“Unveiling the Invisible”
- Tuesday 21st November 2023
Dr Alessandra Sammut Muscat is a psychotherapist and educator whose career had been defined by a relentless pursuit of knowledge and a deep commitment to helping individuals navigate the complexities of life.
Alessandra embarked on her educational journey at the University of Malta, where she pursued a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) degree. This degree laid grounds for her career in counselling and psychotherapy. Continuing her academic pursuits, she earned a Postgraduate Certificate in Personal and Social Development (PSD). She then ventured to the University of Birmingham to pursue a Master’s in Education with a specialization in Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD). This academic journey provided her with more understanding of the challenges faced by students dealing with emotional and behaviour issues, equipping her with pertinent tools needed when working with young people.
In 2023, Alessandra’s academic journey culminated in the completion of her doctoral thesis, titled “Unveiling the Invisible: A narrative inquiry about the life of adults in Malta, who grew up with a sibling diagnosed with depressive or anxiety disorder,” in collaboration with the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling, in association with Middlesex University. This research has shed light on the population that is normally ignored, both in research and in the real world.
Alessandra’s counselling career started 14 years ago as a trainee counsellor in primary and secondary schools. Her ongoing aim in her career is to provide a safe and nurturing space for children, adolescents and adults, to explore their emotions, become more self-aware and develop the necessary coping strategies to deal with what life throws at them.
During her doctoral studies, she also completed a placement at the Kana Movement, where she refined her therapeutic skills. Being satisfied with her dedication and proficiency, she was asked to continue offering her services at Kana Movement, where she remains to this day. Kana Movement offers therapy for adults and children at a very reduced price.
Alessandra currently holds the position of a Senior Psychotherapist with the Education Department at Maria Regina College. In this role she continues to work with students in schools by addressing issues such as anxiety, depression, relationship challenges and self-development. She communicates with various other professionals to support the students from an holistic perspective.
Her therapeutic approach is characterized by eclecticism, drawing from a range of therapeutic modalities while placing a strong emphasis on the existential perspective. Her work is a testament to her deep understanding of the human condition and her unwavering commitment to facilitating positive change in the lives of those she serves.
Mental health not only affects the individual, but also other members of the family. Literature focuses mostly on the parents and/or the individual being affected by the mental health, while putting aside the siblings and how they are affected. As siblings grow up, the tendency is that they spend a lot of time together, and when mental health emerges, a lot of changes are incurred.
My study aimed to give a voice to the people who are normally silenced. Therefore, through their narratives, the study aimed to understand better the trajectories from adolescence to adulthood and how this journey shaped one’s meaning of life. Furthermore, through understanding one’s journey, the helping professionals can work in a holistic manner within the family system.
The findings revealed that due to the emergence of mental health within the family, the participants had to adopt new roles to be of help to the family. How the participants felt and dealt with mental health within the family was explored. The theme of loss was highlighted and also how this journey has left an effect on their adulthood. The participants explored how their siblings’ mental illness have left them struggling in some aspects in their adulthood, but also how they have grown from this experience, making the purpose of living more meaningful to them. It seems that therapy has helped most of participants to heal and grow form this experience.
Since the sample was small and based in Malta, results cannot be generalized as the participants spoke from a Maltese cultural background related to mental health. Recommendation for helping professionals to work more with all the family members, from an early start, would be beneficial in the long run.