“As a clinical psychologist, I like the fact that I get to see people so close up, so intimate. It can’t leave you untouched.”

“As a clinical psychologist, I like the fact that I get to see people so close up, so intimate. It can’t leave you untouched.”

Sadia Raval is a clinical psychologist and the founder and chief psychologist at Inner Space Counseling center, in Mumbai.

How did a career in clinical psychology happen for you?

I scored decently in Grade 10. My friends were enrolling into the science and commerce streams. I followed suit and applied for the commerce stream at Jai Hind college. My dad, an Urdu poet wanted me to explore Xaviers college. As soon as I entered Xaviers college, I fell in love with its architecture. I took up Arts at Xaviers. I was allowed to choose Maths as a subject at Xaviers.  With time, I took a liking to psychology. After Grade 12, it became my obvious choice. I pursued an under-graduate degree in psychology, followed by a Masters program in clinical psychology from the University of Mumbai. It was 1999.

My first job was to run the Child Guidance Center, in South Bombay. It was to pay me well and the center was close to home. But something told me that I couldn’t continue here and quit in two days. There was hardly any child work in clinical psychology.

I had no job for a year. I joined a Mulund hospital where I spent 8 months at the OPD observing clinical psychologists at work. Yes just observing and watching. Following which I was part of Drishti, where I did learning disability testing for a year. Alongside, I worked for Counseling and Suicide Prevention (CASP) where I tested adults using MMPI & Rorshach. After a year at Drishti, I worked with a few other doctors for a while. CASP continued once a week. This was followed with various other involvements. I was part of a team which was responsible to set up a Resource Room at Billabong school (now Vibgyor High). This was in 2005 when counseling was made compulsory in schools. The teachers kept sending us naughty kids! We created the work that we wanted to do! We conducted workshops to spread awareness about how we could help. I worked with Karuna Hospital, Borivali. In 2010, I started private practice from a polyclinic which later evolved into Inner Space Counseling. We are a center into solely psychotherapy and counseling. As work increased, I hired interns. We were a team of 3. The space wasn’t sufficient. We got our first office. Hired more full-time psychologists and consultants. We recently got our second office. Currently, we have 2 full time psychologists and 4 consultants. Referrals, word of mouth, our online presence and my network bring us clients. The awareness for mental health has increased in the recent past.

What do you love about what you do?

I like the fact that I get to see people so close up, so intimate. It can’t leave you untouched. It helps you grow. My work doesn’t deject me or push me down, In fact it has only made me optimistic in life as I see a possibility even in the worst of situations.

What are the aspects you don’t like about your role? Or challenges

The challenge now for me is managing the whole center – accounts/admin etc. I am lucky to have a fantastic team. Expenses are plenty but we manage.

What are the skills important for your role?

As a psychologist, empathy is a huge skill. Opening up to clients, recognizing their struggle and staying very present and connected to them. It is easy to lose sight and underplay another’s difficulties. There fore you need to keep putting yourself in the client’s shoes to recognize really how difficult a situation or a change may be for that person.

Perseverance-never give up on the client, no matter what.. Healthy detachment – do your best but be detached from the results and not carry stress into your outside therapy life.

What is your typical work day like?

I work almost all day but I take out time during my weekdays for specific hobbies, activities and social engagements. Sometimes I conduct workshops on a Sunday otherwise Sunday is usually free. The center is open on Sunday and some psychologists have their slots on Sundays. On a given work day I spend 4-5 hours during the day seeing clients for therapy, other time is spent checking reports, writing articles, discussing cases with team members, managing admin/taxation and so on.

Please tell us about some memorable moment/s

Clients who’ve improved and come back. One of my clients was diagnosed with schizophrenia, when she returned after five years – she was doing something wonderful in life and was married. It is also very touching to see he growth of other therapists at my center who have been around for a while.

What are your dreams for the future?

I want to retire in a small Indian town. Teach psychotherapy. Travel a lot. The counseling center should run without much involvement from my end so I can spend time helping out in the interiors of India where my experience may be required.

Who or what are your inspirations?

My father is a huge inspiration. In my earlier years I derived a great sense of direction from hi- in fact, he was the one who envisioned the scope of my field.

Buddha – people who have overcome their struggle/battles and risen up.


What are your other interest areas?

I have been learning kathak, the dance form since 2008. I like too many things, but never find time for them all. I enjoy concerts, urdu poetry, meditation, photography. I like learning!

What career advice would you like to give?

You have to start thinking about what you really love. Now-a-days there a lot of options. Don’t expect to get everything on a silver platter. Let go few years of income in the hope of learning. Learn a lot in the first few years, work for less money or even free if you get a chance with someone really good in the field. That learning is priceless.

Stay at it, create ur own niche.

Image Courtesy: Sadia Raval

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