Maria Gabriele Doublesin – An Inspired Counsellor
by Victor Calleja
“Counselling is not explaining things. It is the art of asking the right question at the right time. It is not giving advice or finding paths but it is all about inspiring people.”
These words sum up perfectly all that Maria-Gabriele Doublesin does and what she has been trained to do. After reading for her Master Degree in Transcultural Counselling she started working as a professional with issues pertaining to diversity and intercultural dialogue. As an Intercultural community counsellor she has the right ingredients, background and educational back-up to inspire people who need her services.
Today’s world, as Maria-Gabriele admits, is a challenging one. Globalisation has opened up our borders and fast-increasing diversity has become an undeniable aspect of life. But with diversity comes conflict as sometimes it is difficult to welcome change and different ideas, cultures and mores in our midst.
As humans, she explains, we have an inbuilt fear of the new, the unknown, the “outsider”. Often we all fall victim to this innate mechanism in us to trust only people from the same strata of life, the same culture and the same mindset.
This is where Maria-Gabriele excels: in teaching how to accept and understand change, even overcoming conflict and contrasts. She helps people find it in them to embrace different, seemingly conflicting, backgrounds.
What is fascinating is that she herself has, during a life spent mainly in Germany, Egypt and Malta, experienced first-hand intercultural assimilation. This experience made her understand better and be a good conduit for others to accept and move on in life.
Born and raised in Bavaria, Germany, her mother was of Bavarian- Prussian blood with generations of family members who were leading professionals. Her father was a Yugoslav Danube Swabian refugee from a very modest background. Even religions clashed in the family as the mother was a Protestant and the father a Catholic.
Maria-Gabriele was an only child in this culturally contradictory household where family, societal and religious clashes could have been predominant. What Maria-Gabriele learnt from a young age is that with good will and flexibility all is possible and all can be achieved if we work hard at what we want to achieve.
Her aim—in her life and her work—is to emulate the essence of what she had learned from her childhood experiences. To prove that even if others, both near and far, try to create, establish or consolidate barriers, we can still all rise above the fray and find ways to move forward together in peace and understanding.
The best way forward is to accept that we are all different but that those differences should make us stronger and more appreciative of all around us.
It was not just external barriers that Maria-Gabriele fought and overcame. As a young woman, she contracted a very serious form of meningitis which completely changed her life.
She was on the verge of death and survived only through special interventions and by learning to re-wire her own mind and life. Certain attributes she had—like a photographic memory—were lost forever, which was obviously a shock and hard to accept. Challenges, however, are what make us resilient achievers.
This is what Maria-Gabriele introduces in all she does. After her brush with death, which also made it tough for her to concentrate in the traditional way, she moved into the caring profession and became very successful in that. Then she had children and moved on to care just for them. But still her mind was a flurry of ideas, of seeking knowledge of what made her tick—and what makes us all tick.
Along the way, in order to recover from her illness, she was also learning more about internal well-being and mindfulness and became fascinated about how the environment affects our physical as well as mental health.
After her husband, the father of her children, sadly passed away and her children grew up, a chance meeting with a prominent Egyptian took her on a mission to Egypt. She was asked to consult an Egyptian family on cultural integration issues and to share her experiences with local academic communities. This led to a cooperation arrangement with a leading Egyptian Professor of Psychiatry, with whom she still maintains a very good working relationship.
Living in Egypt was another great learning curve for Maria-Gabriele. There she realised how our Western ideas are deeply rooted in our psyche and how we need to see everything with different lenses to truly appreciate and live in harmony. This too added to her life-long experience which stands her in good stead in her line of work.
While in Egypt she met the late Maltese Ambassador George Doublesin. On his retirement from diplomatic service, they settled in Malta and got married.
On her departure from Egypt she was encouraged by the Egyptian Professor of Psychiatry as well as by her late husband to study psychology. This was a real challenge which frightened her. But she was assured by the professor that her gift to reach out to people needed to be nourished, developed and put into practice. She started taking more interest in the workings of the brain as well as social psychopathology.
Starting a University course aged 50 was not an easy choice. The fear of not doing well and of exams was intimidating. But she plunged in and was so successful that she was encouraged by her tutors to proceed to read a dual Masters with the University of Maryland and the University of Malta in Transcultural Counselling (University of Malta) and Counselling Psychology and Counselling Education with gravity of Community Counselling (University of Maryland). She finished this course with a distinction.
This experience proved to her that commitment and looking at life differently can change anything, while further fulfilling her role in life to help others in a professional way.
During the practical part of her university degree Maria-Gabriele took up an internship as Trainee Counsellor at Corradino Correctional Facilities, working with different offender typologies, helping female, male and adolescent residents with international backgrounds adjust to their incarceration, address their offending behaviour and prepare them for reintegration into society and the world of work after their release.
After graduating, Maria-Gabriele continued providing her services within the Corradino Correctional Facilities’ restorative justice programme on a part-time basis.
After the loss of her husband, she decided to take up her role as Intercultural Community Counsellor in a private setting and she is now applying her life experiences to empower individuals as well as organisations to address challenging issues related to diversity and help them in decision-making processes, pass through transitions and find a workable balance.
Maria-Gabriele Doublesin believes, despite her losses, that life is never too dark or negative. To her seeing a sunset and darkness taking over do not mean anything is over—far from it. In fact, at the end of the day, she says, when the sun is setting, the earth is opening her window and we can then see the stars which the sun’s light overpowers during the day.
Ironically darkness itself can enable us to see beyond, just as life’s tragedies and pain push us to open our inner horizon and grow beyond. All has a purpose, and all can be illuminating.