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Stanislava Saffova

My Story

My professional journey started with my studies in Social Work at the Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. After graduating, I moved to the United Kingdom, where I began to work in child protection and safeguarding services. This work experience had helped me to appreciate the importance of psychological health of parents for the wellbeing, safety, and fulfilment of the basic needs of their children. At the same time, I realised how difficult it was for the parents and children I worked with to get the appropriate psychological support they needed. I often felt frustrated and helpless for my clients as I believed that their core needs were not met due to a lack of psychological provision. This motivated me to pursue further studies in psychology, which I completed at the University of East London and Birkbeck University of London. I began to implement my new knowledge in Community Mental Health Teams and Early Intervention Team in Psychosis, working with patients with severe and enduring mental health difficulties.

I later embarked on further training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) at The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, where I was offered a unique opportunity to learn CBT from the world-renowned experts, including professor David Clark, who developed and contributed to several disorder specific models of CBT (e.g., for panic disorder, social phobia, and PTSD), and established the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) initiative in the United Kingdom. I have now been implementing my CBT knowledge and skills in one of the IAPT Centres for more than six years. Since I have always been interested in the field of psychotraumatology and enjoyed helping clients suffering with PTSD, I further pursued training and accreditation in EMDR therapy, which is recommended as one of the first line therapies for trauma by the British National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

Over time, I began to realise that even though CBT therapy is highly effective for many clients, it is not always suitable or sufficient for clients with long-term and persistent psychological problems and characterological difficulties. I therefore completed further training and accreditation in Schema Therapy, which is now one of the main therapeutic approaches I use in clinical practice. I currently hold an advanced Schema Therapy accreditation, and I recently completed my supervision training which enables me to offer supervision to prospective Schema Therapists wishing to pursue their accreditation.

Schema Therapy appealed to me from the very beginning because it reminded me of my professional beginnings when, as a social worker, I tried to protect and safeguard vulnerable children. It also reminded me of the sense of helplessness I experienced, as I knew that the vulnerable children I worked with at the time needed more than I could offer. However, today, it almost feels like (metaphorically speaking) these vulnerable children are coming to me as adults, and, thanks to Schema Therapy, I can truly give them what they need and help them change their lives for the better. I believe that my early experiences in child protection and safeguarding made me a better Schema Therapist as they helped me to understand and appreciate the value and importance of limited reparenting approach that is at the very heart of Schema Therapy.

At present, I continue to work in one of the IAPT Centres in London as a CBT Therapist and a Project Lead for Schema Therapy and EMDR. I work with clients with complex presentations, multiple trauma, and offer supervision and training to other therapists. Apart from my work activities, I also continue my studies in psychology, and I am about to finish my Doctoral Degree in Counselling Psychology at the University of Roehampton in London. My doctoral research is concerned with an exploration of whether Schema Theory applies to psychosis, and my special clinical interest is in possible adaptation and application of Schema Therapy to this complex and distressing condition.

I am very grateful for the professional opportunities I was given whilst living abroad. However, I am equally grateful for my cultural heritage. I was born and spent my early childhood in former Czechoslovakia, and I continue to feel warmly towards both of our nations. I also feel a strong connection and a sense of belonging to people from other Slavic countries. I would therefore like to give something back and share my knowledge and experiences with psychotherapists and mental health professionals from around our Slavic world.