"Psychology as a Profession Is One of the Most Soul-Satisfying Ones!" - Disha Manchekar

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1. Tell us about your background and journey.

My journey of becoming a Psychologist and founding Innate Mind is quite an amalgamation of experiences. I was a science student until junior college. 

Like many teenagers, I was confused about my future career path. I switched to arts for a bachelor’s degree and chose Psychology specialization. Purely, because I used to be the problem solver in my friend circle and that the subject was related to science. Life as a Psychology student at SNDT University, Churchgate was enriching. It groomed me as a staunchly independent woman.

Soon after my graduation, I opted for a Master’s of Labour Studies from LNML Maharashtra Institute of Labour Studies, Parel. I must say that I learned not only from the subjects but also from my horizon towards life broadened as I got to work with laborers, trade unions, corporate employees to top management.

I was a campus placed in one of the MNCs as a Business HR. However, during my tenure, I realized that my calling was in Psychology. I quit my job and left for Bangalore to intern at an NGO, where I learned to use art therapy for children with special needs. It was altogether a very different experience.

That is when I felt that I needed to equip myself with more knowledge to help people with mental health issues. I returned to Mumbai to complete my M.A. in Clinical Psychology from MNWC College (SNDT University). I am thankful for this course since it led me to the path of self-discovery.

Since then there is no turning back. I cherish being a Psychologist. I explored working and volunteering with a different organization like YourDost, PinkyMind, Crush Fitness India, Rescue Foundation, and Volunteer For India. 

After gaining a suitable experience, I started my independent practice in March 2020. Soon lockdown was imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. I saw many clients approaching for psychological and emotional issues. 

I also realized while talking to these clients that there are people who require help. However, due to lack of mental health professionals, unawareness about mental health issues, or hesitance they are unable to consult the right professional. 

This led to the foundation of Innate Mind in June 2020. Innate Mind not only aims to spread awareness about mental health but also provides quality accessible online and in-clinic psychological services. I see Innate Mind as one step closer to my bigger dream. 

So, you were asking me about my journey? I enjoy every bit of it!

2. What are some common myths in society about psychology?

One of the funniest questions that I was often asked was - "Can you read my mind?". It still cracks me up. Psychologists are not mind readers! 

Since we are trained in Psychology we can be quite accurate in providing analysis of you. Other commonly held myths are – mental health issues are unreal and do not need treatment or only 'crazy' people have mental health issues. 

The fact is that apart from psychological disorders, mental health issues can also be stress, anger, behavioral issues, and emotional issues caused by conflicts in family/relationships and workplaces. Treatment is available for all of these issues. 

3. How can people practice mindfulness?

The basic principle of mindfulness is to be present in a non-judgemental manner. Mindfulness has proved to be effective in curbing issues related to anxiety, concentration, stress, and anger. 

To begin the practice of mindfulness, I would suggest curbing multi-tasking whenever possible and start noticing the work at hand. For instance, how about starting to notice the way you brush in the morning? It is absolutely fine if you get different thoughts in the process. Acknowledge them without judgment and slowly bring back your attention to brushing. 

Gradually, you can broaden this practice to inculcate in your work, leisure, and eating time. I know it can be easier said than done but don’t give up. I am sure that once you get comfortable with this basic principle of mindfulness, nothing like it!

4. How according to you can one manage stress? 

Stress is one of the most common responses to life challenges. Negative stress can be managed in several ways. To name few-practicing mindfulness, planning a healthy routine, eating right nutrients, exercising, spending time with loved ones, having a 'me-time' or breaks in between, etc. 

However, if you are unable to manage on your own, I would suggest you consult a Psychologist who can analyze your stress levels and provide appropriate techniques for stress management. 

5. Is work-life balance a myth or reality according to you?

Work-life balance is a myth for those who cannot strike the right balance and reality for those who against all odds can. I have been in both situations. Work-life balance can become tricky initially if you are new to the world of work or have been assigned more projects than usual.

With proper scheduling of routine, it can be achieved to a very large extent.

6. What are your tips for people who want to practice this profession?

There is immense scope to work in this profession. Yes, based on my experience I would like to share a few things. Ask yourself about your aim before making a choice - Is it that the subject interests you or that you can imagine yourself as a mental health professional working with a variety of people?

People with qualities such as empathy, sensitivity towards self & others, understanding nature, observant, and resilience are very much required in the field of mental health. As a mental health professional, there is no end to learning. One needs to keep themself updated and reskilled.

Like every field, this field too has its cons. The most important of all that sometimes work can be really emotionally draining. There are times when mental health professionals face burnout. In the process of helping others, please do not forget to look after your own mental health.

If you ask me, this profession is one of the most soul-satisfying ones!

- Disha Manchekar 

Interview by: Anurag Jaiswal

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