Meet the therapist series: Monika Smolar
Monika is a counsellor and psychotherapist accredited with both the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) with over twenty years experience working as a psychotherapist and counsellor with adolescents, students, younger and older adults and couples. Monika offers both in-Person and online therapy.
Why did you become a psychotherapist?
I have been interested in psychotherapy since I was a teenager when I began to understand how valuable and transformative therapy can be. I remember feeling unhappy and wishing I could have a confidential, non-judgemental space where I could talk about my thoughts and feelings. I became interested in what gives our lives a sense of meaning and purpose, what motivates us to get up in the morning and get on with our lives. From early on I knew I wanted to listen to people and help them make sense of life.
What is interesting and attractive about the profession?
I greatly enjoy and savour the intimacy and closeness of the therapeutic relationship. I feel honoured to be allowed access to a person's inner world, to witness another human being grapple and struggle with issues, move forward and work through their difficulties. Sometimes I feel a sense of wonder at how courageous, determined and strong people are. It is a unique relationship, unlike any other. It's a safe, non-judgemental confidential space where a person's voice can be heard, sometimes, for the first time.
I also greatly enjoy talking to and learning from other therapists.
What is your general philosophy and how would you use that to approach a session?
I'm an Integrative Psychotherapist so I integrate and combine a variety of psychological tools, techniques and psychotherapeutic approaches depending on the issues and concerns the client brings. For example, a client struggling with anxiety might need a different approach to one who has experienced a bereavement and is grieving.
As in the person-centred approach I very much put the client at the centre of their therapy. It is their space and they can bring and talk about whatever they want to and need to. The client leads the way and is in control. I might comment, wonder, gently question or draw attention to something they've said. I combine existential, psychodynamic, person-centred and cognitive behavioural (CBT) approaches and techniques.
I'm optimistic and believe that people, with the support and guidance of a therapist, can make enormous changes if motivated to.
Who do you work with?
I work with adolescents, students, adults and couples of all ages. I very much enjoy working with a variety of people, age groups, nationalities, social groups.
What are your strengths as a therapist?
My strengths are my empathy and warmth as well as my breadth and length of experience. I have been working as a psychotherapist for over 25 years. I have worked in a variety of settings; a secondary school, a Rape Crisis centre, for MIND, in a therapeutic community with people with severe mental health problems, at a drugs and alcohol drop-in centre, with people who had eating disorders. I am currently working for the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where I run a number of groups and conduct individual counselling.
What are your thoughts for the future of therapy?
Considering the current situation, it's vital for there to be proper funding and investment in mental health services so that every person who would like some psychotherapy and counselling will be able to access it. There is a huge demand for therapy, especially amongst young people, but many are not able to access it and NHS waiting lists are very long. I would like to see psychotherapy and counselling much more widely available to all sections of society. It would be wonderful to get more investment into a variety of specialist therapeutic centres as there was before the government cuts in 2008.