Please tell us about yourself

Dr. Mini Rao is an Award Winning Psychologist whose expertise lies in diagnosis and treatment of mental dysfunctions and disorders. She was awarded the Best Outgoing student in her BA and the 2nd rank in the University in her MA as well as stood first in her M.Phil. Her Ph.D thesis was published in the “Journal of Psychological Researches”, an International Journal.

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She has a successful practice counselling patients with various mental health problems and also develops questionnaires, conducts workshops on personality and motivation, trains contestants of beauty contests and has written over 75 articles on mental health in various newspapers and magazines and has monthly columns in five leading magazines.
Dr. Mini Rao is also the Psychologist for the Chennai Plastic Surgery team where she evaluates patients before surgery and counsels them after surgery. She volunteers for Banyan (an NGO for destitute women) where she does individual and family therapy.

What inspired you to get into such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

Dr. Mini : I was always interested in helping others. From childhood I used to listen to everybody’s problems and console them that things will be alright soon. But the real turning point was my mother’s death when I was 19 years. My family was shattered; my older sister went into a deep depression. I was surprisingly strong and pulled my family together by counselling them, helping them cope with the grief. It actually worked. My father and sister slowly came out of their grief and that’s when I realized I had some kind of skill for helping others. So I decided to get equipped with the necessary knowledge and went on to do my MA, M.Phil and PhD in Psychology.

What is your USP?

Dr. Mini : I am not the typical psychologist, I am a Holistic healer. I give counselling for physical health as well. Diet and exercise tips along with therapy for their mental health issues. What a lot of people are unaware about is that Physical health is related to mental health and vice versa and the relationship is quite strong. If you are physically healthy, it will lessen the risk of you getting a mental illness. If you are mentally happy, the risk of getting a physical illness is lessened.

How someone can start the same business as yours in terms of investment, material procurement, production, and marketing etc?

Dr. Mini : There is a dearth of mental health professionals in the country. We have more than 20 million people suffering from mental illnesses, but there are barely 15,000 mental health professionals (psychologists and psychiatrists). The ratio is preposterous. For those who are interested in becoming psychologists, education is the way to go. A Masters in Clinical/Social/Industrial/School/Counselling Psychology is a must to work in hospitals, schools, organizations. But for a private practice one needs a Doctorate (PhD).
Also just getting a degree and being laid back will not get them anywhere. One must be aggressive in marketing oneself in this area. Social Media is a good place to start. Apart from that, write articles, give quotes in newspapers, conduct workshops, give talks and seminars etc.
Networking is very important, go out there and market yourself and what you do. Since there is a lack of psychologists in India, it is becoming a very lucrative profession.

Any challenge you face in your profession and how you overcome that?

Dr. Mini : Since seeing a Psychologist isn’t so common, people do not know what to expect when they come to a psychologist for treatment for their anxiety or depression. They expect to get better in one session or immediately. I explain to them that I am not a miracle worker and that treating mental illness takes time, effort, patience and it won’t happen in a day. Some patients are cynical, some are skeptical, some ask irrelevant questions and some are naturally curious about how we treat the mental illness.
I don’t blame them, mental health has always taken a back seat in India and it’s changing now for the better. Slowly people will start understanding what we do and won’t be skeptical anymore.

What are your plans for the future?

Dr. Mini : My career has taken by surprise. I thought my job was going to be desk bound and exhausting, hearing patient after patient’s problems. But it is anything but that. Apart from a regular stream of patients a day (I don’t counsel more than 5 patients), I enjoy giving talks for various organizations and companies on mental health issues. I have regular columns in 5 leading magazines, I get called to be the judge for various competitions, I get to walk the ramp as a Woman Achiever. I have already won 3 awards (TEDx Award for Star Psychologist, WE magazine Award for being an Intellect Sheilder and recently won the Penn Vetrikku Pinn Award for being the woman behind the success of women). It is highly motivating and encouraging to be in this field.
I am planning to come out with a book of case studies, very intriguing and interesting cases and how I treated them. I also have a TV show coming in the next few months called Dr Mini Rao says……where people ask me questions on mental health and I answer their queries.

How you manage your personal and professional life?

Dr. Mini : Work Life balance is easy to preach but difficult to practice. I have 2 children, boys aged 7 and 11 and my husband work out of town and is home on the weekends. But it is all a matter of priorities and getting oneself organized. I work around my children’s schedules and make sure I spend a lot of time with them as well. It is a struggle sometimes but eventually it works out well.

What are your favorite books that you would recommend SIW family?

Dr. Mini : Ayn Rand ‘s Atlas Shrugged is a wonderful book. It has so
many philosophies and theories we can relate to.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray is a fun book and you get quite a bit of insight regarding the difference in thinking among the sexes.
Stop walking on Eggshells by Paul T. Mason and MS Randy Kreger (how to treat Personality disorders).

What advice would you give to young women readers of SIW who want to follow a similar career path as you?

Dr. Mini :
Equip yourself with lots of Knowledge and Skills
Be proactive
Be insensitive to criticism
Be consistent
Work hard
Develop a good network
Keep yourself updated on general knowledge and the latest knowledge in mental health
be confident about yourself and your skills