When you enter the world of psychology, no student of psychology can escape hearing statements like, “Oh, so you can read my mind!” or “I need to be careful about what I say in front of you.” Psychology is not about reading minds. It is a discipline that is defined as “the study of human and animal behaviour.” In order to enter this sphere, you need to have a genuine interest in human behaviour and have to develop your observational skills, if not already prevalent. Psychology departments always stand out no matter which space they occupy. People will peep in, but will always be wary of entering this space. According to Shalini Masih, counsellor at New Delhi’s Satyawati College, “Psychology is very time consuming and there is a stigma attached to being a psychologist as well.” Students of psychology usually end up being lost in a world of their own, getting into the depths of their self and others. Readings and assignments not only provide you insight into behaviour but also help in developing an understanding into the connection between the mind and body.
How it all began The first department of psychology in India was established at Calcutta University as early as 1915 when Sigmund Freud was busy understanding the psyche in the Victorian society. Though many would have heard of Freud, not many would be aware of our own Girindrasekhar Bose, an early 20th century South Asian psychoanalyst who was also the first president of the Indian Psychoanalytic Society in 1922. An even lesser known fact is that Bose and Freud carried on a twenty-year dialogue through letters. When Bose submitted his doctoral thesis in 1921, entitled ‘Concept of Repression,’ he blended Hindu thought with Freudian concepts. The Indian Psychological Association got established in 1924 and the Indian Journal of Psychology was founded in 1926, much ahead of many countries around the world. Bose has found reflection through the writings of Christiane Hartnack, Amit Ranjan Basu, Ashis Nandy, Sudhir Kakar and Mansi Kumar amongst many others. In spite of the early beginning in the Indian context, psychology is still trying to find its grounding and establish roots as a discipline and profession to be pursued actively.
Levels of studyPsychology is introduced at school levels in India. However, an in depth study of the subject takes strong roots only at the undergraduation level. You would be able to opt for a BA (Hons) in psychology, a BSc in psychology or a BA in psychology depending on the institution you opt to study. Remember, only with a high percentage in schooling will gain entry. You end up studying a range of subjects including general psychology, statistics, systems, abnormal behaviour, physiological psychology, and applied psychology to name a few. You will be required to do practicals as part of each course, as well. Conducting a memory test or a personality test or an aptitude test on yourself and on subjects would not remain alien to a student of psychology for long.
When you enter this arena you need to remember that a BA degree is normally not enough and most people end up doing at least a master’s after completing their undergraduation. This again depends on the institute you choose to study in but is much more structured and a deeper. A minimum of 55% in your undergraduation is required to apply, along with sitting for an entrance test, group discussion and an interview. Readings and assignments and ongoing research become a part of your world. You would have to choose a specialization in your second year of MA ranging from child psychology, organizational behaviour, social psychology and clinical psychology to name some of the most frequently available options. Most people end up sitting for the UGC Net exam for Lectureship during this time and take up academics as a career path or opt for further studies. Some students who have been studying psychology for five years by now, either end up taking a break and finding a job or they continue to study for an MPhil or PhD degree. Many become inclined towards research and wanting to make a difference in the field becomes a strong need. Shveta Kumaria, a clinical psychologist who did an MPhil from NIMHANS suggests, “One needs to look beyond the conventional, you can use your skills in multiple ways. One needs to understand what one likes and what one doesn’t and try to be flexible in one’s approach.” You have a large amount of opportunities available such as academics, market research, drug trials, schools, clinics, hospitals, social research, ad agencies or pure psychometric testing. Creativity and innovation can be used to find the right fit. Disaster management is another great option you can explore in the coming years. Students who begin to do a PhD find themselves taking up research in a field of their choice, mostly ending up doing innovative work or looking at an already researched aspect of psychology in a unique manner. Ongoing study and reading will become a core part of your personality and interest as a part of this field, a part that develops over the years and never really ends. Discussions, conferences and discourse on various aspects of psychology in terms of motivation, attitude and culture create a unique language of its own. Many students end up feeling like they are talking in a different language when they speak to people who do not belong to the field of psychology.
Choosing the best school Before zeroing in on a school as a student of psychology, one would have to decide on the area of specialization. Even at the BA level you would have to opt for a specialization such as child psychology or social psychology or applied psychology in your third year. Make sure to choose an institute to study where the faculty is available for the particular subject. Under the consistent effort of Indian psychologists, cultural and social psychology has become an area that has evolved over the years to pursue.
Little Flower Institute of Social Sciences and Health
BA (Hons.) Psychology
Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya
Dr. Harisingh Gour University
Jai Narain Vyas University
Jamia Millia Islamia
Maharshi Dayanand University
North Eastern Hill University
Pandit Ravishankar Shukla University
University of Ajmer
University of Delhi
Veer Narmath South Gujarat University
The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore is an internationally reputated institution, providing state-of-the-art training in mental health. At an MPhil level, with very few seats available, many students sit for the exam more than once to gain entry into this prestigious institution. Tata Institute of Social Sciences is another space that students strive for. Allahabad University is historically a place where Indian psychology took strong roots and has created many famous Indian psychologists. University of Delhi also offers various specializations such as organizational behaviour, clinical psychology and social psychology, a place many students are able to find their area of choice. Though many students remain unaware, you can also opt to be part of IIT’s to pursue further education in this field.
Branches of psychology
After having completed your under-graduation course or even while doing so, you may have zeroed in on the branch of psychology you want to pursue. Psychology in India is largely concerned with the study of human behaviour so if you want to study animal behaviour you would have no option but to go abroad. Psychologists apply the theoretical knowledge they gain to help gather information through laboratory experiments: personality, aptitude and intelligence tests; observation, interviews and questionnaires. In addition you may opt for surveys as a mode of gathering data. However, statistics and a scientific approach is a large part of the territory. Experience would be largely dependent on the area of specialization and that will help decide the area of work after completing your degree. Specializations lead to in depth knowledge base in a specified area. A neuro psychologist would find space in health care as a specialist who understands the relation between human physical systems to undertand behavioural changes after stroke/head injury. A criminal psychologist would find work in prisons, juvenile centres and special hospitals to understand criminal behaviour and the psyche.
Where all you could beDr. Neeru Tanwar, a New Delhi-based clinical psychologist feels that psychology can be broadly divided into two categories, concerned with those who are well/and restoring well being. She believes that psychology can be used in various fields. School or educational psychologists use their knowledge to develop curriculum, and learning techniques that are more effective. The corporate world finds psychologists that help people work better, resolve conflicts, and in team building. Motivation becomes core to their understanding of human resources and industrial relations as well. Most find themselves involved in working with the well. But, another category that exists requires restoring well being. Assessment, diagnosis and testing become a core part of psychologists working in this area and rehabilitation is the essence of their jobs.
Australian National University
London School of Economics and Political Science
Massechusetts Institute of Technology
National University of Singapore
New York University
The University of Melbourne
University of British Columbia
University of California
University of Cambridge
University of Chicago
University of Michigan
University of Oxford
University of Pennsylvania
University of Tokyo
University of Toronto
Dr. Tanwar stated, “Psychology is a very exciting field for people who enjoy people but it is a misunderstood field. It requires long years of work, training and education. Academic performance is important and courses are technical.” When you are making an earning through this profession, you need to free yourself from the corporate trend in terms of money. Clinical psychologists, counsellors, psychometricians and rehabilitative psychologists largely occupy this space along with psychiatrists, social workers and other specialists.
Job openings for psychologists Depending on your specialization, you will opt for a specific career path. However, be warned that money is not something that you will receive in spite of the years of study you have already put in. You need to be realistic, realize that your qualifications will not put you at par with others who have done professional courses. Kumaria advises that when after years of work you are earning only Rs. 25,000 a month, you’ll start questioning your decision to have studied psychology but you need to stay with it. She advises that getting some experience from abroad in terms of pursuing short term courses or getting a global experience by joining the likes of ‘Doctors without frontiers’ will increase your exposure and help build confidence. Choices also become based on your personal needs at the time you finish your degree. Paresh Shah had passed out with a specialization in organizational behaviour but opted to join an NGO where he began work as a counsellor. Psychology as a field remains as an ‘all women’s subject’ in the mind of society, a thought that makes men feel a bit marginalized when they opt for this subject. However, this didn’t deter Shah from staying in the subject and he went on to receive the Richmond Fellowship and worked in the field of psychosocial rehabilitation. It was demanding work, especially at the emotional level. After six years of work experience, he found himself earning only Rs. 15,000-20,000 a month, leaving him feeling a little disillusioned. He opted to enter the corporate world and use the skills he learned while studying organizational behaviour. Shah has a piece of advice for people entering the field of psychology echoed in Masih’s words, “They should have the passion and they should also have the patience. You need to think about your orientation and mentors seriously, there are very good courses available abroad. Just remember psychology is not a cake walk.”
Qualities of a psychologist This is largely dependent on the space you choose to occupy but some constants do remain. Masih sums up the skills in terms of the 3 P’s of psychology, Patience, Passion and Perseverance, a fact that many students and established psychologists agree to. You require a basic sensitivity towards human nature and need to be ethical in approach. Confidentiality is a must for any psychologist, whether you are operating at the community level, corporate or involved in group processes.
Glimpse into areas of study and some job opportunities
Counselling, training programmes, market research, mental health services in hospitals, clinics, or private settings
Mental Health programmes in psychiatric hospitals and clinics, community, geriatrics, and private practice
Study of the brain’s role in memory, thinking and perceptions, can apply to artificial intellegenc
Help people deal with problems of every day living at personal, social, educational or vocational levels
Work in prisons, juvenile centres and special hospitals
Study the patterns and causes of behavioural change from infancy to adulthood
Design, develop and evaluate educational programmes
Conduct experimental research on various aspects of human behaviour
Applying psychological principles to personnel, administration, management and marketing problems
Applying study of the relation between human physical systems and behaviour to stroke/head injury
Physical, cognitive, emotional or social aspects of human behaviour
Studying group behaviour, leadership, attitudes and interpersonal perception
Nishtha Upadhaya, Joint Controller, Defence Accounts (Air Force) and Financial Advisor (R&R Hospital), a university topper at the undergraduation and postgraduation level in psychology always dreamt of joining the administrative services. Her experience in the Defence Ministry led to a feeling that acceptability as a woman doesn’t come easy but having studied psychology has helped her in dealing with initial resistance that is always there. Her skills have been recognized by her seniors as well and she is generally posted to offices where there is a crisis of sorts. Studying psychology has created a lot of understanding about her own self but Upadhaya remembers, “No one is supposed to be like you. They are supposed to be different.”
Circling the world of psychology After investing more than five years of your life in psychology and if you are still continuing to do so in whichever space you occupy, rest assured you have entered a world that is as difficult to enter as it is to exit. Sudhanshu Mishra had done a master’s through a correspondence course from Annamalai University and was an active mental health practitioner. He changed fields and started working with an NGO based in Kolkata. Mishra feels that students entering this field need to be aware that the scope in terms of academics is very stable. Clinical psychology is picking up but various hardships are involved. Applied psychology still has not found its footing though the future of counselling looks very good in India. Are you keen on a career in psychology? Once you decide the specialization, and the school to study, the journey becomes a bit easy. Don’t be afraid to take the step forward, but remember the three P’s required as the journey will be a long one and not so easy. There may be various stumbling blocks and disillusionment on the way but once you have entered this world you will want to stay, sometimes out of choice and sometimes in spite of it. There will be hardships involved, some misunderstanding and monetary issues would keep cropping in. But, the satisfaction you will receive when you help a person in whichever capacity will leave you with a sense of achievement and probably a smile on your face when you fall asleep in the night, drained after a long and taxing day, emotionally as well as physically.
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