Our seventh contributor in the “Meet the Topic Experts” feature, Kalila Borghini, has been a GoodTherapy.org member since 2008, and a regular writer for the GoodTherapy.org Blog since 2009. She currently practices in New York City, where she works with couples, individuals, and teens going through all sorts of life events and experiences.
Kalila’s focus as a GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert is spirituality, a topic she makes accessible to readers by incorporating relationship issues, motherhood, grief and loss, faith in music and dance, and the ethics of integrating spirituality into counseling.
For Kalila, spirituality isn’t just a belief or a set of beliefs; it’s a lifestyle and a continuous path to renewal and self-discovery. She not only experiences this herself on an ongoing basis, but also coaches and guides her clients to weave a spiritual journey into anything they may be dealing with in their lives. We asked Kalila 10 questions about her background professionally, personally, and spiritually, so that readers and clients may gain some insight into her process and personality.
1. How did you come to choose psychotherapy as a career path?
As a teenager almost 50 years ago, I had wanted to “save” others. I started out as a Psychology major at Queens College. That didn’t last long and I spent the next 45+ years getting advanced degrees in other fields (Classical Languages and Literature), teaching, and consulting in the health-care field. Finally, listening to my therapist/supervisor who had told me for years I’d be good at this, I returned to school, earned a Master of Social Work degree, got more advanced training, and set up my private practice. So in truth, I’ve come full circle, with a few detours along the way. I’ve also given up the idea of saving people.
2. Why spirituality as your area of expertise?
I didn’t start my career as a psychotherapist recognizing the importance of spirituality in the healing process. In fact, psychotherapy used to be my “higher power.” Over time, as I spent more and more time in my own treatment and in helping others, I began to realize that for me, more was needed. I don’t think I truly began to heal until I found my spiritual path, although I had gained a great deal of self-awareness.
3. Given an opportunity to specialize in another area, what would you choose? Why?
As a Topic Expert, another area of interest would be grief and loss. I feel people need to be helped with the grieving process, to be given permission to mourn for as long as they need to. I also feel that a spiritual approach to the mourning process can be truly helpful. This is something that can be maintained after the initial reactions to loss are lessened. I also feel that all of life involves loss, and the way we deal with it can make a difference between feeling bitter and feeling grateful.
4. How does your work fulfill you?
When I see people develop self-awareness, become more able to differentiate between wants and needs, achieve some of their goals, improve their relationships, have children if they so desire, and so on, this fulfills me and lets me know I am doing something right. I also feel that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing in a spiritual sense, and that makes me happy.
5. How do you replenish yourself outside of the office? What do you enjoy in life?
I spend a lot of time upstate at my little cottage on top of a mountain, enjoying the seasons and nature. I’ve taken up new things, such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. I go for hikes in all sorts of weather with my dog, read a lot, download “trashy” movies on Netflix (they’re really not all trashy), hang out with new friends, and just sit and reflect. This is where I feel closest to spirit. Unfortunately, it’s hard to do that any place but on the mountain, but at least I have enough time to decompress.
6. What are the biggest challenges associated with being a therapist?
For me, the biggest challenge is to let my clients be on their own journeys, including all of the pitfalls and disappointments along the way. It can be very challenging to see clearly that this or that choice will be a disaster, and not say much except when asked (and, even then, people will do what they want for all sorts of reasons).
7. Is the field of psychotherapy headed in the right direction? What course changes would you prescribe?
All in all, I’m happy to see the inclusion and recognition of what at one time were considered “alternative” modes of treatment. I’m thinking about modalities such as EMDR and Somatic Expressive work, as well as a spiritually-informed approach to treatment. Unfortunately, sometimes people want to “throw out the baby with the bath water” and feel that there is no longer a need for psychoanalysis or psychodynamic psychotherapy. I feel that practitioners need to collaborate in the best interest of the patient and that is not always the case. We all have something valuable to contribute to the healing process.
8. Who are your biggest influences? Any role models?
One of my biggest influences in this field is my former therapist/supervisor who was truly gifted in his understanding of the unconscious. At the risk of sounding sappy, I have to say that the divinities associated with my religion (I’m a Yoruba Priest) are my biggest influences. When they speak, I listen. My current supervisor is a role model. She’s hard-working and successful, she has a great sense of humor, and I think she is a wonderful therapist. She’s always learning new things and it is a pleasure to have her as a guide.
9. Please briefly describe an experience in your work that moved you.
Oh, there are so many, it’s hard to pick one. If I had to choose, I’d say when a client came to the office with her infant son (he was about 2 months at the time). She and her husband had worked so hard not only in their relationship but in trying to get pregnant. After almost two years, they succeeded and now have this absolutely precious child. I see how happy she is, how fulfilled, how tired (but dealing with it), and how attached to him she is, in ways she never thought possible. Knowing that I was part of that process makes me feel good about our work and so, so happy for her and her new family.
10. What would you say to a potential client who is skeptical that therapy can help resolve his or her psychological issues?
I encourage people to be skeptical and to think that the process will take forever! I also encourage them to try it nevertheless. If it turns out that, after a reasonable amount of time (whatever that is), the client has not changed his/her mind at all, then we talk about some alternatives. I also feel it is important to discuss and manage a client’s expectations. If they are unreasonable from the beginning, disappointment is guaranteed.
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kalila Borghini, LCSW, therapist in New York City, New York