Therapy in Greek

When I first started working in London, my niche with Greek people didn’t exist. However I have been asked far too many times what made me decide to do so! To be honest with you I found myself wondering whether I was equipped to work with English people who would rather frequently share stories where travelling to visit their family for the weekend seemed like an obligation; or any sign of emotion was rather inhibited and instead every kind of heartfelt reaction would have been replaced with the word “interesting”… let alone any sign of gesture or difference in tone of voice or pitch was unheard off…

And that’s where it hit me!

Since most of my enquiries were coming from Greek and Cypriot clients, and London was already filled with thousands of them, why wouldn’t I focus on the people with whom we share more or less the same culture, the same language, the same family stories?

A recent client of mine described to me how a friend’s experience with a culturally different therapist made her regret going to therapy…

This client’s experience was highlighted by the fact that she didn’t feel understood… With time she had realised that her therapist was unaware about how close Greek families are; sometimes she would share how her family was a part of her decision making process. Her therapist, who was not Greek, was unable to take into account the cultural values, and his suggestions seemed completely unreasonable and disrespectful. 

That’s why I wanted to share with you what makes for a good fit when it comes to finding a therapist! Does a therapist have to be Greek, or have lived through specific things, to get it? Do they really need to mirror our difficulties?

Here are a couple of really useful points to bear in mind next time you choose a therapist:

  1. Good command of language 

Purely for practical reasons, we may choose one language over the other, because we may feel that we are better in one than the other, ie. English to Greek. This is one important distinction. However even in the case that we speak all languages equally well, we need to ask ourselves which language will serve us better to describe and essentially share our emotional needs.

Throughout the last 10 years that I have been working mostly with greek clients, I have come across clients that fit either of the 2 above mentioned categories; and they have decided that greek comes easier to them.

  1. Language as part of our identity

We all have our own history, culture and experiences that might be shared or different to the people around us. Finding ourselves living in a foreign country ultimately presents us with far too many differences. However this should not be considered as a problem when it comes to choosing a therapist. Choosing a Greek therapist will enable you to create this bridge between your native country and will make you feel connected again! I have witnessed too many times clients’ feeling less isolated and seeking connection through a shared language in the therapy room.

Speaking in your native tongue makes you feel that you are no longer talking about the past but reliving the past and feeling more intensely there and ultimately the emotions that had backed up inside of you…

Another common reason why people might choose for a Greek therapist is because they assume that there is a shared experience of both moving abroad, therefore expecting that the connection is more easily established, as both have gone through a rather similar experience; that is relocation.

  1. Nothing gets lost in translation!

When you have reached the stage of seriously contemplating about the idea of therapy, you probably have tried out different options already. However once you are ready to pick up the phone and talk to a possible therapist, it would be worthwhile thinking what is the nature of your problem. If the nature of your problem is related for example with your parents, or your partner, and you feel that a person coming from a different cultural background won’t be able to understand the dynamics and the challenges presented, then it would be useful to consider opting for a native therapist.

Since therapy is all about relationship and communication, it’s wise to go for someone with whom you will be able to communicate easier and enable you to share your pain as quickly as possible.

  1. Feel like home again

Having found yourself living abroad doesn’t not necessarily mean that you need to change and forget everything… you are very fortunate for having the option of going for a Greek therapist. Respect your needs for now and be ready to feel a little bit like home again.

I always make sure that all my clients feel welcome; feel like home; that’s why I accommodate to their needs by offering Greek therapy related books to educate themselves and feel less alone and afraid, as well a sGreek sweets (sokofretes, sokolatakia, etc) to ease the process…

I know how nerve wracking it might be facing a stranger for the first time, let alone having the courage to share your pain…

Of course, being Greek doesn’t mean that that is enough! Studies have shown that matching therapists and clients based on culture and identity don’t always lead to better therapy. Bearing in mind ideas like different values, being mindful of verbal and non-verbal interactions, and checking one’s self about your own prejudices and stigmas…

“understanding is partly saying hey, I don’t understand that completely, tell me about it, and then listen”…

Being humble is also paramount! Even if there are similarities, there will inevitably be differences too!

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