The Austrian-born, Ibiza-based psychotherapist views her role as a therapist as a way to help people navigate the sometimes-fraught journey of existence. “I always say, I can’t promise to fix your problems but I can promise you won’t have to face them alone,” she says. There are many reasons to seek therapy – depression, anxiety, trauma, grief or the day-to-day struggles of living – and Denise’s training and experience has equipped her to treat them all. Originally from Vienna, Denise relocated to Ibiza in 2016 after ten years of spending holidays and working here, feeling a strong connection with the island and its people. Her passion for helping people heal is evident in the way she speaks about her vocation and it is easy to see how she became a psychotherapist. “From a very young age I was interested in understanding people and helping them understand themselves,” she says. “I was always the friend who people came to.”
The journey to becoming a psychotherapist is what has given Denise a particular insight into the human condition – including 12 years spent as a flight attendant, which allowed her to witness people in myriad states of mind. “Travelling and meeting all those different people and experiencing different cultures was really useful for my later studies,” says Denise. In 2013 Denise gained her qualifications in Psychotherapy Science from the prestigious Sigmund Freud University in her hometown, during which time she also worked in the university clinic as part of her academic program. The clinic, open to the public, was subsidised, significantly lowering treatment fees. It was immediately flooded with clients. This experience was a profound affirmation that her chosen path was the right one. During the rigorous demands of her Master’s degree, Denise was drawn to a therapeutic approach called Individual Therapy, developed by Alfred Adler – a student of Freud. The word individual derives from the Latin individus meaning indivisible – a reference to Adler’s ideas around a holistic therapy accounting for personal and societal influences on psychological development. Individual Therapy is thus concerned with overcoming the superiority/inferiority dynamic entrenched during childhood via personal and societal influences. “We all create coping mechanisms throughout our lives,” Denise says. “Therapy is about recognising habits and behavioural patterns that no longer serve you.”
Adler was also an advocate of prevention psychology – a theme Denise is passionate about, believing self-knowledge allows people to cope in times of crisis. “Most people see therapy as something you do when you are at your lowest but actually if you participate in therapy when you are well, you better prepare yourself for what life throws at you,” she says. “You learn about yourself and that knowledge becomes a positive thing you can take into your daily life so you can live a more satisfying life.” The stereotypical image of a psychotherapist is an old man taking notes while the ‘patient’ reclines on a sofa. Thankfully things have changed a lot since the early days of psychotherapy and today Denise works with a number of different tools for one-to-one sessions and couples therapy alike. “I do think lying on the sofa with the therapist sitting out of sight is a good way for clients to focus only on themselves and not be distracted by my perceived responses to what they say,” she says while also noting that it’s not for everybody. “Ultimately my sessions are designed to provide a comfortable and safe space.”
While preventative and long-term therapy provide access to deeper meaning and self-realisation, Denise is also a proponent for achieving more specific goals. Her Lifestyle Analysis method is like a short injection of support around a certain issue that is explored over six to ten sessions depending on the requirements of the client. “This type of analysis is directed at understanding the root and triggers of specific behaviours and building alternative ways of thinking about them,” she says. “For example, it may be a situation with a colleague who is pressing your buttons, or a busy work period coinciding with other obligations. Lifestyle Analysis is a great tool to prevent burnout and is excellent for periods of transition.” This take on the traditional talk therapy seems perfectly suited to Ibiza where tensions run high during the busy months and relationships are crucial to the smooth running of a business. Moments of discord within your relationships can be not only avoided but also understood. And once you understand them Denise can help strategise changes in order to achieve more positive outcomes, and ideally would love to see people participate in therapy before crisis hits. “If people had the skills already, it might not be so hard for them to navigate the tense moments,” she says.
Alfred Adler once said: “The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” Few people would disagree yet despite the complexities of the human experience so many of us shy away from seeking any form of help to sort out the quagmire of our personal lives. No one thinks twice about getting a broken tooth repaired at the dentist yet a broken heart is often left to fester. The solution, of course, is to find the equivalent of a dentist for our souls… and here in Ibiza, Denise Wolf has the tools and skills to treat you. Sessions are 90 minutes in length and take place in Denise’s lovely light-filled San Jose practice, however for those with very busy schedules, she also offers convenient online counselling sessions. Photography by Gypsy Westwood