The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Alberta Division joins health professionals across the country to celebrate February as Psychology Month. Led by the Canadian Psychological Association, Psychology Month is an annual national campaign to raise awareness about psychology’s role in helping individuals and communities prosper.
CMHA, Alberta Division spoke with three members of the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta to discuss their lived experience working in the field and how they overcome the job’s challenges.
Dr. Inverpal Braich
Dr. Inverpal Braich currently works as a Registered Psychologist at the Canadian Centre of Integrative Psychology & Healthcare. His role consists of a combination of counselling, assessment, consultations, and other interventions. “I work with a diverse range of clients with a variety of different presenting concerns,” says Dr. Braich.
Dr. Braich decided to become a psychologist after witnessing the lack of accessibility and awareness in the South Asian community. “I wanted to change that. First and foremost, I wanted to help create more awareness around mental health. As a result, I started working and volunteering with many mental health initiatives in my local community when I was as young as 14 years old. This led me to pursue higher education in the field and register as a psychologist,” Dr. Braich explains.
When it comes to personal challenges within the profession of psychology, Dr. Braich says there are times when he experiences compassion fatigue. “At these times, I find it is important for me to schedule a few days off from work to engage in self-care activities so that I can function optimally when I return to work.” Dr. Braich explains, “For the most part, I’d say that my job has a positive impact on my mental health.”
When challenges arise, Dr. Braich says that peers and colleagues play a major role in helping him cope. “Being able to consult others for different perspectives, insights, and new knowledge is always helpful.” Braich also regularly sees a psychologist. This allows him to discuss and overcome his own professional and personal challenges.
One of the biggest problems Dr. Braich encounters in his field is the lack of awareness of other mental health professions. “There are a lot of different mental health professions – some regulated and others unregulated – and as psychologists, we need to do a better job helping the general public understand these differences,” Dr. Braich explains. “In my opinion, this education is crucial for the general public because it will help ensure that everyone is receiving the best healthcare possible by understanding differences in competency, education, and training.”
Dr. Braich says the most rewarding aspect of his job is seeing the progress and change in his clients over time. “It doesn’t matter how big or small the change is, but to see that change is occurring, and the fact that I could accompany them along that journey brings me happiness.”
Carmen Bellows is a Registered Psychologist and is the Director of Professional Affairs at the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta. Bellows currently runs her private practice and is an in-house consultant for a large insurance company.
Bellows chose to become a psychologist due to her love for people. “I think there is more that connects than separates us, and I have been intrigued by the human condition,” Bellows explains. “Psychology has allowed me to connect and work with people in a meaningful and ever-changing way.”
According to Bellows, staying up to date with the most current literature and evidence-based treatments, as well as staying connected to her peers, can be challenging. “I have an incredible network of colleagues and rely on them to help guide me,” she explains. “Engaging in peer supervision and debriefing ensures I am accountable and not working in isolation. Staying informed of treatment guidelines, attending ongoing training, and regular consultation are all pieces of this process.
Bellows believes more government and private industries support is needed to ensure that individuals have access to high-quality psychological services. “Psychologist services are often expensive and often out of reach for individuals. Robust benefits for mental health are not commonplace with most employers- so individuals suffer.”
The most rewarding aspect of Bellow’s line of work is connecting with individuals and educating organizations on how to create psychologically safe workplaces. “Seeing individuals develop the skills to have the lives they want and being part of that is powerful and rewarding. Working with organizations can be challenging, but it is valuable to me as it reduces stigma. Breaking down stigma regarding mental health is a personal priority, so working strategically in workplaces to address it is rewarding.”
Dr. Judi L Malone
Dr. Judi L Malone is a Registered Psychologist and the CEO of the Psychologists’ Association of Alberta. She has been a registered psychologist for the last 23 years. Dr. Malone previously worked within rural communities throughout Northeastern Alberta, specializing in trauma and addictions. Dr. Malone is dedicated to improving the psychological health and wellness of all Albertans and strengthening the science-based practice of psychology.
Dr. Malone’s interest in helping others led her to become a Registered Psychologist. “As a very curious person, I quickly learned that this was a field where you can learn perpetually and have real impact – that got me hooked,” says Dr. Malone.
Dr. Malone says staying on top of all the advancements in science, theory, research, and practice within the profession can be challenging. Consulting with her fellow psychologists has kept her on top of things. “We have the privilege of having amazing peers and a culture of community support. We share challenges and solutions with one another,” Dr. Malone explains.
Regarding her mental health, Dr. Malone says that her profession has many positive benefits. However, during her time working in trauma and addictions, Dr. Malone became drained by systems that were perpetuating issues. “That is why I changed roles to have a greater impact while also focusing on my own self-care,” Dr. Malone explains.
“These are demanding times for psychologists, and it can be a struggle to balance self-care with the competing demands of helping others – particularly when many people struggle with an inability to access or afford care,” Dr. Malone says. “We [must] remain intimately aware of our own needs while assisting others with their psychological health. In role modelling the excellent self-care we share, we benefit personally from our own profession.”
The biggest problem Dr. Malone experiences while working in the field of Psychology is the issue of access. “Psychologists are in this profession to help others, but few positions exist within health care and non-profit organizations. This problem limits access for those without financial resources or excellent benefits. It is a perpetual struggle. The most trained providers want to be accessible to Albertans with the greatest needs, but those are often the ones with the fewest resources or ability to access services.”
The most rewarding part of Dr. Malone’s job is witnessing an individual, couple, family, or community grow while using the psychological tools designed to help them move forward. “What a privilege – not just to walk alongside people in their times of need, but to witness the growth and benefits of change.”
Find the right psychologist for you
Join us in thanking psychologists across Alberta for their dedicated and impactful work assisting Albertans and their communities. To find a psychologist in your area, go to www.cpa.ca/public/findingapsychologist.