Natalia Lapina – Music as Medication

John Harrison

Sometimes you meet a person who is difficult to describe because he or she does not fit into any one, or even two labels or stereotypes, often because of being multitalented. I met Natalia Lapin in June, in ‘Prognoz Pogodi’ bar in Moscow. She was sitting in a corner quietly and spoke quietly, but I soon realised that I had met somebody extraordinary. Natalia attained fame on the silver screen when still very young, and made her mark as a song writer and musician in her own right. Now she is combining her considerable artistic talents with psychotherapy and offers therapy which includes combines both aspects of her careers. I was introduced to Natalia by Maria Ushakova. This is Natalia’s story in her own words:

How did you get here?

I was born in the Soviet Union, in Nizhny Novgorod, into a musical family. I started writing songs when I was 5, and started at the Academy of Music, Film and Television of St. Petersburg when at 17. When I graduated, I worked in film, and things move very fast. I won two awards in International Film Festivals, Switzerland and that’s when an option opened up for me to work outside of Russia. I really had no wish to emigrate, but I was invited to work as an actress abroad. First in Germany and then the States. I starred in 13 films in all. Then, it just so happened that when I was working in Europe, I composed a theme song for a film with Hugh Grant and Malcolm McDowell called ‘Night Train to Venice’. That was 1992, we recorded it in L.A. I got to know Hugh Grant and spent 6 months with the whole film crew in Venice, and it was fantastic. I then got into travelling and visited 35 countries doing acting, I was really fortunate.

I met Bud Prager when I was in L.A. At that time he was the manager of a band called ‘Foreigner’, I was working with him, recording original material, starring in some Hollywood films as well, but I sort of shifted into psychology. I wanted to figure out a few things not just about myself, but also about my troubled mother who suffered from alcoholism. Not really having a mother is very traumatic for a kid, but I don’t really judge anybody. I always wanted to save her. But my acting and singing career has carried on as well, it’s still there.

I went back to school and graduated with a masters in American psychotherapy, but I felt motivated and went further and got my doctorate in clinical psychology from Ryokan University in Los Angeles. Right when I graduated, my mum passed away. So I have had the chance to help a lot of people, but not my mum. I got to work in a lot of VIP recovery centres in America, where we treated celebrities as well as the homeless population. I have worked with everybody, from convicted felons to Hollywood celebrities. I can’t mention the celebrities’ names but if I did, you would know who they are because they are very famous. Most of them were suffering from suicidal tendencies, it’s really a disease, and usually dual diagnosis, it’s not just alcoholism.

“My own thing, that I developed, is something called creative recovery; where I treat clients through song writing. This is rather an unusual approach. I basically offer creative therapy through song writing together. Clients write their pain on paper, I just ask them to write down what hurts. I take what they have written and I put a rhyme in it. I try to get them involved, so we rhyme it together, and then they become a part of this process. They become co-writers with me. It is very therapeutic and extremely healing, for them to feel that they are a part of something that they have created, and sometimes we even go to the studio and record, and they learn to sing a little bit, and that is also healing.

It’s an amazing thing and I love doing it because this is where I can combine my fields as musician as a song writer with my medical practice. It has worked in America, and now the reason that I am in Russia is because a lot of celebrities here are starting to buy songs from me. For me, music is medicine, its meditation, its not like I want to write to sell a song, I write because this is my medicine too. I need it.

You know the story of Anthony Bourdain – it shouldn’t have happened. Working with celebrities in Hollywood, the questions comes up: why would you do this, why would you commit suicide? You are so wealthy; you have everything you want and more. But it’s a deadly disease. Sometimes people are afraid to admit that they have clinical depression or syndromes like PTSD, and sometimes they don’t even know it themselves. We are a part of whatever is going on out there, and there is nothing you can do unless you get help. But some people are afraid to admit it, and keep it within them, and that is why they commit suicide, and it is very very sad. If you think about Robin Williams, one of the funniest guys you have ever seen, would you ever believe that he would commit suicide? But yes, he was human. He was an addict who was afraid to admit that to himself.

Anthony Bourdain

You are Russian but have spent a long time in America. What does it feel like to be in Russia?

I feel a little alien being here right now. After 27 years in the USA, I am going through a lot of challenges here. It was a great time for me then, there was always a lot of work. I enjoyed what I did. But Russia has changed a lot since the time that I was an actress here; when directors were writing scripts for me. Russia has not adopted all of the best things that capitalism has to offer.

What kind of problems do you think expatriates might be experiencing here?

Even though I speak perfect Russian, I find it difficult. I think people need a lot of crisis management because for most of them it’s a completely different culture. It’s hard for me and I speak the language. I was born here.

In what way is it not easy, because you are cut off from your culture and friends?

That’s one of the factors. They are cut off from their families, from their friends, and suddenly they are in Moscow. Moscow itself is a very tough city. It sucks, it’s not an easy place to live in. You kind of have to find your own crowd, to find a group of people of your own mindset. But there are also a lot of great people. I have some wonderful musician friends here.

So you are offering your services as a psychotherapist here in Russia?

Yes absolutely, people can come and see me or if I am not around, we can work together over Skype or WhatsApp.    

Contact via WhatsApp: +7(985) 731-0326

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