If you think you are compassionate and have a keen sense of observation then you have what it takes to explore a career in psychology. India as a nation is slowly warming up to the idea of having mental health professionals in almost all job settings. “The demand is rising as people have begun to understand the skills that psychologists offer,” says Janavi Doshi, psychologist, programme head- The Foundation. The government’s new rule making it mandatory for all schools and colleges to have a counsellor on campus has led to a rise in the demand for quality psychologists as well.
So what does a psychologist have to do? “A psychologist is required to be objective with a scientific inclination and investigate the patient’s thoughts and feelings in order to provide therapy or, suggest other methods to help them deal with mental health issues,” informs Dr Lata Shenava, EI certified therapist, life coach and trainer.
The field of psychology is a broad one with a wide range of options. The path to become a psychologist depends on the specialisation you want to pursue. “In India there are four broad categories of psychology: Clinical, Counseling, Industrial and Social. Individuals can also choose to venture into newer areas like forensic and criminal psychology,” informs Doshi.
Choosing the best psychology programme starts with knowing what is your field of interest. “In India, to be a psychologist, you require a minimum of BA (psychology) + MA (psychology) degree but the skills and the training after that would differ depending on the specialisation,” says Sharmila Dhote, psychology professor, St Andrew`s Degree College. Shantal Cardoz, counselling psychologist agrees, “Aspirants can further specialise in social psychology, abnormal psychology, behavioural and organisational psychology, counselling psychology, rehabilitative or health and medical psychology.” Those pursuing counselling psychology can further narrow down their focus area. “They can specialise in marital counselling, drug rehabilitation or consumer behaviour,” adds Cardoz.
Apart from the regular masters and diploma courses aspirants also need to consider additional training depending on their specialisation. “For instance, in a corporate setting some management qualification might be beneficial as one would need to understand the operations of the company,” says Dhote.
For a clinical psychologist, MPhil from an institute recognised by the Rehabilitation Council of India, or a Phd is necessary. Similarly, for those who aim to provide psychotherapy or counselling; undergoing therapy themselves would prove to be beneficial. “Practical experience in the form of field work (which is provided at the Masters level) is also a crucial element in the training process,” informs Shenava adding that although distance education in psychology is offered by certain institutes it is not a recommend option as it may not provide the rigorous training that is required to become a psychologist.
So depending on the type of training received, one can choose to work at a hospital, corporate, courthouses or even private set ups. One can also join an NGO or organisation that is involved in mental health endeavours. Teaching or conducting awareness programmes is also another interesting and challenging area to work in. “There are many schools and colleges that now have full time psychologists,” informs Doshi.
Along with all this aspirants also need to be committed to this profession. They also need to understand the mindset of various individuals who come to them from treatment. Given the lack of knowledge and the taboo surrounding mental health issues, a number of individuals suffering from various emotional, behavioural and mental illness go undetected and untreated in India. “Being able to reduce these numbers by creating awareness and breaking through the stigma surrounding mental illness is a challenge most Indian psychologists face,” warns Cardoz.
There is much diversity in psychology professions, and hence, earnings and salaries vary greatly depending upon factors such as speciality area, the degree held and the sector of employment. “The basic is about Rs 10,000 pm but you can quickly rise on to making a lot more. With experience comes better job opportunities and thus better pay,” says Doshi. Shenava agrees, “There are many psychologists who charge about 500 to 1500 per session. Regardless of where the individual chooses to work, if he/she markets him/herself well there can be no limit to what one can demand in terms of remuneration.”
Given the ever changing nature of human society and problems that go along with it, work can never stop and can never get mundane. “While the work can be challenging at times, seeing the improvement in clients is a great reward,” concludes Cardoz
Here to help
Industrial Psychologists: Conduct training programmes for employees on stress management, team building, leadership abilities etc. Some psychologists also assist HR professionals in the recruitment process or for employee development.
Clinical Psychologists: Work in hospital settings and are equipped to deal with the non medical aspects of patient care – more specially psychotherapy.
Counselling Psychologists: Help people recognise their strengths and resources to cope with everyday problems and serious adversity. They do counseling/psychotherapy, teaching and scientific research with individuals of all ages, families and organisations (e.g., schools, colleges, career counselling, children with special needs etc)
Social Psychologists: Work for social welfare organisations. They can also specialise in women and child welfare, or educational psychology and be employed in non-governmental organisations or even work with the police.
Forensic Psychologists: Apply psychological principles to legal issues. Their expertise is often essential within the judicial system. They can, for example, help a judge decide which parent should have custody of a child or evaluate a defendant’s mental competence to stand trial. They also conduct research on jury behaviour or eyewitness testimony.
Criminal Psychologists: Help law enforcement officials determine motives, attitudes and techniques in criminal behaviour by using research-based techniques to investigate criminal cases. They can work at community mental health centers, state psychiatric hospitals, forensic hospitals, probation offices, correctional facilities and academic institutions.