Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in the field of psychology? In this interview, we talk to Girma, a psychosocial specialist who shares some experiences and advice for others interested in working in this psychology career.
What is your job title?
How long have you worked in your current position?
Could you please describe some of your duties in this job position?
- Assessed psychosocial needs of natural and man-made disaster affected children of communities.
- Designed post-emergency psychosocial support program for children based on local context, culture, custom and related consideration and implemented this program in four countries ? in two natural disaster contexts and two conflict affected contexts.
- I was put in situations where I had to build my hard skills (knowledge and skills in applied psychologies) and soft skills (knowledge and skills in social work and community mobilization) in a cross cultural setting.
- I worked hard to learn more on need oriented themes like psychosocial and mental health, anger management and conflict resolution, ethic and professional standards, communication with children and interviewing adults and children, child development and basic counseling skills.
- I used what I learned when I needed to, and also shared this knowledge with others. I realized sharing what I know is a way of gaining more knowledge and confidence.
- I realized the power of knowledge when my project staff improved their functioning capacity after series of training and coaching.
- I have found that people learn more when the learning methods are experiential and involve problem solving.
- I have discovered that communities only listen to social workers after the social worker first listened to what they have to say and feel.
- I have witnessed community members who were angry and avoid speaking at the beginning of intervention, and were having fun and participating in various cultural shows by the end of the project.
- At the beginning of a project, I was beaten with stones thrown by children when I worked in the field to establish play centers for children. However, these children were very much close to me after a while.
- I have tried to show the significance of reconstructing psychosocial well being of individuals and groups, where people failed to understand and undermine it comparing with physical construction.
- I have used sport activities as a means of peace building in schools in conflict affected areas and reconnected relationship among students of the same school and among different schools.
- I have proved school based psychosocial committees consisting of volunteer teachers and volunteer youth members can play a significant role in managing cases frequently reported by students and teachers.
- I have educated myself through regular need-based reading of psychology newsletters and internet resources.
What is your favorite aspect of being a psychosocial specialist?
I am working to help people learn and help themselves and others. I suffer the pain of preparing and facilitating trainings and finally I enjoy when I see the impact of my efforts changing others. I have helped my work colleagues develop good understanding and skills in their job and feel confident in what they do. I would say learning how to learn and share with others is my favorite.
What is your least favorite aspect of being a psychosocial specialist?
The result of psychosocial work is not easily understood by donors and most people. It is a time taking process to see its result. I wish if I could put those people in my shoes and let them see the actual situation and the power of knowledge to reconstruct social capital. It's not always easy task.
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a psychosocial specialist?
- Have a commitment to learn all through your life. This helps to develop clear thoughts, professional language and ethics.
- Use your knowledge to gain more and develop competence and then confidence.
- Learn assertiveness and positive thinking to live with people from all walks of life.
- Know and practice the skills you need to do your job and what you need to adjust yourself in different cultural context. Here I would like to remind you what the cross cultural psychologist Matsumoto calls psychological engine: flexibility, openness, creativity, emotional regulation, autonomy and critical thinking. I believe that his are basic skills to build confidence to live and work in all cultural settings. These were what I tried to mention as soft skills necessary to adjust oneself into culture of the community you work with.
- There is no place and time free from problems of all sorts. The good lesson to learn is no problem is life-long and there are multiple of solutions for every problem.
- There are series of annoying situations in life. Never forget to regulate your emotion and manage your anger.
- Be sure you are loyal to your own conscience and you do not need others to tell you that you are a trusted person.
- Do what convinces you to be right and never compromise with your life and personal values.
- Never regret for what you lost after you tried it; it may be a means for better opportunity.
- Give equal importance and respect to everyone as a person.