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Why I became a psychologist


I was born and brought up in India. Psychology was not a popular career in india the time I was growing up. However, I was blessed with the fact that my mom was a clinical psychologist.


When I was a very young girl, I didn’t know what my mother did. I knew she had some kind of a job but I didn’t know what exactly she did. To be honest, I was least bothered as I was too busy playing with cousins and friends. There were too many exciting things happening around us to worry about what our parents did..


However, I still clearly remember one particular day. I must have been 11or 12. I , as usual, was playing with my brother. One of my mom’s clients and his wife, came out of my mom’s consultation room and he touched my head , turned to mom and asked her whether we were her children. My mom nodded. He told us ‘ your mother is our life saver, not just ours, she is for a lot of people’. That was the first time I became curious about what my mother did. I asked her and she told me she helped them solve their problems through talking.I then thought to myself, wow! This is a job???? You can make people happy by talking to them??!!! How cool is this?! Ummm…. I could do the same. I love talking to people! I didn’t think much about this afterwards.


However, I used to often visit my mother’s clinic. There I regularly came across mother’s clients, who were very grateful to her for all that she has done for her. Whenever I went to my mother’s clinic, I saw different kinds of people waiting to see her-some looked worried, some looked sad, some were in tears. The immediate thought i used to get was I should do something to help them.


When I reached A levels, my mother gave me a General psychology book to read and told me if I enjoyed reading it, then choose psychology, if not, try a different subject. To be honest, I didn’t understand anything I read, , so I cheated and took another book (on Abnormal Psychology) from her shelf. Now THIS, I found fascinating. Little did I realise then that this was the beginning of a challenging but very fulfilling journey.


I think my culture also played an important part in me becoming a psychologist. Being a girl and growing up with my brother and two cousins ( boys), I was the one doing things for them like cutting mangoes for them, getting money from grandpa to buy sweets for us, asking for things on behalf of them to protect them, helping around in the kitchen (although reluctantly) etc. So, from a very young age, possibly as young as 7, I was looking after others in my own ways. I sort of took on board that I need to take care of others and it became a second nature to me and to this day, I believe, this laid the foundation of me becoming a psychologist.


As I grew up, I realised this was not going to be a profession that would bring me a lot of money. This was the mid to late 1990s in India. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me but I still thought about it and contemplated doing MBA after graduation but I realised my mind wasn’t there. Moreover, I was an average student throughout , but when it came to psychology, interestingly, I was getting top grades. That also made me think this was for me.


During my teenage years, like other teenagers , I had a very idealistic view of the world and life. People’s suffering did not fit with the ideal world I had in mind. This further inspired me to make the world a better place for everyone. So the plan was set in terms of career, -graduation, post graduation, M.Phil, Phd.


Life is a big teacher too. Soon after Post graduation, I had to face two big life events -loss of my dad and a relationship break up. This was not easy but it was a wake up call. I realised I need to face the world alone, which seemed really scary but with the support of my family and friends, I took my steps to this unknown adult world. This made me think how important it is to be surrounded by people who genuinely care about you. It can be partner, parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts or friends. If you’re lucky, all of them!


These life events made me realise how difficult it is to go through life’s challenges by oneself. It is well and good if you’ve a supportive network but what if that is missing, where could you go? Possibly to someone who is neutral and understanding. Again, made me recognise the value of being a psychologist.


The above were good reasons to become a clinical psychologist but am I made for this? Do I have the resilience to deal with the challenges?


The first time I started seeing patients was when I started M Phil in Clinical Psychology at NIMHANS ( National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, India), For the first time, I was going to put my theoretical knowledge to practical use. It was quite exciting. However, working with a patient, who is mentally unwell, can trigger a whole lot of different emotions- empathy, fear, anger, disgust to name a few. Moreover, one has to deal not just with the patient but also their family and their emotions. To add to that, each family member can trigger different emotions. Through peer support, and supervision , I learned to manage my emotions and emotions of the patient. Despite all these challenges, the satisfaction I have been receiving from the job has been tremendous and this has acted as a driving force to continue practising psychology.


In 2001, I moved to the UK to do my PhD. Once I became a Chartered Clinical Psychologist, I worked with different kinds of population- young , old, different ethnicities, different nationalities, different sexual orientation, rich , poor, men , women. This made me realise human suffering is universal and if I can bring peace and joy to a few people, my life is made.

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