The Covid pandemic is attacking every pillar of our emotional wellbeing – Physical Health, Job Security and Social Interactions. But lets remember that reaching out for help is the only solution to get through these difficult times !

Deepanwita Roy, our next pathbreaker, Clinical Psychologist at mfine, a Digital Mental Health startup, conducts teletherapy sessions with customers, organizes workshops/webinars for corporates & educational institutions and develops self-help digital therapy tools for sleep improvement.

Deepanwita talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about being intrigued by the power of psychology in helping people live better lives by focusing on mental health along with physical health.

For students, times such as these make us realise the value of psychology and its role in our overall health and wellbeing. Go for it if you believe you can make a difference in people’s lives !

Deepanwita, can you tell us about your initial years?

I was raised in an urban middle-class family of Kolkata, West Bengal, with my parents & elder brother. My father studied Journalism and became a businessman. My mother is a literature graduate, homemaker, and singer. Extra-curricular activities and home chores were given equal importance along with studies at home. I was trained in Indian classical music from an early age, read a lot of books at home, heard stories, and had the opportunity of meeting many eminent people at an early age. My family as a whole instilled the progressive mindset which was further nurtured by my alma mater, Patha Bhavan. The motto was simple, “Boro Hawa Bhalo kotha, Kintu Bhalo Hawa, Aro Boro Kotha” (“It is good to grow up but it is more important to be a better person when you grow up”). Hence, the right values, especially being empathetic towards others were always appreciated. 

I was also very curious as a child and never ceased to ask ‘Why?’ for everything. This habit was encouraged at home and school. This eventually led me to ask questions about human behaviour and one thing led to another and I ended up taking Psychology.

What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?

I have spent 8 years studying at the University of Calcutta. First, I did my graduation (BSc Psychology) from Gokhale Memorial Girls’ College. After that, I did my MSc in Psychology from Rajabazaar Science College, the University of Calcutta with a special paper in Clinical Psychology. After my MSc, I did my MPhil in Clinical Psychology, which is a 2- years professional degree course with hands-on training on client handling, therapy & research. After MPhil, I gained registration as a Clinical Psychologist under the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI).  

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

I studied PCMB (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics & Biology) during my 10+2 & despised what I studied! To run away from Physics & organic chemistry, I found my solace in reading books. One such day, I came across the book “The introduction to Psychology By Baron” on my elder brother’s desk (he had Psychology as one of his minor papers during BBA), I started reading and never stopped… 

It did take some time to convince my parents, as it was something new to them, but eventually, they surrendered to my wish. I started off with a zeal to learn something new, but there’s one instance that made me choose Clinical Psychology (a sub-discipline of Psychology) more specifically. During my 2nd year of MSc, I interned at a government hospital in Kolkata where I saw a teenager in the emergency room. She survived after attempting suicide, however, lost the capacity to walk or talk due to cognitive decline. I saw the pain, angst, and helplessness in her parent’s eyes. The incident stayed with me for the longest time. I thought even if I could save a single life, that would save several more lives associated with the person. This incident influenced me a lot in becoming a Clinical Psychologist.    

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

As I mentioned earlier, during my MSc I made up my mind to specialize further in Clinical Psychology. In India, to practice independently, just like medical doctors (who get their registration from Medical Council of India), you would need your registration. The way to get the registration is after doing MPhil in Clinical Psychology from an institute recognised by Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). It’s a 2-years long professional degree course where you get training in diagnoses of clinical cases, psychotherapy & research. For pursuing a career in Clinical Psychology, MPhil is important. The degree gives you hands-on experience on handling clients, history-taking, summarizing documentation, , administering assessment tools and further formulating therapy session details of clients. During the two years, i got the opportunity to handle as many as 500+ cases independently, learn about research methodologies & do my own research as a part of the curriculum. I had the opportunity to intern at government hospitals across Kolkata, Tata Medical Centre, and other renowned places. Even though there’s increased workload, regular workshops, seminars, case presentations, at the end of the 2-years journey, you get an edge as a professional that you eventually become. For me, it was no less than a rollercoaster ride, but it was all worth it. 

After finishing my MPhil, I moved to Bangalore for personal reasons and got my first job at a clinic known as the Mind Research Foundation. At MRF, I attended to clients with concerns related to stress, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, relationship & marital issues. I also provided counseling for the LGBTQIA+ community. I conducted several workshops & supervised juniors. After a year, I joined mfine, a start-up based out of Bangalore to explore something new, i.e., Digital Mental Health. 

How did you get your first break? 

My first break happened when I transitioned from traditional face-to-face therapy to online/ virtual therapy or Teletherapy as it’s popularly known. In 2019, Teletherapy had still not started picking up in India, but mfine came with a vision to make healthcare accessible for everyone using technology. 

In 2019, while being unhappy and stagnant at work, I tried switching jobs but never found any good opportunity on my way. I started being more active on LinkedIn,in order to connect to more people beyond my own circle. Through one such contact, I got called for the interview at mfine and was selected. But I had to let go of the opportunity since, on the day of the joining, I had my dream trip to Ladakh planned! I went ahead with the trip, came back & contacted HR and to my surprise, the vacancy was still open and I got the job. I would say, my luck favored me, but I do believe that miracles happen when you’re busy making other plans! 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

There were many challenges that I faced along the way, but if I have to pick the top one, it would be public speaking, ironically! I had experienced feelings of nausea & butterflies inside my stomach before presentations or exams almost throughout my academic years. I would call myself an ambivert (a balance of extrovert and an introvert) who was initially hesitant to express my views on any subject matter to a group of people, but as I took up more opportunities, it helped me overcome this. I would say I am still a ‘work-in-progress’ but I am trying each day to do something out of my comfort zone. 

Where do you work now? Tell us about your role

As mentioned earlier, I work for mfine, an on-demand digital healthcare platform based out of Bangalore, Karnataka. My job role involves, 

  • Teletherapy sessions (audio/video) with clients partnered with mfine. 
  • Conducting workshops/ webinars for corporates, and educational institutions.
  • Engaging and conducting research in Psychotherapy and Teletherapy. 
  • Working on content on mental health. 
  • Collaborating with engineers and product managers to make better products that would ensure that every consumer has a seamless experience.  

Additionally, I have also worked part-time in developing self-help digital therapy tools for sleep improvement, called SleepBetter

What skills are needed for your role? How did you acquire the skills?

  1. It is important to have enough knowledge of psychological theory, research and practice. This can be acquired through constant studying, reading journals, attending workshops, seminars and keeping yourself up to date with the current advancements in the field of clinical psychology. 
  2. One needs to have the ability to relate to and empathize with a wide range of people, be patient, empathetic and more flexible in nature. This is acquired during your clinical training, and internships. 

What is a typical day like?

My typical workday begins with a list of to-dos for the day, which most often includes the following:

  • Taking teletherapy sessions (on an average 8-10 sessions each day)
  • Writing reports, maintaining client logs, details, follow-up notes. 
  • Regular meetings & catch-up calls with teammates. 
  • Coordinating with teammates for corporate events, working on content for monthly social media calendar. 

What is it you love about this job?

To be honest, there is absolutely nothing that I don’t like about my job! Of all, talking to clients is definitely a highlight of the day; it takes a lot for anyone to open up to someone about their life stories or struggles. To know that they find peace in sharing their deepest secrets or pain with me gives me the motivation to keep doing what I do. People talk about benefiting from therapy but it is also true that as a therapist, I learn each day from my clients… a little bit more about LIFE

How does your work benefit society? 

Since childhood, most of us are not raised in a way where we can talk about our feelings as openly as we talk about our achievements. As a result, we keep hiding how we feel or find it uncomfortable to talk about it. My work as a clinical psychologist has always been to bridge that gap as well as de-stigmatize the attitude towards mental health, because your Mental Health is as important as your physical health.  

As a career choice, I would say, 

  • It is an extremely stimulating and engaging career. 
  • In the next decades, it would grow exponentially. 
  • The work creates a large impact in society and everyday life 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

Almost every experience with clients lives with something to introspect about! One such memorable experience would be working with a millennial coming from an orthodox family, who wanted to come out to his family with the fact that he is homosexual. The journey for him from self-discovery of his sexual orientation to ‘coming out’ to his family and friends, walking together through the process was immensely challenging & rewarding. In case if you want to read more about this, please follow the links below:

My client story: LGBTQIA+ : Understanding Gender & Sexuality In The Changing Times

More on the topic: 

LGBT Community: How Mental Health Conversations Are Dispelling The Stigma

Mental health issues among LGBTQ

Your advice to students based on your experience

My advice would be simple to anyone struggling to find their own niche or calling in their life:

  • Do your research! You’re in a digital world with unlimited access to information. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch movies, talk shows, videos… The more you research, the better informed and learned you are. 
  • Build your network! Connect to more people other than your peer groups, understand their interests, hobbies, and passions. 
  • Listen more! The more you listen to people, the more it opens different revenues for you. 
  • Lastly, choose something that you enjoy! If you don’t enjoy what you do, you won’t be able to sustain it for long. 

Future Plans?

I am a strong believer in staying rooted to the present moment. I don’t particularly make long-term plans for myself and rather take things as and when they come. But my larger purpose in life would be to reach a larger audience, talk, and provide my support to anyone going through mental health concerns. 

If you wish to talk to me, drop me a mail at: 

Connect to me on LinkedIn 

Consult me at mfine