’ i.e. what transpires in the relationship between client and therapist.
Using these different lenses to identify patterns and beliefs about self, others and the world help with a diverse range of symptoms and presentations. I work with many clients suffering with loss, and attachment, anxiety, anger and phobias, all of which are fear-based.
The different perspectives allow for curiosity and interest, rather than pressure or judgement, which opens up space to understand why we do what we do and what we are trying to avoid or achieve in doing it. I like to introduce bits and pieces of psycho-education if appropriate to help a client understand their behaviour or why they may react and experience the symptoms that they do. This really helps us to hold empathy for ourselves rather than shame or judgement.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with adults (18+) – individuals, couples and groups. Although I work with a wide range of presentations, I do a lot of work with addiction and dependency management, stress and anxiety and interpersonal relationships issues.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I absolutely love my work – it is the best job in the world most of the time! I love seeing the changes in people and watching them become the best versions of themselves that they can be. It is really humbling to see the commitment to the process even through the hard parts and the trust and bond that is built between us.
I always have been (and probably always will be) a very curious person and always wanting to learn and understand, and being a therapist allows for me to do this. I am so grateful for the amount of learning and I get to do with my clients.
What is less pleasant?
Abrupt endings where there has been a rupture in the relationship without the opportunity to work through it and repair. I know that sometimes this is not possible, and I have learnt to stay with the difficult feelings but I can’t say that I don’t feel the pain of that. I don’t think that I would ever want to lose that, else I think that would be losing a part of my humanity.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I have been with welldoing.org for almost three years now. I really enjoy the weekly newsletters and articles. The clients I have got via welldoing.org have all been long-term and have committed to the work fully which has not been my experience with other platforms.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes, I suggest books. Obviously, it depends on the issue but a few of my staple recommendations are:
Codependent No More – Melody Beattie
Trapped in the Mirror – Elan Golomb
Why Love Matters – Sue Gerhardt
Homecoming – John Bradshaw
What you do for your own mental health?
I am in therapy and see it as a really important aspect of my own mental health and self care. I enjoy feeling strong and healthy, so the gym and my spin bike are big parts of helping me decompress, as are long country walks with the dog. I am also discovering meditation which I must say is transformational! I am also lucky to be surrounded by a great community of friends, supervision and peers so I can share and work through things as and when needed.
You are a therapist in North London and Hertfordshire. What can you share with us about seeing clients in those areas?
London is multicultural and so diverse, both economically and culturally. Naturally, this brings with it a wider range of presentations and issues than a more rural location like Hertfordshire.
The client base where I live in Hertfordshire is predominantly White and more affluent in comparison to the areas of North London that I cover. I enjoy the mix and diversity of clients that I get to see in both locations.
What’s your consultation room like?
Very calming apparently, and my sofa has been compared to “sitting on a cloud”, which I loved! There are lots of books, it is bright and spacious and my sausage dog Luna is often present, which my clients really love.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I wish people knew how powerful it can be! It is nerve-wracking to go to see a stranger and being to unpack those parts that you do not want people to see but the benefits and the positive emotional payoff are such a prize!
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I learnt that I am not perfect and that is more than OK. I also learnt how integrating and wonderful an experience it is to be seen fully for all that I am.