Interview with Ileana Botezat and Sanda Lepoiev

Ileana Botezat, president of the Romanian Association for Psychotherapy

Sanda Lepoiev, president of the Romanian Association for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

foto_botezatIleana Botezat is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. She was trained in Bucharest in psychoanalysis in the mid nineties by a group of trainers of the Dutch Psychoanalytic Association. She is president of the Romanian Association for Psychotherapy, which is an affiliation of eighteen psychotherapy associations. The association is looking for the best ways to make the in Romania quite unfamiliar concept of psychotherapy better known.

Sanda Lepoiev wanted to be a psychiatrist: ´psychiatry gives more hope for the liberation of people than neurology’. She finished her training as a psychiatrist in 1979. The curriculum even more than today was mainly about the (medical)-biological aspects of the discipline. During her time as a resident she did not get any training in psychotherapy. Everything to do with psychotherapy and psychoanalysis had to go underground during the communist dictatorship. ´Psychotherapy was practised by very few psychiatrists’, is what she says. There were no official opportunities to be trained, but there were secret meetings about developments in this field, first in Sibiu and later in Timisoara. Psychiatrists and psychologists got to know each other during those meetings. They exchanged smuggled literature in a secret network: `Timisoara in those years was a very special enclave, open for new developments. Already in the early eighties a Mental Health Centre was founded, together with a Day Hospital; very revolutionary at that time’.

Why was Timisoara so open and progressive? Through its geographical situation - in the western part, near Vienna - it was orientated on the West. That even during Ceausescu’s regime it could continue to play such a progressive role we owe to the tactical capacities of professor Eduard Pamfil and his successor Mircea Lazarescu. ´Anything one could learn about psychotherapy was only by one’s own initiative and determination’, says Botezat. ´Only after 1990 we got real access to the information from abroad. It was a process that took time. We had to find out about the European standards for psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. It was quite natural to adopt the less strict training standards of Vienna’s European umbrella-association. And Vienna is for us also the nursery of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy and it is not too far away’.

Sanda Lepoiev, psychologist, completed her studies before 1978, when all psychology faculties were closed down. She too got information about the new developments in her discipline, which in Romania was abolished officially, via the underground network.

´After 1990 the need to overcome the gap in information was huge. During ten years we picked up every training we could get. And in 2000 we had enough experience to make our own choices and to start our own psychotherapy trainings. The next step is the official recognition of this specialization. That is the current struggle of our professional organization. First recognition, then agreements on payment.’ At the moment Botezat and Lepoiev do not want to discuss money. ´This is a very delicate question. Professionals in hospitals are paid in block, for a package of services’.

Both therapists have a private practice. Ileana Botezat works in a psychiatric hospital as well. Botezat: ´People looking for help on their own initiative will prefer to say ´I am looking for a psychologist’ in stead of a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is associated with madness, a psychologist more with dramatic events like loosing your work, divorce, and drug addiction of children. Sanda Lepoiev: ´Speaking about trauma. Here in Romania therapy is not about traumatic events, but about a traumatic environment during at least 30 years. What we meet in our therapies: young people do not have a sense of their roots, they are lost somewhere. There is no feeling, no linking between generations’. Botezat: ´If there is a feeling between the generations, it is the trauma of loss. Grandparents have lost their farms, their houses, and their positions. Children lost their identity and grew up in a traumatic environment for many years. We see the effects now: there is no bonding’. Lepoiev: ´In the nineties suddenly there is freedom. Nobody is telling you what to do. There is nothing to rely on. There is alienation, people are searching for help’.

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