Meet the Therapist: Sylwia Kowalska-Lewis
What attracted you to become a therapist?
Like many of my colleagues, I became a therapist thanks to my own experience of therapy. I suffered a profound loss at a very young age and I grieved for many years afterwards. Undertaking therapy was a way of soothing unbearable pain, which very gradually gave way to a more conscious desire to know and to become my true self by seeking wholeness. It awakened such curiosity in me, I thought nothing else compares.
Now that I sit in the other chair, I feel very privileged to be the witness of my patients’ most vulnerable moments, just like my therapists experienced mine.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
My training incorporates contributions from Jungian, Freudian and phenomenological backgrounds but it’s the Jungian approach that resonates with me the most.
In Jungian analysis, the therapist and patient work together to bring unconscious elements of the psyche into a more balanced relationship with conscious awareness. These elements are present in dreams, memories, creative expressions as well as the events of daily life.
Such an exploration sheds light on our unlived parts, motives, insecurities, our projections onto others in service of becoming a more conscious and fulfilled human being.
How does Jungian therapy help?
Jungian therapy can be helpful by focusing on the whole person, not just the symptoms. The more you know about your unconscious mind, the more you are able to resolve inner conflicts and make positive changes in your life.
However, you don't need to have a mental health issue to experience the benefits of Jungian therapy. This approach can be beneficial for anyone who wants to understand themselves better and gain conscious awareness of the parts of the self that make up the whole, and ultimately to build a more meaningful and satisfying life.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with adults experiencing relationship issues, trauma, loss of purpose and meaning, who are interested in self-exploration and growth.
What do you like about being a therapist?
Being able to make a positive difference. Seeing someone who suffered from social anxiety being able to form friendships, or someone who experienced sexual abuse as a child developing trust in another once again. It’s about seeing the transformation that my patients experience.
What is less pleasant?
Knowing that the therapeutic process is long and requires a lot of perseverance and patience! This is often the key criticism of talking therapies, especially those that are focused on the work of and with the unconscious.
However, we often forget that our limiting beliefs, negative self-image, or whatever else that stops us from living to our potential, were acquired and/or reinforced over many years. A long-lasting change, grounded in a thorough investigation of the root cause (or causes), will inevitably take time.
In the meantime, we often must hold onto hope for patients for whom hope is nowhere to be found.
What you do for your own mental health?
It’s all about connections for me. I nurture connections with myself, with God, my family and a close-knit circle of friends. Love is the reason we’re here, I believe. Our life’s purpose is to grow in love and we can’t do it in any other way than in a relationship to. I often fail but such is the path of growth, even when you are a therapist!
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
Most people get into therapy because they are in pain but it’s not necessary to hit a crisis to benefit from it!
Although mental health is discussed more widely than ever before, seeing a therapist is still a taboo and it needn’t be. Therapy can be a journey of self-exploration, confrontation with the shadow, owning our projections, which frequently get in the way of satisfying relationships.
Therapy has the potential to be the most significant investment that one can make for oneself.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I was a lone wolf for most of my life. I have been in intensive (four times a week) therapy/analysis for over a decade now. One of the things I’ve learned was that false independence leads to profound isolation and that we need to become dependent on someone before we can truly become independent. This was one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned.