Maša Žvelc, PhD, is an integrative psychotherapist and international integrative psychotherapy trainer and supervisor (IIPA). In 1998 she graduated in psychology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia; in 2004 she completed a scientific master’s degree in clinical psychology and in 2017 she completed a scientific doctorate study in psychology. For her doctorate study she was researching helping and hindering factors in psychotherapy supervision.
She worked first as a psychologist in prison and then for five years at the Psychiatric Hospital Ljubljana in the centre for treatment of drug addiction. In 2004 along with her husband Gregor she founded the Institute for Integrative Psychotherapy and Counselling, Ljubljana and she is currently a co-director of the Institute. She leads the training in integrative psychotherapy and training in integrative relational supervision and provides psychotherapy and supervision practise. She also teaches integrative psychotherapy at the University of Ljubljana (Faculty of Education, programme Art therapy) and at psychotherapy institutes abroad.
Maša is also a researcher. Besides conducting doctorate research in supervision, she developed the psychodiagnostic instrument for measuring relationships (Pictorial test of separation and individuation). With her husband she has also adopted a lot of foreign psychodiagnostic instruments for Slovenian purposes.
She is the chief editor of the Slovenian book of psychotherapy, where the majority of psychotherapy schools in Slovenia are being introduced, the co-author of the textbook on Citizenship education and Ethics for primary schools and the author of many scientific and professional articles in psychology, psychotherapy and supervision.
How did you come into this career?
Even before I started the study of psychology, when I was 19, I knew I wanted to be a psychotherapist. I think the movies of Woody Allen with him on the ‘couch’ inspired that idea. So during my psychology studies, in my early twenties, I already went to all psychotherapy workshops, which were available at that time in Slovenia. After my studies I got a job in the prison and then at the psychiatry department for treating drug addictions, where I had opportunity to do psychotherapy. At that time I went through trainings in different psychotherapy schools. In 1999, Richard had the pre-congress workshop in Vienna (at the 2nd World Congress for Psychotherapy). I didn’t understand much when he was explaining theory of relational integrative methods. But when I saw him working (psychotherapeutically) with the volunteer, I felt appreciation in all of my body and said to myself: “Yes, this is it. That’s how I want to work: gentle and deep”.
What have you enjoyed most about being a therapist?
I think I enjoy it the most when there is a deep contact between me and a client. The contact when I can feel and see the soul of the client through his/her eyes and at the same time feel myself humble and complete. The moments which Buber would name “I –Thou meetings”.
I also appreciate very much when I see when the clients get better.
Name a couple of people who have been influential in your approach to therapy.
The most important teachers of mine are/were Richard Erskine, Ken Evans, Joana Hewitt Evans and my Slovenian supervisor Branko Franzl. Besides them, I was very much influenced by Leslie Greenberg and Dianna Fosha. I also appreciate very much the knowledge I’ve got from Jeremy Safran and Christopher Muran; with the two of them I’ve learned from their books and videos but I haven’t met them in person.
Tell me one thing most people wouldn’t know about you
People might don’t know (even though I like to talk about) that I do a lot of things beside my professional life. I enjoy being with my teenage sons. I like to explore different cultures and to travel there. I enjoy dancing and I have gone every week for eight years to oriental dance classes. I go regularly to gym class and adore going to the mountains and swimming or supping at the sea in the summer. I could not live without books. I read mostly novels, but also documentary books about socio-political history. When I was younger I sang a lot. I was in a music group of twelve (young) women and in 1994 we recorded a CD with our songs. Probably most people also wouldn’t know about the dark side I also have.
How being a therapist has influenced your relationships in general?
How IIPA training has changed you as a person?
I think I can answer both questions at the same time. Both the training and the psychotherapy work with supervision have enabled me to know myself better and understand people and relationships better. I sharpened my sense of myself and of the other; I can feel very well the field, the atmosphere between me and the other and can be aware of it and often know how to react. There are some exceptions, but with the help of my knowledge and growing awareness, my life and my relationships have more quality, satisfaction and ease.