Karuna Kunwar Bista is a top psychologist in Nepal who has been helping people resolve their personal issues through her counseling, and also has been inspiring young psychologists to know about being one. Karuna Kunwar Bista has been working for 12 years now and has specialized in providing counseling to families and couples. She has not only received training from within the country but also from psychologists from outside the country.
Karuna Kunwar Bista supports and facilitates group counseling at Center for Mental Health and Counseling Nepal. Like Karuna Kunwar Bista there are many aspiring psychologists thinking about the path they have chosen and often wondering if their decisions are correct. And, there are many students who are willing to take this path as a path for their career but have not been able to make a decision for a number of reasons. Karuna has shared some of her experiences and stories of her success to help such students. Here is a glimpse of a talk Sarsallah had with Karuna Kunwar Bista.
How do you describe your profession in a society as ours?
The society we live in is a very difficult one. Even the very learned and educated ones think a mental disease exists in a body that can no more be cured without keeping them in chains or behind the walls of a hospital. There maybe a few cases when people consider mental disease as a disease similar to that of a physical disease but the cases are very rare. We do not have a mind that thinks that the mind can catch a disease. Living in a society as such, being a psychologist is equal to being a patient. People respect doctors here but are somewhat scared of psychologists and are quite unsure about what a psychologist does and who is a psychologist.
Can you highlight upon who is a psychologist and the responsibilities of one? How do people react to your profession?
A psychologist is a person who understands a person the way they are. Being a psychologist is like being any other doctor, the only difference is we diagnose through talks and we cure through talks as well.
People often think that psychologists are a little crazy themselves for they work with people who are disturbed; they should however understand that disturbed people are not crazy they are just in need of help. And the same applies to us as well. I am a psychologist, I understand the pain and reasons of behavior of a person when s/he comes to me but I am not a magician. I cannot read minds.
There might have been a lot of problems when you were working to build a career. Can you guide us through those years?
All of my friends were going to be doctors. They had all taken up medicine as their path and I was sure they would all, after all studying science in the country means building base for a doctoral career. I was different though. My parents were not. Like everyone else’s parents mine wanted to see me hold a stethoscope, rote names of medicines and help people who were sick. In a way I wanted to do the same, but my way of helping people was different. I did not want a device to know the disease, I wanted to talk to people and then help them by knowing them.
Building a career is of course a difficult task. For everyone. We all have to work very hard to be someone we aim to be. It was not different for me. I remember the long hours I spent internet surfing when internet access was very difficult and hours in the library looking for materials that would help me understand my field more. But my hard work paid off really well. I am very successful today, even though I do not operate people and remove tumors.
Why did you choose this career?
I have always felt that I have the ability to understand people and I can keep secrets. Being a psychologist I need to work with my clients/patients very carefully. I have always felt that I understand a person the way that person is. If person ‘x’ comes for counseling then s/he is only a person for me, I don’t judge him/her on the basis of their problems or any character as such. I think I had that in me from my childhood. But I was not quite sure about being a psychologist until a few years back.
How did your family react to your decision of becoming a psychologist and how do they respond now?
Their reaction was very obvious: NO. One word summarized it all but I managed to convince them to let me study psychology. This was one of the major reasons for my hard work. I wanted to prove everyone that being a psychologist is an equally great deal and now they are very happy with my career. I have relatives visiting to me time and again asking me about how is it to become a psychologist and I am glad I can proudly say this is the best decision I have made and you will not regret it either.
Did you ever feel humiliated in front of your friends for choosing a career no one approved of back then?
Never. I have never regretted my decision in all these years and even then when I was not sure what I was going to do in my future, I did not doubt my decision for a moment.
Can you tell us more about your college life and life after that?
After my ISc I went to TU to build my career. I was not sure about what I was going to do with my life being a psychologist then, so it was a little overwhelming and confusing. I did not attend most of the classes because of the mismanaged classes that we still face. It was not different then either. But I was one of the people who loved self studying and working on my own helped me a lot to grow. After my undergraduate degree from Tribhuwan University, I began my master’s degree in TU. I started going out more and looking around and observing.
During my master’s, I was always engaged in group discussions with my friends and teachers and I use to explore a lot. But I was still unsure of what was ahead for me. I took courses abroad after my masters. I attended various courses in India, Thailand and Singapore. I was also engaged in extensive discussions and training courses. The courses and meeting people who were like me drew me more towards what I had built for me. Psychology as a subject started being fun and I started enjoying every bit of what I had learned, I could not wait to apply my learning in practice.
I took an internship where I got an opportunity to work. That is when I realized what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I felt so belonged to the subject and the field I had chosen for myself.
When was it that you felt being a psychologist was the best decision you ever made and you were proud of being a psychologist?
A German therapist facilitated a little training and classes for us. I started to know the depth of what I had been studying for a couple more years then, I could exercise everything I had learned over the years and those sessions made me think I was in the right path. I was proud of myself and my job and I have been the same ever since. I now know I am doing justice to what I do and the people who come to me for help.
What is the best part of being a psychologist?
We understand people the way they are. We are not only observing the outside of a person or analyzing the problems they face, as a psychologist I feel and understand the building elements of a human being. I know what makes us what we are and I use all of the knowledge I have to help others.
What are the factors that made you who you are as a psychologist? Why do you think you are a successful one?
Of course my hard work and dedication to my work, after all love for the work is a major factor required for success. I feel connected to what I do. In school and years after school, I use to paint a lot. As an artist I was able to express the feelings I had and express the details present in nature too. I was able to minutely analyze things that were presented to me; I think my art has helped me a lot in my profession. Even though I do not paint anymore now people are canvas for me. When I talk to them and hear their problems I can clearly analyze their feelings and the reasons behind their problems in words, I can paint a word picture and help them.
What would you like to tell young aspiring students as a psychologist?
This is a great path you are choosing or have chosen. It does not matter what people say if you think this is where you belong. If you want to achieve success then it is all on you. This field is growing and we need more psychologists who can do justice to their patients and their work. Because of emerging psychologists and the need people have felt towards this particular field, I think being a psychologist will be one of the best decisions you will make for your career. You will, of course, have to work hard.
Financial factor is one of the most essential and influential factors in any career. Students might wonder about their financial stability when they think of a career and since this is a career we know very little of, can you please tell us more about this one factor?
Like I said before, it is all up to you. Work hard, become the best you can. The field is ready to grow and develop, you need to water it a little and financial factor won’t be an issue.
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