Meet the Therapist: Lila Ramsahai
What attracted you to become a therapist?
After having travelled and worked abroad within multinational organisations in Europe for many years, a sales and marketing position I previously held ignited my interest in studying the human psyche. I was intrigued and attracted by human behaviour, personal development and the workings of the mind.
However, trying to understand my struggles with depression and anxiety was a dominant factor in finally studying counselling and psychotherapy. In this period, I also connected with my true calling in life, which is being able to help others who are struggling mentally, emotionally or spiritually.
Where did you train?
I completed a BSc degree in Integrative Counselling and a Master's in Culture, Language and Identity at the University of Surrey in the UK. For my certified training in Wellbeing Life Coaching, I trained in London.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
The type of therapy I practise is intercultural, inter-racial or cross-cultural psychotherapy. This type of therapy is particularly sensitive to the importance of race, culture, beliefs, values, attitudes, religion and language and is especially beneficial amongst culturally diverse and international people.
As an ethnic minority therapist providing cross-cultural therapy, I often attract international, ethnic minority and culturally diverse clients. For clients, it means they are dealing with a therapist who provides culturally sensitive therapy, where their cultural heritage, background, belief system and inner world are understood on the deepest level. It helps build trust and connectedness with my clients easily, which is beneficial for the therapeutic relationship and vital in our work.
Why I chose to practice intercultural psychotherapy:
After completing my BSc in Integrative Counselling in 2006, I mainly worked with White British clients dealing with general mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, stress and worries. After some five years of practice, my further calling took me to complete a Master's in Culture, Language, and Identity, mainly driven by the need to understand the cultural identity crisis I was experiencing.
As I was raised in two culturally diverse countries, I was quite confused about my cultural identity, where a sense of belonging was often missing, and the need to identify myself as a therapist culturally became very strong. During this period, however, and mainly through the research projects I conducted in the Netherlands on hybrid identity amongst ethnic minorities, I discovered how big an issue identity crisis was amongst second-generation immigrants living in the West. It prompted me to adapt my service to intercultural/inter-racial or cross-cultural therapy.
How does intercultural therapy help with intercultural relationships?
Intercultural and inter-racial psychotherapy is useful when working with culturally diverse and international people or couples in an inter-faith, bi- or mixed-cultural relationship/marriage.
Relationships are a specialised area within my work, a service I offer to individuals, couples and families. This covers a vast array of issues, such as dating, breakups, divorce, communication, infertility, cultural clashes, parenting, family, generational problems, lack of sex, romance or passion, infidelity and more. Through my practice, I have found the main symptoms experienced in relationships to be anxiety, depression, loneliness, anger, emotional neglect and stress.
A recurring problem I noticed in my practice, amongst Generation Z and Millennials of Asian and Southeast Asian couples, is their struggle to accept or adhere to the husband's family's, often strict, traditional family values and beliefs once they marry. New brides especially can experience extra pressure, stress or anxiety to comply with the in-laws' cultural beliefs and values. Tensions then rise within the new couple's marriage but also between them and the expectations they have of their cultural values.
Intercultural therapy can help resolve these issues and symptoms, where we fully explore and discuss the couple's cultural values and beliefs. We then compare how these differ from the husband's parents' expectations. We also explore the deeper-seated issues of the couples' stress and anxiety concerning their cultural values, beliefs and identity.
Once we have worked out what they stand for as a couple regarding their cultural values and beliefs, the next step is to explore healthy boundaries they can create between themselves and their extended families. After they have been able to put these into practice – and by now, we will have had a number of sessions together – their stress and anxiety levels will often become significantly lower. This is more so when the wife feels supported by her husband throughout this process and feels they are a team rather than isolated by the issues.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with adult individuals, couples and families. The age ranges from 20 to around 50.
In most cases, people seek my help for issues around relationships, career, family disputes, work/life balance, work-related stress, culture and religion, social anxiety, intimacy, depression, commitment issues, identity crisis, alcoholism, interfaith marriage etc.
Most clients experience relationships as quite complex and challenging to master, whether in a short or long-term commitment. A common issue in relationships is that couples don't feel heard, seen or understood and have difficulties communicating their needs in a healthy and comforting way.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
Since the Covid 19 pandemic, I have seen people seek therapy more easily, especially Generation Z and millennials, particularly men. Engaging in therapy seems less of a barrier now than before the pandemic, whilst online therapy has also gained more popularity since 2020.
People now seem more comfortable fitting their therapy session into their daily routine without leaving their homes but can also opt-in to see their therapist face-to-face when necessary.
What do you like about being a therapist?
What I like about being a therapist is assisting people in their hardship and contributing to their growth and development or overall wellbeing. It's always an honour to enter a client's private world and work together on issues they find challenging to deal with alone. Not judging my clients in any way and giving them a safe and confidential space to explore and be is a rewarding part of my work.
What is less pleasant?
Each job has its less pleasant side, too, and for me as a therapist, it's the devastating stories I hear of what many of my clients have experienced throughout their lives, such as childhood neglect, trauma and abuse. Moving forward in life can be challenging for them, and for some, even after therapy.
In other cases, some clients give up too quickly on therapy, after just a few sessions, because they believe talking therapy cannot help them although they struggle with their mental health. As a therapist, I can only help when clients are ready to engage fully with the therapeutic process. It makes it less pleasant when they decide not to reach out for help.
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
I have not been so long with Welldoing. The platform looks very engaging, and I should spend a little more time exploring the site's options.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes, I sometimes recommend some books or articles to clients. Two books I recently recommended are Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson and Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. An article I recently recommended to read to a client was 'Attachment and the Importance of Early Emotional Bond' by Verywellmind.
What you do for your own mental health?
Self-care is important in my work as a therapist, especially as I work very closely with people and help them with their mental health issues. My self-care includes yoga, meditation, long walks in nature, socialising with family and friends, journalling, music and fine dining.
You are a therapist in Central London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
I am a therapist in Harley Street, Central London, and seeing clients in this area is generally defined by its medical excellence reputation since the 19th Century. Often, clients choose to work with me due to my niche market in therapy, which is intercultural and interracial psychotherapy; however, the area's reputation alone can be a prime choice for most clients.
What's your consultation room like?
I work from two addresses in Central London, Harley Street and Nassau Street, and the consultation rooms are spacious, ventilated and quiet, with lots of natural light. It's conveniently accessible from Oxford Circus, Bond Street, Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road tube stations. The consultation room at Harley Street also has a VIP entrance for clients who need more privacy and anonymity, as my clientele includes celebrities and VIPs.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I wish people would realise that although therapy can be pretty daunting to start with, as you will mainly discuss negative and devastating experiences, it can still be good to engage in it, especially when you feel ready for it. Therapy can clear traumas and help you cope better with your mental health issues once fully engaged and committed. Often, we can feel quite stuck in life, and not knowing where it's coming from and engaging in therapy can give you more clarity, understanding and healthy ways to cope in life,
Reaching out for help may never be easy, but once you take the first step, the process can help you deal with the stuff bothering you within a safe, confidential and non-judgmental space. Furthermore, the therapeutic process can be pretty overwhelming to experience where, as a client, you will receive undivided attention from your therapist, which includes being seen, heard and understood on the deepest level.
For some, this level of attention can feel quite odd and uncomfortable and deter clients from engaging in the process; however, at the same time, you can grow, change and be in a better place through this process.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I have learned quite a lot about myself in therapy with clients. By providing therapy, it has become even clearer that, as human beings, we often both deal with similar emotional and mental struggles in life. The main difference, however, is how we perceive and experience them. Our universal struggles with love, relationships, family, etc., only heighten the similarities between my client and me, regardless of the power imbalance in our relationship. The power imbalance exists as I will know all about my clients and their private world, whereas they will hardly know anything about me. At the same time, this is one of the main factors that enables growth in clients.
Furthermore, engaging with clients in such a close setting is a very dynamic and powerful way of interacting as human beings, and it creates a lot of meaning and learning for me. Especially when I am moved or taken by clients' stories, which often happens, I explore these further in my clinical supervision (a place to discuss client work) and what it might mean for me. Overall, the whole process enhances my growth as a therapist and person.