Up close and personal with NATASHA WALI: We speak to the young psychologist about alternative therapy, family life and halwa puri
When did you know a career in psychology was for you?
I’ve always loved helping people, especially children, so from a very young age I had decided that whatever I ended up doing in my life. I had to be doing something that was a helping profession. I took my first Psychology class in eleventh grade and it drew me in and made me want to keep learning more. Combining my interest to help other people and my love of Psychology is what got me here today.
What about the field fascinates you most?
Studying and understanding behavior and cognitive processes is incredibly interesting – but using this knowledge to provide treatment to better people’s lives is the endlessly rewarding part.
What is your background and training?
I have two Masters degrees from Columbia University, New York, in Psychological Counseling and Therapy, and a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Education. I’ve worked as a psychological therapist, teacher and consultant in many countries which include the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa and of course, Pakistan. My training is mainly in psychological services for children, adolescents and adults.
Why did you choose to move back to Pakistan?
Moving back to Pakistan after completing my education and training was always part of my plan. I was privileged to have the opportunity of going abroad to study and work and I want that benefit I received to positively influence my country by working here and transferring what I have gained into bettering our society. I believe that’s what this country needs – people, especially women, investing their education and experience back into Pakistan.
Do you find the culture here has a different approach to the idea of therapy?
I don’t believe there is one set idea of what therapy currently is in our culture because there is a lack of exposure of this field and the benefits it provides. Presently, I thingk people are more hesitant here than in the West but the idea of getting therapy is slowly developing as awareness increases.
As a woman, what works in your favor in this industry, and when do you feel being a woman is an obstacle?
Many of the people I see the therapy are women, and I’ve felt that being a woman myself has allowed a level of comfort that may not have existed as much had I been a man, and that helps in the therapeutic process. There are no obstacles, as I have grown up believing that being a woman should never be a barrier, always a strength.
What do you love most about living in Pakistan?
I love the concept of family here. When I was working in New York, people would come in to see me for counseling and have one or two people who were present in their lives – maybe a mother or a friend. But people here who come in for therapy, especially children, often have support systems in such huge numbers from grandmothers to uncles and aunts and family friends. Being a witness to the family support that exists here is a beautiful thing.
What is something that has surprised you or continues to surprise you in this industry?
Talking about Pakistan in particular, I’d have to say the lack of professionalism. There seems to be little awareness about what therapeutic help is and that many individuals in the Psychology field in this country take advantage of this by giving people misleading information or guidance for their own personal benefit.
What advice would you give to someone who is apprehensive about seeing a psychologist?
If you or your child is trying to manage or understand troubling situations in your lives it would benefit you to seek guidance from someone who has experience in helping people in similar situations. At the appropriate time, psychological therapy can positively impact an individual’s entire life.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
I work a great deal with children who struggle with the prevalent system of schooling – meaning children who just don’t fit into the system because of academic or even social reasons.
Therefore, I try to work with their parents and schools in developing alternate forms of learning or coping that will help the children to thrive and succeed. Developing this team approach with schools has been challenging as this type of guidance has rarely been implemented here – but I am slowly seeing success and I am confident this concept will change over time.
What advice would you give to a younger you when you were first starting off?
To explore the differences of practicing in Pakistan compared to in the West.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I normally see women for therapy in the mornings and afternoons and then children in the evenings. This is usually followed by spending time with family.
How do you balance your personal life with your work demands?
During the week, my life mainly consists of work, research and spending time with family. Then on the weekend I have more time to relax, be social and meet friends.
When you’re not working you are…
Reading, watching movies and spending time with friends and family.
Favorite Vacation Spot: I don’t have a favorite – just love to travel to new placees
What perfume do you wear: J’adore by Dior
Favorite Restaurant: Andaaz
Addicted to: Music
Secret talent: I write poetry
You like your coffee with: Milk and sugar
You hate it when you see people wearing: I don’t really have strong reactions to what people wear, but maybe too much make-up
Your closet is a shrine to? Scarves and shawls
Favorite Designer: Not sure I have a favourte but I love the clothes by Lace
Oldest item in your closet? My great grandmother’s brooch
Necessary extravagance: Travelling
Favorite piece of furniture in you home? An orange rocking chair
In your DVD player right now: Downton Abbey
Book on your bedside table drawer: A White Trail by Haroon Khalid
Most typically Pakistani thing about you: I am a big halwapuri fan
Who/what makes you laugh uncontrollably? My younger brother and my husband
When you are happiest? When I’m here, in Pakistan
For more information on the services provided at Natasha’s practice you can contact her at: email@example.com