We met Karen on an evening dog walk along Kendal Street when she had stopped to admire Connaught Village’s latest lighting installation, A Tree of Love, Joy and Hope. What started as neighbourly small talk quickly turned into a deeper discussion about the tolls of lockdown on our mental health and how something as small as seeing a brightly lit tree and a distanced conversation with a stranger could boost a person's mood immensely.
Through our chats, we soon found out that as well as being an owner of two beautiful Maltese pooches (you’ll find out more on them later), Karen is also a lover of art, is a long term Connaught Village veteran, and works as a Psychotherapist with a practice based in Marylebone. Karen has also published an illustrated book entitled Emotions which can be used as a free resource to help individuals better understand the sea of negative emotions they may feel at any one time.
Inspired and impassioned by our conversations with Karen, we wanted to give you a deeper insight into her work and shine a light on what it means to be a psychotherapist.
What sparked your passion for psychotherapy?
My passion for psychotherapy was sparked by my own experiences of the amount of ignorance and stigma surrounding mental health issues. Basically, because mental illness is not visible, people suffering were not listened to or believed. If you look OK, it follows that you are Ok. It’s not that simple because just because you can’t see something does not mean that it doesn’t exist. So people suffering from mental health problems are often very high functioning because of the shame they have been driven to by stigma. The spiral is perpetuated and you often hear of suicides that shock you because of the ignorant statement “They had everything”.
How did you find and train your therapy dog?
My dog is called Martha, she is a little white Maltese, who is happy to go to anyone for a cuddle and sit on their lap when they are struggling. I have watched people have their blood pressure done with and without holding a dog in their arms and it was fascinating to see their blood pressure drop while they had the dog. As for training, Martha will do ANYTHING for a little treat of the culinary variety! She has a brother called Wilson, who is CEO of my company but I wouldn’t call him a therapy dog. Martha is the head honcho.
Could you tell us a little bit about your book ‘Emotions’?
Emotions is basically an introductory booklet on the concept of Negative Emotions. I did this as a labour of love. When negative events occur in our lives, we will naturally feel a negative emotion in response. For example, when something sad happens in our lives, it is healthy and appropriate to feel sad, however, it is unhealthy to become depressed as a result. The booklet is also a nod to the invisible nature of mental health problems as your innermost emotions can often live undetected. In the book, we meet the main character Jelly Bean - beautifully dressed in Prada, NOBODY can see she is suffering…
What’s your favourite thing about being a psychotherapist?
My favourite thing about being a psychotherapist is without a doubt the privilege of the relationships with the wonderful patients I have had over the years. The honour of the trust that they have in sharing their stories and the ability to help them help themselves and hold their heads up high without stigma or shame!
And finally, what’s your favourite thing about living in Connaught Village?
Connaught Village is a community in the centre of an anonymous city. I never feel alone here, people know each other and are friendly without being invasive. I have lived here for many years and seen it grow and evolve. Throughout the Covid pandemic, I have sadly seen many people go, but there are vitality and energy to this place that can be highlighted by the wonderful things such as the Tree of Love, Joy and Hope that sits outside my window and makes me smile every time I look at it.
To find out more about Karen’s services and access an e-copy of Emotions for yourself or someone you love, head over to karenlevy.co.uk or follow on Instagram @karenlevy.uk.