How and/or why did you become a therapist?
Becoming a therapist or to be precise a clinical psychologist was not something I had planned for. Me being an average student during my school days I was helped by a special educator who made a difference in my life and what I am today. So, I was interested in psychology. During my bachelors days going through the disorders and understanding their clinical descriptions was something that excited me. But then in my internship when I actually saw my first client I observed that the reality of a disorder was different from what we read in books. Understanding the condition of psychiatric clients and also the social scenario (especially in India, that too in rural parts) I was motivated to work with these clients who others would say were better off with medications alone and to help them live a more meaningful life with the help of therapies. During my initial years of practice I also noticed that if few skills are taught to individuals in their childhood they can be protected from developing minor psychological problems. All this motivated me to be a psychologist and still does.
Also, before deciding a career as a clinical psychologist I asked myself whether I will enjoy my work or not. The answer that I got during my internship was that I would have the opportunity to explore new challenges, help people grow as individuals and learn new things about myself. Every case is unique so every time something new and different has to be planned even if the diagnosis is same. Clinical psychologists face constant challenges from clients who need their help in solving problems. Being a psychologist might be stressful at times, but the profession presents intellectual challenges that keep the job interesting. As it is a field which deals with treatment, every few years new developments take place which help one grow both as a person and as a professional. Helping others overcome their issues is very rewarding. And finally if one has his/her own private practice the work schedules can be flexible i.e., one can have a rewarding career and still have plenty of time to spend with family and friends.
What are the most rewarding aspects of being a therapist?
There is nothing better than seeing a human being alleviated from emotional and psychological pain. The experience of seeing a person walk away with excitement, more free, lighter and high on confidence to live their own personal journey after healing from disorder and obstacles in their path. The most rewarding part of being a counsellor is to know that you had a role to play in affecting the life of another human being. Giving hope when people are hopeless. Showing them their potential when they have no self worth, making them believe in themselves when they believe on no one etc. Altogether inspiring others to be all that they are capable of being. So that they can go act into the world. Being a psychologist one builds skills and strengths in children which they can use in their life to be a positive, productive and a fully functioning individual. It is rewarding to see them use and benefit from skills you trained them. The best part is when you see your clients doing well in their life and them reporting that you made a difference in their life. Of course a positive one.
Tips/advice for interpersonal relationships
Interpersonal Relationship are like plants – the more one cares for them, the healthier they become. The interpersonal relationship is an association between two or more people such as association between couples, parent and child, friend, colleagues, between whole family etc. It may be for a short timespan or lifelong depending on the relationship. One cannot live in isolation and everyone needs someone to “share and care”. A Good interpersonal relationship helps an individual to lead a healthy and joyous life and for this one needs to be continuously aware of the effects of one’s thoughts, words, behaviour and actions on their relationships.
A few tips:
1. First and foremost, listen to understand not to react or reply.
2. Put away your phones. Give your full attention to the person in front of you.
3. Always speak in an appropriate tone (if you are right overtones won’t prove that you are)
4. Let others also speak. Allow the person you are communicating with to share their feelings and thoughts — uninterrupted. Empathize with them: put yourself in their shoes.
5. Restate the other person’s feelings back to them. Trying to restate or reflect back to the other person your interpretation of what they are telling you shows you have carefully listened and are putting effort and care into the interaction.
6. Learning to say “I was wrong” is a skill worth learning.
7. Be compassionate when your significant other is angry. Anger is often rooted in fear rather than aggression.
8. Compliment, and often. Let the genuine praise flow freely.
9. Make promises that you really can keep.
10. Acknowledge positive actions.
What are some of the biggest mistakes a therapist or patient can make?
1. One should always clearly mention the role of the client and the therapist in the first session itself, including the rules of therapy like coming on time, doing homework tasks, etc.
2. Take out time for yourself. Do have at least one pleasurable activity in your own schedule as well. Only work will lead to burnout.
3. Don’t be too eclectic in your approach. If integrative is needed it should be used.
4. Do not give advice to your clients. That’s what the whole world is doing to them. Help them find answers to their questions.
5. Most important, this is a field which is growing continuously. Getting a degree in Psychology does not make you a therapist; it’s just a good start. After that you have to stay updated in what is going on in your field. There are new techniques and therapies being developed – one should be updated to them and keep their training a continuous process.
Dr. Monica Sharma is a RCI (Rehabilitation council of India) Licensed Clinical Psychologist at The IIS University, Jaipur, India. Dr. Sharma was educated at the same university, and graduated in Psychology Honors, she did her Masters in Psychology. She attended Amity University Rajasthan for her professional degree (M.Phil) of 2 years under the able guidance of Prof. S. S. Nathawat before gaining her P.hd in Clinical Psychology from The IIS University. Her PHd topic focused on CBT and Mindfulness as a treatment for Depression. Her area of interest is Mindfulness. She has attended many nationional and international conferences in India and abroad. She is currently the head of the counselling center at the university. Her work includes training undergraduate and postgraduate students in clinical and counselling psychology including basic counselling skills, ethics, therapies and research supervision. Also conducts workshops for staff and students and counsels those in need. Learn more about her at www.monicasharansharma.com.