Meet the therapist: Lisa Daitz
What attracted you to become a therapist?
In my previous life, leading a PR agency, I particularly enjoyed bringing in and developing people. I love working on understanding myself and others. What challenges and issues do we face? How does this link to our past, our present and our future? What blocks us? What enables us? What inspires is and how does all of this impact on our behaviour and way we response to ourselves, to others and to the world?
This interest developed as I completed a psychology degree with Open University and then became a mentor to A Level students as part of the local council and business partnership. As I went on to work on helplines with the Miscarriage Association and Family Lives and become a post-natal supporter for the National Childbirth Trust, I realised that the time was right to retrain and to formalise my experience and begin a Masters in order to train to be a psychotherapist. It was definitely the right move and has been and continues to be so rewarding personally and professionally.
Where did you train?
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I’m an existential-phenomenological therapist, which is a philosophy-based but down-to-earth approach. My therapy incorporates the constructive forward thinking of cognitive therapy and the depth of psychodynamic psychotherapy whilst searching to understand, with my clients, how they make sense of their lives and their world. It’s a therapy that challenges assumptions and attitudes yet respects the uniqueness and individuality of each client in the way they make meaning, rather than seeking categories and interpretations.
I also draw on other approaches, including humanistic and CBT and Gendlin’s Focussing, but my work is very much underpinned by the existential-phenomenological approach. My training included psychodynamic and humanistic but when I began studying the existential therapy it was an approach that really resonated with me.
How does therapy help?
I work collaboratively with my client to truly understand the issues they bring. In the room this takes the form of description, trying to get to the phenomenology of their own individual experience. This description calls on us to examine the phenomenon repeatedly as we make greater sense of it each time. This ‘hermeneutic circle’ means looking at the whole, the parts and the whole again as greater understanding is revealed.
As we gain greater understanding, choices begin to show themselves, where previously none appeared to exist. As choices appear so too does the opportunity for change.
An example of this approach in action can be seen in clients with anxiety. Whilst we can work on a cognitive level, understanding and managing the symptoms, we can also work on the existential level to try to make meaning of the anxiety. Anxiety is our body giving us a strong signal and it’s up to us to look at how we make sense of it. An adult client experiencing anxiety may be suffering from a sense of ‘stuckness’ without being aware of this and instead only aware of anxiety symptoms.
Here we would examine other issues. Are there things that need changing in order to live a more fulfilled life? Does the client know that things need to change but is unable to make the necessary changes? At the basis of the work is the search for meaning and working with the client to lead a happier and more fulfilled life, often with improved relationships with themselves and others.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see individuals from the age of 15 upwards and my work covers a number of issues including anxiety, depression, stress, relationship issues, trauma and abuse, domestic violence, life transitions, low self-esteem or feelings of a lack of meaning.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
I believe there are more pressures than ever before and this is leading to greater pressure on our mental health. Social media has contributed to this and Covid has definitely compounded things in a number of ways including isolation and relationships, financial constraints and bereavement and loss. It’s also provided something of a ‘circuit breaker’ for people, leading them to stop and ask themselves questions about how they want to live their lives.
I’ve also noticed that more people are realising that therapy is for everyone and is no longer something to be hidden.
What do you like about being a therapist?
Spending time with people, the privilege of hearing their stories and being entrusted with working with them. The magic of the shift, when something changes in the client’s understanding of their situation and I see it in their facial expression and the way their body often literally ‘shifts’.
What is less pleasant?
Definitely admin and making sure there are sufficient appointment times available.
How long have you been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’ve been with Welldoing for around five months and I find it’s a good community opportunity. I like engaging with the Facebook group and contributing to and reading the articles. I really enjoy seeing the newsletter when it lands in my email inbox. Welldoing is a site that, as a therapist or a client, we can really get involved with.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I’m always reticent about recommending books to clients in case it feels onerous or like homework and it interferes with the work. But some of my favourites are:
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Existential Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom (along with Yalom’s novels)
Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre
I and Thou by Martin Buber
Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman
And also novels, because as an existentialist I’m concerned with the human condition. So books by, for example, Anne Tyler, Bernice Rubens and John Boyne can also help us understand the challenges we face.
What you do for your own mental health?
I garden and walk and I read and see plays. And I try to balance solitude and socialising.
You are a therapist in Palmers Green, N13. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
It’s an eclectic client group with different cultures and backgrounds. But the concerns are universal!
What’s your consultation room like?
It’s light and airy with a lovely sash window and trees outside.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That it’s for everyone and it can enhance our relationship with ourselves and our relationships with others and it can make the most meaning of our lives and allow us to live in the most fulfilled way we can.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
The importance of reflecting on the words and actions and the feelings behind the words.
To challenge my ‘narrative’.
To trust in the process of therapy, rather than judging the ‘success’ of each session.
To notice, reflect on and welcome the ebbs and flows of situations, of moods, of emotions and of life and all that it brings.