Psychotherapy treatment for Self-Esteem issues (Ealing Practice)
This case study has been written with express permission from the client
AS first came to see me for psychotherapy in 2013 at my Ealing practice for self-esteem issues. Her lack of self-esteem was impacting on both her work life and romantic relationships, where she often found herself attracted to the wrong man.
AS was a young Polish woman who had been living in London for 10 years. She had aspirations to work in the fashion industry, but due to her lack of confidence, had been working as a Polish translator in a local hospital. One of her goals was to find the self-belief and motivation she needed to begin her dream career. Her other goal was to find a healthy romantic relationship. She felt that she had never had a relationship based on love, care and mutual respect. AS often became involved in relationships that left her feeling unappreciated and taken for granted.
It was evident from the very first session that AS had a great deal of difficulty in trusting people, deflecting any enquiry which came close to anything personal about her life. I recognised that it was important for her to proceed slowly and that although she may not have realised it, being able to trust others was also going to be an eventual goal for her.
After several sessions of focussing on mainly superficial issues, AS felt safe enough to begin to explore deeper into her life and her experiences. She revealed how her father had been high up in the Polish police force and as a child, had regularly beat her. Her mother was very submissive towards her father and also suffered from low self-esteem. She revealed never feeling good enough for her parents, particularly her father and that her cousins were favoured over her.
As the sessions progressed, it became clear to me that the personalities of the men AS was seeking relationships with in adult life were very similar to the personality of her father. They were all quite strong, influential men who appeared to be putting their work and careers ahead of her. It seemed that she was almost replaying her parent’s relationship, with her being her own mother, looking for a partner who was strong and powerful, yet at the same time, abusive. Despite my recognition of this situation, I had to allow AS time to discover this for herself. As therapists, we can only accompany a client on their journey. We cannot tell them how to get there. The most important part of therapy is self-discovery and awareness, and the similarities between AS’s expectations of a relationship and her experience of her parent’s relationship was one she slowly uncovered during our sessions together.
As she gained more and more awareness, we began to use the process of decontamination to challenge unhealthy beliefs which had been limiting her. In her work at the hospital, she was so afraid of making a mistake that she would often hold back or check things many times. However once she began to accept how often other people make mistakes in life, how they cope with these mistakes and how failure can teach us so much more than a success, she began to change. Each time she believed she had made a mistake, rather than thinking negatively of herself, she began to consider if a mistake had really been made, if she was truly responsible for it and if so, what she could learn from it.
I worked with AS for just over a year and by the time our psychotherapy sessions had come to an end, she had begun planning her career change into the fashion industry. Although she had yet to find a partner, she was now finding herself attracted to a different type of man, one who she could feel an equal to and one who would respect her and treat her well.
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