Exclusive Interview With Nikita Hazarika: The Realm Of Clinical Psychology For Students - Eastern Mirror
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Exclusive interview with Nikita Hazarika: The realm of clinical psychology for students

By Moakala T Aier Updated: Oct 04, 2023 12:34 am
A passionate practitioner from Assam, Nikita Hazarika the 32-year-old psychologist commencing from a licensed clinical psychologist shared her journey within this dynamic profession
Exclusive interview with Nikita Hazarika: The realm of clinical psychology for students
Nikita Hazarika

DIMAPUR — In the realm of mental health, Nikita Hazarika, a passionate practitioner from Assam with over a decade of experience, commenced her journey as a licensed clinical psychologist under the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) in 2010.

Hazarika’s path led her through diverse roles in the field – she served as a behaviour therapist at Stepping Stones Centre in Bengaluru, honed her skills as a clinical psychologist trainee at Gajra Raja Medical College Hospital in Gwalior, and later assumed the roles of a lecturer and counsellor at Royal Global University in Guwahati. In 2019, she took a significant step by establishing ‘Ashwas Mental Health‘ in Guwahati. 

Speaking with Eastern Mirror, the 32-year-old psychologist shared that within this dynamic profession, she works with people of all ages, addressing diverse psychological concerns, including mental illness. Her toolkit includes psychometric assessments and a range of psychotherapies which she provides both in-person and online, reaching clients across the globe.

Yet, her contributions go beyond one-on-one therapy. Through Ashwas, she nurtures the next generation of psychology students and mental health professionals, offering them insights through internships and workshops. Beyond the confines of her profession, Hazarika is trained in classical Odissi dance and Indian classical music, and she enjoys writing.

Here is an excerpt of Hazarika’s interview with Eastern Mirror:

What inspired you to pursue a career in Clinical Psychology?

My mother, who is a science teacher, inspired me to pursue this subject. She would read me newspaper and magazine articles on psychology when I was younger. Around this time, psychology was not very popular in Assam. It was during my class 11 and 12 when I fell in love with the concept of psychology while pursuing humanities as a subject.

I was confused whether to opt for psychology or journalism; I decided to pursue a triple major course which had both. I pursued a course in clinical psychology in Christ University, Bangalore – it is here that we (students) were notified that a clinical psychologist needs to pursue a Master of Philosophy (M. Phil. degree) recognized by Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) that can provide us with a license to practice in India unlike any other psychologists. That is how I went on to pursue my M. Phil in clinical psychology at Amity University, Gwalior. Presently, I am also pursuing my PhD along with my practice.

Enlighten us about the work of a clinical psychologist in your own words.

As clinical psychologists we have to deal with individuals experiencing clinical mental health, specifically related to illness. We are licensed to administer various tools and assessments in order to provide psycho diagnosis. We are trained to use an eclectic approach of treatment where we use different kinds of psychotherapies which is a deeper form of counselling specific to the illness or concern. We deal with individuals across all age groups. We can also teach and provide training to students and other mental health professionals like counsellors, psychotherapists, psychiatrists.

Can you give some insights into the demand for clinical psychologists and career opportunities available?

Right now, we are experiencing a surging demand for psychologists. The recent pandemic definitely has a vital role to play here because it made every person realize the importance of mental health. As a clinical psychologist, your role is very dynamic in nature. After you are licensed, you get to be a clinician or a practitioner and you can also opt for teaching and carrying out research work. In the present scenario you have amazing opportunities both in the government and private sector.

What are the essential qualities or skills that students should develop if they want to pursue a successful career in clinical psychology?

Students need to be self-aware before choosing this career path. It is not easy as we are dealing with life in distress. Your role as a clinical psychologist is very challenging as you need to develop being non-judgmental, you need to be a patient listener, you need to understand the importance of vulnerability. I would suggest therapy for all budding psychologists during training years itself because it is very important to heal themselves before healing someone else

A student needs to practice being ethical and authentic in the profession because in recent times with mushrooming social media pages, being a clinical psychologist might seem like an easy source of making money but it is not how it looks on social media.

Can you describe the educational path to becoming a clinical psychologist, including the required degrees and certifications?

Unlike other psychologists like counsellors, psychotherapists, industrial psychologists or psychologists; the career path to become a clinical psychologist is a bit different. After pursuing Masters in psychology preferably with clinical specialization, the student needs to appear for entrance exams to get enrolled in an M. Phil course in clinical psychology with a recognized course by Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI), the national body that provides clinical psychologists their license to practice – this can be considered as the highest form of degree for students who want to be a practitioner. Pursuing PhD is optional if you are not interested in teaching or research work.

Any noteworthy organizations, clinics, or initiatives where aspiring clinical psychologists in India and Northeast can gain valuable experience or internships?

Firstly, I would like to name my own organization where I train both students and professionals by providing workshops and internships. We just completed our 8th batch of online/offline clinical internship. Other organizations in Guwahati would be Ashadeep, MIND India, Gauhati Medical College and Hospital to name a few. Many hospitals also provide internships at the psychiatry unit as well.

What advice do you have for students concerned about their emotional well-being while working with individuals facing mental health challenges in this profession?

Lately, students have developed a perception of easily earning money through this profession. Since many on social media promote that “therapy is expensive”, the common preconceived notion among budding psychologists could be this. But the intricacies of ethical work is understood only when degrees, certifications are implemented authentically during the training period.

Our profession comes with a lot of responsibility. Listening to people might sound very simple but it is not. Being part of traumatic narratives on a daily basis could consume a professional as well. Thereby, mental health professionals going for therapy from time to time and indulging in self-care is very essential which is very less spoken of in our society.

Also, many students might also feel they are here to ‘help’ people who are needy but this is not social service which is selfless. Since the journey of becoming a mental health professional has been a long one with considerable investment thereby it needs to be treated and considered as a professional career path. Only because the other person is in distress does not mean a fresher will not charge a consultation fee for their time and guidance provided. We might have to be mindful of the thin line between being underpaid and overpaid.

Could you share us a success story or memorable experience from your career that might inspire and motivate students to pursue clinical psychology?

I identify as an anxious and sensitive person. Though I have been a meritorious student I know how challenging each phase of being a student felt. Choosing this career path helped me become more aware about my own mental health and how I needed to take care of it from time to time. Being a therapist myself does not mean I do not have concerns. I have continued doing therapy sessions for myself since 2015. It made me realize how imperfect I am and how I needed to be more empathetic and non-judgmental about myself and people around me. I also started believing that every person had a background to who they are and that helped me develop compassion towards people.

Is there anything else you would like to say that I did not ask?

I believe as therapists we need to embrace ‘vulnerability’ and promote it in our society. Growing up in a collectivistic society based on morals and values we are taught to be strong with no room for coping difficult times. We often are misguided with the stigma attached to mental health concerns. We need to remember that ‘vulnerability is the key to resilience building’.

Rapid Insights:

What do you enjoy doing to unwind when you are not working?

I enjoy playing the ukulele, singing songs or dancing to my favourite songs. I love nature and travelling so I take mental health breaks in between work schedules to disconnect from monotony.

Three things you can’t live without

Music, dancing, having good conversations with good company.

A memorable travel or adventure that shaped your perspective

My tenure of 8 years being away from home in Bangalore and Gwalior moulded me as a person. Experiencing culture shocks, meeting new people, adapting to transitions of every phase, growing up alone without physical social support shaped me. If I had not experienced these 8 years of my life I would not have developed to be this resilient person that I am today.

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