Introduction + Why do people come for therapy?


You’re listening to On the Couch with Carly. Carly’s Couch is a safe space to talk. I’m a psychologist. But I’m not your pipe-smoking, tweed wearing stereotype.

Hello my name is Carly, and I’m from Carly’s Couch. And this is Carly’s Couch: The Podcast. This is my first podcast and I’m so excited to be doing this. I haven’t ever imagined that I would be doing a podcast, and here I am. So just to tell you a little bit about what to expect today….. I’m going to be talking about myself, which is a topic I quite enjoy. Then I’m going to tell you a little bit about why people come to therapy and what people talk about in therapy. I think people who are interested in therapy but have never done it before want to know: “Well, what do you do in therapy?”, and I’m here to talk about that today.

So let me start by telling you a little bit about myself, then I’m going to tell you about my hopes, dreams and ambitions for this podcast. And how I hope to get some messages across to you, and interact with you across the airwaves.

So firstly I’d just like to say, I am a clinical psychologist. Psychologist, not a psychiatrist. Lots of people get that wrong, just so you know and are clear. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specialises in psychiatry and is able to prescribe medicine as a way of managing the symptoms of a psychiatric illness. And psychiatric illnesses are anything from depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, those sorts of things. Whereas, a psychologist, which is what I am, is someone who has studied an awful lot to be honest, and has worked in the health professions. I have done two years of mandatory work in the state facilities so I am pretty much in the medical field but I’m not a medical doctor , and I cannot prescribe medicine. My main way of managing symptoms is through Talk Therapy.

That’s really what this podcast is going to be about. It’s going to be about me helping you to understand what some of the topics are in psychology, and what some of the topics in therapy are. And to sort of chat and debunk some of the ideas some people have about psychology. And to talk more generally about what I’m interested in, and what I think matters to people. And also to do so without using too much jargon. Making it  a bit more personal, making it more understandable really for anybody .That’s my big hope. That through listening to this podcast you’ll get a better understanding of what psychologists do. A better understanding on what therapy is about , and hopefully some insight into your problems. And to understanding humans beings in general or yourself, or those around you .

I’m a psychologist, and I am currently in Cape Town, in South Africa, which is my hometown. I was born here. I work out of a practice in Woodstock. And I run this practice, it’s called Carly’s Couch. I also have other psychologists/colleagues who work with me. Together we see patients or we call them clients on usually a weekly basis.

But I haven’t always been here. So let me tell you a little bit about the history of Carly’s Couch, and how it’s evolved. So, I studied at UCT. I did my masters in clinically psychology there, and I graduated in 2011.Then I went to Gauteng and I did my internship and community service. After my community service I went to Berlin.

Let we just backtrack a little bit. When I was doing my community service, I was living in Johannesburg. And Johannesburg, I don’t know if you know, is a very cool and hip city with lots of young people, lots of young creators. I was very lucky to be part of a very cool set. I met some very interesting people there. I used to go out a lot, and go to these cool parties with all this interesting people.  They always used to talk about themselves as creators. “I am a creator”, ‘I am a creator”. And I loved it. All these fun people. And they always said to me: What do you do?”, and I would say: “I am psychologist. They would get this look on their face: “REALLY! .But you’re kind of funky dressed. You’re dressed kinda cool and you’ve got cool hair, and you’re drinking with us. Are you really a psychologist. That’s not what we picture when we think of psychology.”

So, I realised that  this idea of psychologists as a certain kind of person. A kind of fuddy duddy, boring, I dunno,  pipe smoking, tweed-wearing old person is maybe what people have in their minds.

And the way I was, and dressed, and acted wasn’t what people thought of when they thought of a psychologist. I think that was quite an interesting thing. So I started a blog, and I called it Carly’s Couch. It was really just a place for me to share my ramblings on life, and on the world, and on thoughts and feelings.

I kinda focused on giving advice and I opened myself up to anyone and everyone to ask me questions. And to just challenge me to speak about things that I maybe had greater insight into because of being a psychologist. But also kind of speaking to just being a general person, just humanity and what it’s like to be a person. So, I did that as a side thing, as well as completing my qualification.

Then as I said when I finished that, I went to Berlin. Which is also a very cool, creative and young city . I worked there as a psychologist and I carried on the blog, and then I decided to come back to Cape Town.

I kind of decided: “Okay, I’ve got this blog and then I’ve got my work which is what I do. Maybe I should join it together.”

So then the blog and the psychology practice married in 2016. And  now Carly’s Couch is the online platform which has got a blog, and has got now a number of vlogs connected to it. I have a YouTube channel. I’m also on social networks. I’m on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

But  it’s also a brick and mortor home really, for psychologists and for people who want to engage with themselves on a deeper level. So that’s the story of Carly’s Couch and where we are today.

Just to give you a little bit more information about what we do at Carly’s Couch . Initially, it was just me and over the two years I have included a few psychologists who are part of my network. Who I basically refer clients to, who come to me through the platform,  who are interested in Carly’s Couch and understanding themselves better. And maybe I can’t take them on as clients, then I have these other colleagues who I work with. Or if the problem  that the person is needing help with is more to do with something  that one of my colleagues are specialists in, then I refer them on to one of my colleagues.

What I offer particularly is, because I was in Berlin, and I kind of honed my skills in terms of Expat Therapy. That’s the main branch of specialization that I offer, in terms of therapy. I work primarily with people who are not from South Africa. Who are living here, who are struggling with adjusting to life as an expat. Or who are perfectly happy in terms of adjusting to Cape Town and South Africa, but are struggling with other things. I can offer them greater insight into understanding the expat experience, and how the problems they may have can be understood through the lens of being an expat. So, that’s one branch as expat therapy.

I also work with therapy for self-growth. That, I’ve kind of coined that. It’s basically to debunk the idea that  you need to be *excuse my French*, messed-up, – f***** up to come to therapy.

I really try and discourage people from believing that you have to have problems to come to therapy, or that  you have to be messed up, or only people who are serious loonies come therapy. Actually, all people come to therapy. All people can benefit from therapy. The greatest therapeutic work can be done with people who are just interested in exploring themselves and understanding themselves better. Understanding their patterns, their triggers and what kinds of things are causing their difficulties in their lives.

I really like this idea of therapy for self-growth. It’s not to solve a problem, it’s not because you’re messed up and you need to be fixed, or you need to be cured. You’re coming just to explore yourself, and to imagine new versions of yourself, and understand yourself better and see yourself in a different way.

I also really really love working with parents. This is because I don’t work with children. So, I have made a decision in my work that I don’t do child therapy. But I do work with parents and I believe that children need the intervention to be done on a parental level, more than anything.

I love the work that I do with parents, which is also preventative work. I like to do things at an early stage before the problem sets in. I work with parents of children under the age of 5. I use this amazing model called Circle Of Security.

Circle of Security was designed in the states. It is a brilliant manualised programme where over 8 weeks you use a DVD, and I am specifically licenced to use this programme to help parents to get to a better understanding of what kinds of things they’re struggling with their children, and how to better manage that in the future. It particularly works from an attachment perspective. One of my best theories and I’m sure if you interested, please write to me and let me know I could do a whole podcast on this, and I probably will.

My favourite theory is the attachment theory. The attachment theory basically says that the first 5 years of life is the most crucial for people to establish their relationship style. Between you and your parents you are developing almost like a blue print of how to feel about yourself, about relationships, about the world in general. If your parents are there, and available and supportive and caring. If they are present and they make you feel understood and heard, and loved, and appreciated. Then you will develop a very secure model for how to see the world and yourself. And that really has incredible benefits that will last for your entire life. Whereas, if your parents are not able to be there for you in whatever way. Maybe they’re absent, maybe they scary, then you may have an insecure model. And that has detrimental effects on how you are to be in later life and it can affect how you have relationships as you go forward.

So, it is a very important theory and it has huge consequences. The Circle of Security teaches parents in a really beautiful gentle way, how to understand their children, how to make sense of what children need from them, and how to see behaviour not just as behaviour for behaviour’s sake but as as a message. As a communication of what is going on and what they need, and what they need from us as parents.

So, that’s one thing I love doing. The other branch of work that I’m doing at the moment is that I’ve partnered up with THE NEW NORMAL, who is Genevieve Putter. She has an amazing Instagram account, I suggest you follow it . If you are a new mama or papa. I became a mama myself, last year. I have partnered up with her to try and bring to the antenatal class circuit in Cape Town, to try and extend the antenatal classes beyond just birth preparation and a little bit kind of about how to change nappies. We are now providing a little bit of education around what to expect in terms of the psychological shifts that occur after you have a baby.

We call this programme OH BABY WHAT THE FUCK or OH BABY WTF.As you can tell there is a lot of swearing on this podcast. I hope you are all okay with that. So yes, OH BABY WTF is our little baby that we have been running for a few months. At the moment we’ve been doing  talks at the baby grow clinic. We’re about to launch some podcasts, I think, of our own. And perhaps next year we will be doing videos as well. But it’s been really exciting and fun. These are really the basic things that I have been doing. I also do some conferences where I talk about self-care practices. And so I do the corporate gigs every now and again, if people invite me. I love mindfulness where I can talk about you coming into contact with the current moment, using your five sense to be present, and connect to yourself as a way of de-stressing and managing anxiety. I can also do employee wellness days and that sort of thing. So that’s really my spiel about what I do, and how you can employ me, and how you can pay me.

So if any of that stuff sounds appealing please send me a mail,I will put all my details out there.But basically it’s @onthecouchwithcarly that’s the Instagram handle, that’s my Facebook. On Twitter I’m @carlyabramovitz which is my surname. My email address is So those are the ways you can get hold of me. That’s pretty much just the introduction of who I am and what I’m about.

The last 10 minutes or so I’m just going to talk to you about therapy and what people come to therapy for. So that you can kind of  get an understanding of it if you’re sitting at home and wondering, “Do I need therapy?”  OR “No my problems are not really for therapy. No one can really help me with this.” I’m here to talk about those questions you may have. And try and debunk some of the things people think about and the reasons people go to therapy.

So, let me just tell you a little bit about how I work. I was trained to be primarily be a psychodynamic therapist. And what that means for ordinary people, who didn’t study psychology. Is that I learnt the model that was started by Freud. Everybody knows who Freud is. Let me tell you we have moved far beyond Freud in terms of where psychology is today. Freud is like the grandfather. We know we carry his DNA. We know his work was important and he laid the foundations for where we are today. But we don’t just follow him 100% today, because well a let’s face it, he lived in a very sexist, racist and you know classist society.  We don’t listen to that sort of stuff anymore. We’ve evolved. So he has his place but we just not to him, every now and again.

But basically what that means, is that we( people who do psychodynamic therapy) think that your childhood, and your early experiences with your caregivers,  with the people who were in your life when you were little have an impact on how you feel in the world today. So basically what I said about attachment theory where we are interested  in your understandings of yourself based on your experiences in the past.

That’s not to say we don’t think that the present is important, and it’s not to say that we don’t look at what’s happening in your life right now. It’s just to say we believe that the relationships that you had in your past inform who you are today. If we understand the pains, the traumas, the loss you experienced at earlier stages in your life, we will get a better understanding of you.

We work in a way that is not very very structured. We do not have set goals every single session. We do not decide to fix you in 12 sessions or whatever the case may be. We don’t necessarily have goals for therapy. We have don’t have necessarily have an end to therapy. We do, what I like to call, exploratory work. I’m saying ‘we’ because Im aligning myself with psychodynamic therapists. I suppose I’m different to some psychodynamic therapists. In fact there are definitely aspects of my work which is different.

But the idea is when you come to therapy and you see me as a therapist. You will be talking about what happened to you in your childhood. Not the whole time. Not even maybe of 50% of the time, but some of the time we will be thinking about that. And that may be a bit irritating, or scary or uncomfortable for you. And that’s okay. One of the big lessons you’ll learn in therapy is that uncomfortable is okay. Uncomfortable is where the work is done and that sounds  kind of urrrgh but it is kinda true. I encourage anyone who wants to know themselves better to come to therapy. Because therapy is about showing a mirror to yourself, and the mirror is another person who has a different set of theories to make sense of the world. And a different perspective. And although you can go to your friend and hear their perspective of you. The difficulty is that your friend has vested interests in their relationship with you.

So just like your partner, your sister, mother, whoever it is that you go speak to or may get counselling from. It’s not the same as a therapist. A therapist doesn’t need anything from you. A therapist is there for you and doesn’t require you to be there for them.  And that is huge. You get a chance to speak to someone who is only going to listen to you and is only going to want to understand you more. And whose never going to say, “Okay my turn. Let’s talk about me now.” Or whose never going to say: “ I think you should do that”. But actually they saying that because they want you to do that or they think that’s the best thing for them.

That really makes it quite helpful because you’ve got this unbiased person, who is wanting to help you, and who is also wanting to know you, and whose also wanting to explore you, with you. But who doesn’t have an agenda. Who doesn’t have a reason to want you to go in  any one direction . I think some people struggle with that. Therapy can feel directionless because the client decides the direction. The client chooses the course of therapy, to a degree. The client sits down and speaks. We go with it. We go wherever we go with it. Sometimes that can be disarming for people because they’re like: “Well what am I supposed to say?”. Well, there’s no supposed to in therapy. You just come and you tell me what’s on your mind. Through that process you’ll come to learn about yourself in a totally new way. And you will have hopefully some greater insights into yourself and maybe some tools as well.

Overarching  what I do, is I believe, and this is also a psycho dynamic way of thinking, and a pretty new way of thinking in therapy. Which Is that, from a relational perspective, it’s called relational theory or inter-subjective theory. I believe that I am also in the room with you, even though I’m not asking anything of you, or telling me about myself(I am still myself and I’m in the room.) And that means my subjectivity is in the room as well. It’s quite a post-modern theory to be honest. Post-modern, as in you know, we construct our reality, that sort of thing.

So, I’m there in the room with you and I’m not a neutral mirror. I’m a mirror to you but I’m not a neutral mirror. So, I believe we are forming a relationship, and partly that is the big kind of technique I that use.  I’m  forming a relationship with you. And we build a relationship over time through that you’ll learn to trust me. You’ll learn to rely on me. You learn to depend on me. And when you feel safe and secure with me. You can express things to me which you wouldn’t be able to express otherwise, and that is magic. That you can’t get from many people. That you cant’s get from many spaces. I think that is what I love the most about therapy,  that is what I love the most about my work. In this modern world, where I’m sorry to say, materialism has taken over. And money is really our god. We running around working for the salaries so that we can jol [means: to party] on weekends and whatever else it is.

By the way “jol” is a South African slang and I will be using South African Slang, every now and again. Because it’s just in my vocabulary. If you’re an international listener, enjoy. If you’re a South African listener: Lekker my bru ,local is lekker. I’m pitching this to a local audience but I would also would love for an international audience. So great, let’s share the love.

Basically what I wanted to say is that we are alienated in our modern times. We are not connecting, we are not sharing that much. And my job is so beautiful because I get to prioritise sharing and connection. For an hour at a time-it’s actually 50 minutes.  I connect with one human being, and one human being alone. There is no cell phone. There are no phone calls. No one’s interrupting us. It’s just me and you. And we get to talk about you, and your feelings and  your thoughts. And ya, we have that special time.

So, that’s what I think is so beautiful about the work that I do. That it is so unique in this world , that someone wants to listen to you, and  that someone wants to care about what you thinking and feeling. And give you that space and time. So, just to sum up. As I said before, we have therapy for self-growth, so that can be anybody at all can benefit from therapy. Doesn’t matter who you are. I say any age, at any time of your life , you can come into therapy. And makes use of this space to explore yourself, to understand yourself better, to just sink deeply into your own psyche and understand yourself.

But, there is also therapy for specific reasons. A lot of people come to therapy with a problem and that’s okay. I’m in the helping profession. I do understand that I’m going to be dealing with people when they’re falling apart a little bit. Or having a bit of a wobble, and that’s great. I embrace that. But what does that mean? Does it mean you have to be 100% clinically depressed before you come to therapy. No, it doesn’t. It can be anything from having a heartache, from being grief-stricken, from suffering from a break-up. Or as I said before, moving countries, adjusting to a new environment. That’s stressful. Even beautiful joyous events like having a baby can shake us up, and bring stuff up that needs to be addressed, and needs to be processed. And that’s where therapy is useful.

So, it’s really for anyone who wants to address a concern that they may have, whether big or small. That concern could be:” I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I don’t know what work I’m interested in.” OR “ I don’t like my job but I don’t know what to do instead of my job. I feel stuck”. It  could also be about a relationship pattern: “I seem to always choose the same partners,. Why do I always choose the same partners? Why do I always end up in the same mess in  relationships?.” That’s a great question to bring to therapy. Or maybe it’s about realising something about your nuclear family: “I’m realising my mom and my dad, were particularly critical with me.  Now that’s why I struggle to do presentations at work because, I get nervous. Because my mom or dad always shouted at me.” Great question to bring to therapy.  Now we can unpack that and understand how to make sense on why that is having its effect. And to  think differently about that,  and to shift  that  kind of thinking. Some people don’t know that it’s mom and dad being critical. They are just realising that every time they do a presentation they get sweaty and nervous, and they can’t concentrate- and that’s what they need help with. They don’t realise actually that it’s actually because of critical parenting for example.

So, that’s that kind of work I do, and those are the kinds of problems that can be resolved in therapy. The other thing is, obviously, on a more severe side of the spectrum, is that if you do suffer from a clinical disorder. That can be anything from anxiety, like- OCD (obsessive, compulsive disorder), or PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder), or your depression, or bipolar- which used to be called manic depression. These are more severe symptoms, and I think probably as we go forward, and I’d probably will. No I will, and when I do other podcasts in this series,  I will probably do one on each of these diagnosis to just explain them a little bit better. And you have an idea of what they’re about. and to understand yourself a bit better if you may have them. I’m cautious to just list symptoms because I think everyone can google and knows how detrimental Dr Google is. When you know the symptoms it sometimes actually be worse for your mental health. But basically, these sort of problems come with severe levels of distress. Your functioning is in pain, you not working, you not able to hold down a job, you not able to maintain a relationships ,you’re not functioning and you not sleeping, you’re not eating-those sorts of things. That’s when it becomes really serious. But like I said, you don’t have to have a severe problem like that in order to come into therapy. Anyone can benefit from therapy

So, that’s really all I wanted to speak about today. This is really just an introduction to me, to my work, and to get you to kind of comfortable with the idea of therapist or talking to you about things that interest me.

I’d really really would love to know what interests you. And what would you like to know from this therapist. This therapist that curses, and ya is not necessarily that tweed-wearing, pipe smoking stereotype. So please drop me a line OR you can get hold of me on the socials. This has been fun. Please give me your feedback. Tell me what you liked and didn’t like . That would be great. Cool. Thanks so much for listening and see you next time. Bye


This podcast is recorded at Edible Audio in Cape Town, South Africa. Edited by Edible Audio. Original music by Alex Smillie.

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