Top Slovenian interview: dr. Veronika Podgoršek

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Veronika, you are one of those women who wears many different hats in her life. From raising a big family, writing popular columns and books, giving lectures to being one of the most famous Slovenian psychotherapists who specialize in family and marital therapy. How does one juggle all of these roles?

Well, I have to say that they are all very connected and intertwined with each other. But the most important is that I love all of these rolls. Each hat as you said fulfills me in a different way and makes me a whole me, who I am.

Could you tell us how you got into psychotherapy? Have you always wanted to help out couples or was there a different spark of interest?

Yes, it was actually. It all started with me. When I was young I really wanted to understand myself. Everything that was happening to me, directly or indirectly. I wanted to understand why I feel the way I feel, I wanted to know why I do things the way I do, I wanted to understand or get a dipper meaning of others doing things I could not possibly understand but causing me pain or any other emotion. Therefore everything started at the beginning where it should I know now. When I look back I see that I have always liked to reed mostly psychological type of books. That was really my point of interest. And with growing up I wanted more and more, therefore, I was going to study abroad. During university degree, I went for a year in Leuven, Belgium, and then when I was finishing my master’s degree in family and marital therapy I also entered and finished a two-year course specialization in Object relations theory and practice in Washington d.c., USA and my own therapy as a patient. I finished than also a Ph.D. and many other educational courses. Well, how then all that turned into becoming a writer and a therapist? J you can imagine, people were very much interested in my work, in my gained knowledge, wanted more and more – wanted to read my masters and Ph.D. theses, so here we come where I know and what I do. But, still, I do not really consider that I really help people… I give them what I know, what I have been taught by others, and all that I have gained through the years from my life and from observing other people in my private practice. At the end, they really need to help themselves and to be willing to be helped. 

Like we mentioned earlier you have written 4 books about relationships. Could you walk us through the process of writing books? Where did you draw your inspiration from?

4 so far. One of them has been translated and will be published in Croatia at the beginning of 2021 as another two – new ones in Slovenia (one in the beginning of the new year another a few months later). All my inspiration comes from real life. I listen to the people what they are struggling with the most. And with the whole working years, I have had a great opportunity also to meet people and listen to really deep, deep stories – real relational stories. I use them for a dipper and bigger public understanding. That is what people need the most and they use these texts as a base for helping themselves. The whole process takes me at least a couple of years for one to write. At the end of the day, they are professional, educational books.

We can imagine listening to other people’s problems can be quite challenging at times even for a professional and experienced psychotherapist like yourself. How do you unwind after work and keep your professional life separate from your private?

I actually never do for real. This is my life. This is the way I am – it’s me. I always think of my patients even when I do sports or anything else. But I do not do the therapy all the time. That’s the most important. But, after all, relationships are so natural to human beings that we are all very much into it all the time.

Veronika Podgoršek slovenska teologinja, doktorica znanosti s področja družinske in zakonske terapije. Ljubljana, Slovenija 2.junija 2020 [Podgoršek Veronika,teologi,terapevti,Domžale,Slovenija]

With plenty of experiences in the field of psychotherapy, can you give us any advice on how to maintain a healthy mindset in the modern world?

More than ever you really need to find and know yourself, who you are, why you are the way you are, what you want to take from your past and what you want to leave there or change. More than ever you have to try to be yourself, to dare to do the things you really like. You need to find your inner peace and satisfaction or you are or will be lost in space moving from one side to the other as other people say or represent – that this is the right and the only way to your happiness. But we are different and what someone makes happy does not necessarily mean it will make you happy. I see many people in my office, being actually happy with their lives in a long term relationship wondering if they are really happy or is there something more out there they need to try. They are asking themselves if they are missing something. But many of them are just caught in fake stories every day published on different social media or in society.

It seems like people will often look stunned if someone mentions they are going to therapy. Do you think Slovenians are open enough about going to therapy or do they still see it as a “taboo”?

We are getting there slowly. People are much more open since they have been working on a variety of different things regarding self-care and self-growth. But of course, as elsewhere we do also have people denying psychology, psychotherapy, psychopathology, hormones change, as such. Sometimes I say that those who would need therapy at most will never get there.

What are the biggest stereotypes in Slovenia that surround therapy or visiting a psychotherapist?

That you are crazy. That something is really wrong with you. But that was more or less something from the past. As I have said, we have done a lot of changes in the past decade and in many cases going in therapy today means something ‘more’. Many people say it with proud that they have been in therapy. On the other hand what I see now is that in many cases people have abused psychotherapy in a way that now they ‘know more than others – being better than others’ and from the moment they finish the therapy they say: It is me on the first place and therefore I will only take care of my selves. But that is not what and how it supposed to be. In any relationship, you cannot behave as you are there alone. This is wrong and it shows on just another defensive mechanism.

In your opinion, what is the key to a successful relationship or marriage? Is it communication, intimacy, trust, or something else? Perhaps all of the above?

All of the above, yes!! For a good relationship, we need to have as much as possible in common things that are important to us – both of us and we need to respect in common agreed boundaries.  Every couple has their own.

We often hear that in order to maintain a healthy and happy relationship we have to make compromises. How do you feel about that and what happens when only one side is ready to compromise?

Compromises are necessary from both sides for the relationship to last. For a GOOD relationship, not just a relationship. But still as far as we do not drive over our real self, our values, our live stile… We will never be able to do things that are completely opposite to who we are on the long term. 

Every couple and relationship is different, however, we were wondering if you could tell us what are some of the signs that a relationship might be coming to an end? In other words, when is it time to call it quits?

That is one of the hardest questions to be answered. Actually everyone has its own answer to this question. You know, we have couples who stay together nevertheless they have nothing in common anymore, even more, they hate each other. They stay together fiscally but have died emotionally years ago. Therefore I always say do not tell me how long have you been together but HOW you two are together.

During the quarantine period, a lot of couples were really put to the test as they spent a lot of time together, perhaps more time than in any period before. If it is not too much, can we ask if you have seen an increase in the number of couples looking for therapy? If so, what does this mean?

Actually several things happened. Many couples have (finally also physically) split up. Many have realized their relationship is not as good as they thought it is. Many have finely spoken out and try to save it. On the other hand, those who had a good relationship have even deepened it more. It was actually increase in all sides.

We have heard you are specialized in the field of infidelity, which you studied during your college days and even wrote two books about it. Could you tell us more about that? Why do you think people are not being faithful to their partners or what is the biggest reason behind infidelity? Do you see a lot of couples dealing with this issue in your office?

Yes, I do. Infidelity is really a huge topic. But in a few words, I can say every person or couple has its own reason why. It also differs in many ways for instance: we have – individual reasons (we have people who do not believe in fidelity; have mental disorders; it is a way (pattern) of solving inner pain… Then we have a couple of reasons where we can see as we say a relationship dance with many different kinds of betrayal (many times not seen on the out) over the years from one or both sides. After all, what is very important is that we cannot throw all the unfaithful people into the same piece.   

With the rise of apps such as Tinder, it almost seems as if people are always on the lookout for the “next best thing” or better said “next best fling”. What do you think about dating apps and how do they impact people and couples alike?

Yes…better, more beautiful, more exciting, more…. And at the end more and more lonely and sad, as we have talked about before. Dating apps are not wrong if we seek for a real relationship. We have to use everything we can to find a partner to love and be loved. But still the most important is to meet a person in reality as soon as possible! Why – because as far as we talk to someone on the other side we do not know his or her smell, verbal and nonverbal communication…we can love someone we do not really know for years but can happen when we meet in person everything fades out in a second. Body smell tells us a lot – it is our brain and its dipper meaning.

Veronika Podgoršek slovenska teologinja, doktorica znanosti s področja družinske in zakonske terapije. Ljubljana, Slovenija 2.junija 2020 [Podgoršek Veronika,teologi,terapevti,Domžale,Slovenija]

For the end, could you give us and our readers advice on how to maintain a happy relationship?

Beside knowing yourself well – what you like and what you don’t, what are you looking for, and why is most important to be open and always communicate what is happening with you because the others do not know you, see it differently or do not feel the same. Let yourself know to your partner – tell him or her, what you think, what you feel, what you expect, and why. Then listen to the other and always try to see it through the other’s eyes. Try to find what is best for both! Love is to act for the good of each other.

Where are your favorite places in Slovenia to travel for romantic couple moments?

In Slovenia we like some local restaurants in Ljubljana otherwise we like restaurants where we fell like home and one of those is Torklja in Korte, run of a beautiful couple or restaurant Mak in Maribor.