After Wednesday’s blog post, celebrating three books that highlight mental health, today we speak with Jula Aniol, author of From Co-Dependent to Independent: A Psychotherapist’s Diary.

 

This book is an attempt to tell a story that may help to change some stereotypes about professionals working in the psychotherapy field. It shows that they also sometimes err and make unhealthy decisions in life. That they are not free from life's difficulties and problems, but carry their own backpacks of experiences, which can prove to be helpful in their work with others. This is also a story about a woman who suffered over the years with her own identity loss and wanted to find a meaning in her traumatic experiences.

 

We spoke with Jula about her interest in the field of psychology, the lessons she learned whilst writing this book, and the common misconceptions and misunderstandings of psychotherapy and the importance of maintaining your mental health.

 

 

You obtained your psychology qualification and have been successful enough to open a private practice in Ramsgate, Kent. What lead to you first being interested in psychology as a career path?

 

From a young age, I observed the destructive impact of addiction, particularly alcoholism, as well as narcissistic behaviours and co-dependency within my own family. These experiences ignited within me a deep curiosity about human behaviour and the underlying factors that contribute to dysfunction within family systems. Witnessing the struggles and challenges faced by my loved ones, I was driven by a desire to understand the root causes of such behaviours and the complex interplay between psychology, trauma, and interpersonal dynamics.

 

Additionally, my own experiences of childhood sexual trauma and subsequent struggles with co-dependency, self-worth, and identity further solidified my commitment to pursuing a career in psychology and psychotherapy. These personal challenges not only fuelled my passion for understanding the human psyche but also instilled within me a profound empathy and compassion for individuals navigating similar struggles. I was drawn to psychology as a means of making sense of my own experiences, as well as a vehicle for facilitating healing and growth, both within myself and others.

 

Overall, it was a combination of personal experiences, familial influences, and a deep-seated fascination with the complexities of human behaviour that led me to pursue a career in psychology. My journey has been shaped by a commitment to understanding and addressing the underlying factors that contribute to mental health challenges, and a passion for supporting individuals on their path towards healing and self-discovery.

 

 

Following on from our previous question, after a career of many years in psychotherapy and with your continued experience, when did you decide to write a book on this topic?

 

The decision to write From Co-Dependent to Independent: A Psychotherapist's Diary was a culmination of many years of personal and professional introspection and development. Initially, it began as a private diary, serving as a tool for reflection on my own journey from co-dependency to independence, both personally and professionally. It was a means of processing my experiences, insights, and challenges encountered along the way.

 

The idea to transform my diary into a book came from my husband, who recognized the potential value of sharing my story with a wider audience. His belief in the transformative power of my experiences, and the potential to offer support and guidance to others facing similar struggles, ultimately inspired me to take the leap and start the journey of turning my diary into a published work. In 2022, I made the decision to devote myself to this project.

 

 

Out of all the lessons and stories in this book, which do you see as the most important and would like to share right now?

 

It's challenging to pinpoint just one lesson or story from my book as the most important, as each experience has imparted valuable insights and lessons along my journey. However, if I were to highlight one overarching theme that resonates deeply with me, it would be the profound significance of self-worth in the healing process and the development of psychological struggles.

 

Through my own experiences and reflections shared in my book, I've come to recognize that our sense of self-worth serves as a cornerstone of our mental and emotional well-being. When our self-worth is nurtured and intact, it provides a foundation of resilience that enables us to navigate life's challenges with greater strength and fortitude. It bolsters our confidence, empowers us to set healthy boundaries, and fosters a sense of inner worthiness and deservingness.

 

Conversely, when our self-worth is compromised or diminished, it can lead us down a dark and tumultuous path, fraught with self-doubt, insecurity, and emotional turmoil. Feelings of worthlessness can permeate every aspect of our lives, undermining our relationships, hindering our personal growth, and fuelling patterns of self-destructive behaviour.

 

Through my own journey of self-discovery and healing, I've learned first-hand the transformative power of reclaiming and nurturing my sense of self-worth. It's a journey that requires courage, vulnerability, and self-compassion, but one that ultimately leads to profound healing, empowerment and contentment.

 

 

As an evolving industry in a society that has grown to understand the importance of mental health, are there any common misconceptions about psychotherapy that you would like to highlight and/or disprove?

 

Absolutely, there are several common misconceptions about psychotherapy that I encounter frequently in my practice, and I'm glad you brought them up. One of the most prevalent misconceptions is the idea that seeking professional support is a sign of weakness. In reality, reaching out for support takes immense courage and strength. It's a proactive step towards healing and growth, not a reflection of inadequacy or weakness. I often remind my clients that seeking therapy is an act of self-care and self-compassion, and it's a testament to their resilience and willingness to invest in their well-being.

 

Another misconception that I often address with my clients is the belief that therapists have all the answers and can "fix" them. In reality, therapy is not about fixing or repairing individuals; it's about providing a supportive and collaborative space for change, healing and growth. I often use a light-hearted analogy with my clients, jokingly saying, "I'm not a mechanic, so I can't fix you. But what I can do is support you on your journey to healing." Therapy is a process of exploration, self-discovery, and empowerment, and it's essential for clients to recognize their own agency and capacity for growth.

 

Lastly, there's a common misconception that mental health professionals have everything figured out in their own lives. In reality, therapists are human beings too, with their own struggles, challenges, and uncertainties. We're not immune to the ups and downs of life, and we certainly don't have all the answers. Like everyone else, we face our own obstacles and moments of doubt. However, we understand the importance of seeking support when needed and practicing self-care to ensure that we can show up fully for our clients.

 

By addressing these misconceptions and promoting a more accurate understanding of psychotherapy, we can help reduce stigma, increase accessibility to mental health support, and empower individuals to prioritize their mental and emotional health. It's my hope that through education and advocacy, we can create a more supportive and compassionate society where seeking help for mental health concerns is seen as a sign of strength, courage and resilience.

 

 

Do you see yourself writing another title? Are there elements of your job that you would like to expand on or new ideas you would like to explore?

 

It's interesting that you bring up the topic of writing another book because, yes, I'm already deeply immersed in the process of gathering materials for a new project. This upcoming book will focus on the profound significance of self-worth, a topic that has captivated my attention for years. I've recently completed a thorough literature review and am currently engaged in collecting data through qualitative research on this subject.

 

The idea for this book stemmed from my personal and professional experiences, as well as the insights gained from my previous book. I've long been fascinated by the concept of self-worth and its pivotal role in shaping our identities and experiences. Through my work with clients and my own journey, I've come to recognize the profound impact that self-worth has on our mental and emotional health.

 

In this new book, I aim to explore the multifaceted nature of self-worth and its implications for our lives. I believe that understanding and nurturing our sense of self-worth is essential for cultivating resilience, fostering healthy relationships, and navigating life's challenges with confidence. By shedding light on this vital aspect of human experience, I hope to empower readers to recognize their inherent worth and cultivate a deeper sense of self-compassion and acceptance. I don’t want to create another “psychological publication” but to approach the topic with realness, authenticity, making sure is relatable, resonates.

 

Moreover, I see this book as an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution not only to the broader public but also to the field of psychotherapy. Self-worth is a central theme in therapeutic work, influencing the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship and shaping the course of the healing process. By offering insights gleaned from both research and clinical practice, I aim to enrich the dialogue within the psychotherapy community and inspire fellow practitioners to integrate a deeper understanding of self-worth into their work.

 

 

From Co-Dependent to Independent: A Psychotherapist’s Diary is available in paperback now.