We recently had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Zoe Apostolidou. Dr. Apostolidou is a counseling psychologist and researcher. She has experience in working as a practitioner in the United Kingdom and Cyprus.
Furthermore, she has also conducted research work in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Cyprus. She has worked for a number of NGOs and charitable organizations and has provided psychological therapy, as well as psychosocial support.
She currently runs her private practice in Nicosia and works as a clinical supervisor at the Psychology Department of the University of Cyprus.
We asked Dr. Apostolidou a few questions surrounding her profession, how it’s perceived in Cyprus, and what can someone expect to gain from therapy. You can find the full interview below.
UBVIA: Based on your experience as a counseling psychologist, what do you think is the dominant perception of therapy in Cyprus?
Dr. Apostolidou: To begin with, I would like to stress that all my answers reflect my personal observations deriving from my clinical experience as a counseling psychologist, as well as from my experience of having taught psychology in various academic institutions in Cyprus.
Counseling psychology is the applied field of psychology that focuses on facilitating personal and interpersonal growth through psychological therapy. Psychological therapy is concerned with a positive change in people’s lives by helping them explore, address and deal with their difficulties in living. Evidently, this process involves a journey of self-exploration during which one becomes more aware of their relationship to themselves and to others around them.
“young people between 20 to 35 years of age are much more open and interested in embarking on this personal journey and unraveling their psychological difficulties.”
In my experience, there is a progressive increase in the number of young people between 20 to 35 years of age who are much more open and interested in embarking on this personal journey and unraveling their psychological difficulties.
I do believe that this increase of interest among young people reflects a perception that moves away from pathologizing psychological difficulties and normalizes therapy which often becomes part of their self-care. Moreover, therapy is perceived as providing the space for one to unfold and process their everyday experiences within the context of a safe and free-of-judgment relationship.
UBVIA: In terms of reaching out to psychologists, do you see a disparity in willingness to do so among age groups?
Dr. Apostolidou: Having said that about young people, my experience suggests that among individuals of older ages, psychological therapy is linked to mental health stigma thus, it is often accompanied by feelings of shame, guilt and the perception that one is incapable of dealing with their psychological difficulties.
In my view, older individuals are often more reluctant to seek psychological help, an attitude that could also be linked to a bigger difficulty to acknowledge and accept psychological distress as part of everyday living. In other words, mental health stigma is more prevalent among individuals of older age and often constitutes a serious obstacle that prevents them from addressing psychological pain and dealing with it.
“Older individuals are often more reluctant to seek psychological help, an attitude that could also be linked to a bigger difficulty to acknowledge and accept psychological distress as part of everyday living.”
Nevertheless, it should be noted that this attitude reflects more a general tendency among the people of older age and does not apply to everyone. Drawing upon my clinical observations, I would argue that older individuals who pursue psychological therapy on a regular basis and who see it as an opportunity for self-exploration and self-improvement tend to differ from the mainstream population in their worldviews and to be more aware of their psychological and emotional needs compared to the mainstream population of their age group.
UBVIA: What is being done or what can be done to remove any stigma (if in your opinion one exists) from counseling and therapy in general?
Dr. Apostolidou: Mental health stigma and stigma attached to psychological therapy is an issue that primarily reflects the dominant discourse of mental health within Cypriot society. In other words, if the dominant perception revolves around the notion that having psychological difficulties is unacceptable and something that needs to be denied, hidden or ashamed of, then, automatically, one will be socially discouraged from seeking professional help.
“In order to eradicate stigma within society, we need a systemic approach that will promote a culture of psychological hygiene.”
Therefore, in order to eradicate stigma within society, we need a systemic approach that will promote a culture of psychological hygiene. This is a matter that needs to be addressed in the sector of education and more specifically, school curriculums should include modules that focus on normalizing psychological pain and distress by enabling children from a very young to acknowledge it, accept it, express it and seek help, when needed.
In addition, the media can play an important role in sensitization and awareness-raising by bringing into the foreground the significance of psychological well-being and psychological therapy. This can be done through psychoeducational shows that combat negative perceptions and stereotypes of psychotherapeutic work.
“Within the past decade in Cyprus, there is an increasing number of community services providing psychological therapy and counseling for free or at a very low cost.”
It should be noted that a very important development towards this direction, that has taken place within the past decade in Cyprus, is the fact that there is an increasing number of community services providing psychological therapy and/or counseling available to the public either for free or at a very low cost.
Additionally, there is a progressively increasing number of psychoeducational workshops and seminars that are carried out by academic institutions, governmental and non-governmental organizations and aim to promote a culture of psychological well-being among children, adolescents and young adults.
UBVIA: What should someone expect from psychological therapy?
Dr. Apostolidou: Engaging in a process of self-exploration is not an easy endeavor but can be very rewarding and life-changing. One should keep in mind that unraveling and processing painful, uncomfortable experiences and aspects of one’s self can be emotionally demanding.
“Engaging in a process of self-exploration is not an easy endeavor but can be very rewarding and life-changing.”
Nevertheless, it is often a phase one needs to go through in order to integrate their experiences, reconstruct their personal story in a more meaningful manner and make choices in life that are fulfilling for them. Within the context of the therapeutic relationship, one should expect to feel supported, contained and held.
“Within the context of the therapeutic relationship, one should expect to feel supported, contained and held.”
Along the same lines, they should expect to develop an attentive and receptive connection that will enable them to gain awareness regarding the relationship they have with themselves and the way this relationship is reflected upon the way they engage with the world and other people.
We would like to deeply thank Dr. Apostolidou for her time and willingness to share her thoughts with us.
You can find Dr. Apostolidou on the following website: zoeapostolidou.com
Her full contact details are available here.