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Search for sanity

Psychologists study mental processes and behaviour. Today’s competitive and high-stress life has created greater awareness of psychological problems and increased the need for qualified psychologists.

education Updated: Jul 17, 2012 18:15 IST
Hindustan Times

The lowdown
Psychologists study mental processes and behaviour. Today’s competitive and high-stress life has created greater awareness of psychological problems and increased the need for qualified psychologists. These professionals provide counselling for a variety of problems and disorders, including schizophrenia, depression, relationship issues, exam-related anxiety and learning difficulties such as dyslexia. They can provide career guidance as well. Psychologists mainly work with hospitals, clinics, schools, colleges, universities, non-government organisations, defence establishments, and private companies. They can become consultants and practise independently, too. A counsellor in a school can also set up private practice at home if he or she has the time. Due to increased stress among employees in certain sectors, companies are known to empanel psychologists for confidential phone-in counselling services

The typical work day of a psychologist will vary greatly depending on where s/he is employed (or self-employed) and as what. Here’s a psychological counsellor’s average day at a big school:
7.45am: Face-to-face session with parents of a referral case
8.30am: Meet students, with learning problems, for follow-up weekly counselling sessions
9.40am: Different specific learning disability (SLD)/emergency and career counselling cases
10am: Meet two-three students who come for counselling during the recess. Go and observe students’ natural behaviour in library, playground, SUPW class and classrooms. Ask a peer mentor to observe another student in class
11.30am-1pm: Go for rounds in the school (the counsellor should be ‘visible’ to students). Meet teachers in staff room to take their feedback on certain students and meet some students. Write reports
1.30pm: Lunch
2pm: Brief authorities about issues and possible solutions. Meet a student /teacher/parent
2.30-2.45pm: Leave for the day
4.30pm: Call up parents for appointments, follow-up discussions
5-7.30pm: Private practice at home/another setting

The payoff
The salary depends on your qualification, skill, capability, the organisation you work for and the city you are based in. Normally, counsellors in schools are in the TGT/ PGT pay bracket. On average, a PGT-scale counsellor with a PG degree and three years’ experience can earn about Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000 a month in a big Delhi school.

In a private hospital, a fresh clinical psychologist with an MPhil degree can draw about Rs. 30,000 a month. However, much depends on your expertise

* A positive outlook
* Excellent communication skills, especially listening skills
* Strong interpersonal skills
* Empathy
* Open-mindedness and objectivity to deal with a client neutrally
* Ability to win trust to establish rapport with the client
* Sensitive and non-intrusive
* A strong sense of ethics

Getting there
Though you may opt for any subject combination in Class 11 and Class 12 to be eligible for a bachelor's in psychology, it’s considered preferable to take science (physics, chemistry, biology) with psychology. (Some schools offer psychology in senior school.) After that, do your bachelor’s and master’s in psychology and/or a PG diploma in guidance and counselling. For better career prospects, you may do an MPhil and/or a PhD. Those wanting to work with disabled children require a licence from

Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) or an equivalent qualification in special education. To work in hospitals, you need an MPhil/ PhD from national-level or

international recognised institutes

Institutes and URLs
n University of Delhi
n Jadavpur University, Kolkata
n Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
n BM Institute of Mental Health
n National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore
Most universities offer degrees in psychology

Pros and cons
n Growing need for counselling in the country
n Great joy in seeing a depressed soul walk out happy from your room (though not after just one session)
n Job options still limited largely to big cities
n In schools, you may have to step in as substitute teacher
n Initially the salary is not high

If you are going to work in a school as a psychologist, you should have a clear approach and objective of working towards promoting mental health and hygiene of the

entire school Etishree Bhati, clinical psychologist and counsellor, Delhi Public School RK Puram, New Delhi

First Published: Jul 17, 2012 18:11 IST