Emma Ruiz is a Gestalt Therapist based in Barcelona. She is passionate about learning and her work has always revolved around education and growth. Here Emma talks to MumAbroad Life about learning English, her relationship with the international community, finding like minded friends and her path to becoming a therapist.
“I was born in Barcelona in 1966. My dad was an Andalusian immigrant who came to Barcelona when he was 9, and my mother was born in the Barceloneta neighbourhood. They belonged to different worlds but they fell in love and got married. For some reason they decided to speak to their children in Spanish rather than my mother speaking Catalan to us and my dad Spanish. When I was 4, my dad was sent to Maracaibo, Venezuela to work so we all moved there. Dad was very aware of the importance of speaking languages, especially English, so he convinced Mom to put us in an American school. Apparently Mom wasn’t too sure about it because neither of them spoke English and she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to speak to the teachers. She tells me that my sister and I would return home after school crying because we didn’t understand a word of English. Well, that didn’t last long and by Christmas we could more or less communicate. This is how my relationship with the international community began! I attended different international schools both in Venezuela and in Spain and so grew up surrounded by people from all over the world whose common language was English. It was funny because although Dad could sort of get by with the little English he knew, Mom was never able to speak it. So what did my sister and I do when we didn’t want our parents to know what we were talking about? We spoke in English!
I have always felt attracted to foreign cultures and languages. I love traveling, trying different foods, learning about traditions and meeting new people. I find there are so many new things to learn! When I returned from Venezuela I spent a whole year without speaking English and I honestly missed it. The only thing that occurred to me at the time (I was 19) was to enroll in an American literature class at the North American Institute in Barcelona. I was pretty naïve at the time and I really thought I’d have the chance to meet some native English speakers there. Of course I didn’t find any, but I became friends with the girl that spoke the best English. She turned out to have a circle of expats I soon became part of, meeting my soon-to-be British husband. I still remember the day I met him at a St. Patrick’s Day party! We got married and I had my only son, Sean, who is now 29. I started to join international communities and especially women’s groups because I find it refreshing to be in the company of like-minded women, entrepreneurs and powerful souls. Working on your own as I do, it is important to have a strong community for support, make friends, learn and have some fun.
Being a mom was the most important part of my life for many years. I got divorced when my son was only 3 and because of the circumstances, I raised him almost as a single parent. For many years my life revolved around him and it took me a long while to find out what it was that I really liked to do professionally. I accidentally started to work as a substitute teacher at an international school and from there I trained as a Montessori teacher and later as an ESL teacher. Teaching has been an important part of my life. Although I first started with children, I discovered what it was like to teach adults while I was living in Huelva and I never went back. As an in-company teacher I realized many of my students used the time with me to speak about their personal issues and that I was a very good listener. They took the time to relax, practice their English and some times, get some support.
Parallel to this, I was always interested in learning about myself, reading about different philosophies, trying to find a reason for my existence. Deep down I felt that we couldn’t just be here to work, pay our bills and die. There had to be a much bigger reason, I thought. I was never OK with accepting my flaws, got angry when I stumbled over the same stone and kept looking for answers. One Easter week I heard about a course called something like How to Open Your Heart to Love which was given by a Master whose teachings I followed. The course was great. It was given by the Master I knew and a Gestalt therapist. I absolutely loved the way the therapist worked and decided to do therapy with him. That was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself! Although I had spent many years reading books, doing courses and lots of things to find out more about my inner self, it wasn’t until I started with Gestalt that everything started to fall into place. That was when I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, hahaha! I started to train as a Gestalt therapist and continued with my personal inner work.
I like to describe Gestalt as a therapy which is based on 4 pillars: the Here and the Now, Raising Awareness, Self-responsibility and the Acceptance of Ourselves with Love and Compassion. In my practice I will not put a label on you. In Gestalt we do not cure anybody as we don’t see the person as a patient who’s sick. We believe in the person’s ability to self-regulate. The Gestalt therapist accompanies the client and gives the person the support they need to find their own self-support. By learning to look at ourselves with compassion and acceptance, we are able to gain self-love and self-confidence, tools which will enable us to face the challenges life puts in front of us and grow. Gestalt is a humanistic therapy that is based on empathy and the total respect of the client. The things that happen during the session are mirrors of what happens outside of the session, therefore, when the client becomes aware of something in therapy, she is able to extrapolate it outside.
In my practice I work mainly with the expat community in English, although I also use Spanish and Catalan. It is very important to be able to use your mother tongue when embarking on a self-discovery journey as it makes it a lot easier. I absolutely love what I do and I highly recommend starting a personal process to everyone who wants to understand more about themselves. It improves the relationship with yourself, makes you happier and consequently you have better relationships at work, with your partners, family and friends. Also, we need to get rid of the stigma behind the idea of going to the therapist. The therapist is the person who helps you deal with your emotions, fears, grief and all those things that may not be physical, but are certainly part of who we are. I look forward to the day we all are able to talk openly about our therapist the same way we recommend a physiotherapist or a gynaecologist.”