Meet the Therapist: Stella Stathi
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I was drawn to the helping professions from a very young age. I have always had a deep interest in the human psyche and experience, and a strong desire to support people through difficulty. As a naturally compassionate, empathetic person, I found it easy to connect with others and offer them space to be heard. When the time came to choose a profession, therapy felt like the most natural, aligned choice – one that could always keep me engaged and interested, since, no matter how many years one is in practice, the work remains new and fascinating, with lots of space and opportunities for growth.
Where did you train?
I completed a BSc degree in Psychology in Greece, and then a MA degree in Integrative/Jungian Psychotherapy & Healing Practice at Middlesex University in London. I also trained in Somatic Movement & Expressive Arts Therapy at the Leven Institute in the USA.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I practise Jungian / integrative and somatic psychotherapy. I was attracted to Jungian or Depth Psychology, for its holistic, psychospiritual approach and its deep belief in the innate value and meaning of psychological symptoms and mental health difficulties.
From a Jungian perspective, the challenges that we face at different times are, essentially, a call to greater balance, where there has been imbalance. It is believed that they are organised/orchestrated by the Self, in order for our psyches to grow and reach individuation – the ultimate goal in life. It made sense to me to look at these issues in this way, rather than as unfortunate, innately negative occurrences that one would have to “get rid of” or “fix” as soon as possible.
Halfway through my Jungian therapy training, and even though I was thoroughly enjoying it, I still felt that something important was missing – not only from my training, but from talk therapies in general, and that was: the body. It felt like therapy was taking place from the neck up, and having already experienced the huge healing potential of working with the body through different modalities, I felt the desire to pursue training in body-based, somatic and expressive therapy as well.
Body-based psychotherapy can take one right to the core of experience, bypassing the desire of the mind to move around in circles, and attach to a story. The body never lies: it holds the truth of our emotions that we very often fear and try to avoid connecting with.
How does Jungian/somatic psychotherapy help with symptoms of disordered eating and body-image issues?
Jungian therapy can help clients go beyond the outer, surface-level symptoms they experience in their relationship with food and body, and discover the deeper, underlying, inner root-causes of those challenges, always to be found in their upbringing and personal history. It can also help them view the difficulties they are facing as a valuable part of their individuation process, and not as the “enemy”.
Somatic/body-based therapy can help people reconnect with their physical bodies and experience them as living, breathing, intelligent beings that communicate with us all the time, and hold deep wisdom and guidance, not only around eating and movement, but also with regard to anything that has to do with our lives.
Alienation from the body (otherwise known as “dis-embodiment”) is an epidemic in our culture, and lies at the very core of our food and body struggles, so finding ways to bridge the gap between head and body is an absolutely essential part of the healing process.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I offer therapy to individuals only, and most of my clients are women, between the ages of 16 and 70+, who struggle, in different ways and to different degrees, with their relationship with food and their bodies/body-image.
What do you like about being a therapist?
Witnessing my clients grow and transform, understand themselves better and move towards greater peace and freedom in their relationship with food, their body and themselves, as well as deeper fulfilment in their lives in general, is an absolute privilege and among the most humbling and most rewarding moments of my life. I am also deeply grateful for how much my clients and my work teach me about my own life, and vice versa. As a therapist, my personal and professional lives and development, though clearly distinct, are deeply connected, and inform and enrich each other greatly.
What is less pleasant?
Working hours can be tricky, since most people work during the daytime, and are available for sessions in the evening. That means that I tend to work the most, when others rest and relax at the end of their working day.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I have been with welldoing.org since its very beginning, in 2014! To have stayed for so long, I obviously love the site and it has supported me well in my practice. I find the client-therapist matching questionnaire particularly helpful in terms of connecting me with the right clients, and have also been very much enjoying the therapist community on Facebook - great for networking with colleagues, and giving and receiving support and advise on topics related to the profession.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I don’t often suggest apps, but do recommend books that I feel will complement the work that we do in the therapy room. Sometimes, the client and I will agree to read specific chapters of a book ahead of the session and then discuss what has come up for them, while reading, how the content applies to their situation and potential ways to integrate it, etc.
What you do for your own mental health?
I spend as much time as I can out in nature, taking daily walks, and making sure that I keep my weekends free of work, so that I can rest and recharge properly. I find journaling very therapeutic, so I do it as often as possible. I engage in ongoing personal and professional work, including therapy sessions, training and workshops, and have a regular body-based self-care practice, which consists of many of the same processes I share with my clients.
You are a therapist in Mayfair and South Kensington. What can you share with us about seeing clients in those areas?
People based in these areas, both professionals and students, tend to have very busy, demanding lifestyles, and often find it difficult to make space for taking care of themselves outside the therapy room. Part of the work involves supporting them in adjusting their priorities, reconsidering their values and creating new, easy and manageable ways to make mental and emotional self-care as important as their work/academic duties.
What’s your consultation room like?
I use different rooms in the two therapy locations I practice from. All of them are spacious, light and comfortable, and have warm, personal touches.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That you don’t need to suffer from severe mental health issues, or, in my area of specialisation, with a serious, chronic eating disorder, in order to reach for help. Your difficulties are still valid and you deserve to receive support, even if you can still “cope” and function in your day-to-day life, even if your struggles are not visible from the outside and nobody would guess you have them – I may say, especially then.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That I need to bring the same kindness, compassion and care that I offer my clients and other people in my life to myself – this is something I can easily forget! Also, that the same core wounds can manifest in different disguises over the years, and that I, just like each one of us, am never “done”; therapy, healing and individuation are ongoing, life-long, ever-deepening processes, with multiple phases and layers to them. Cliche but true: it’s a journey, not a destination!