When did you know a career in psychology was for you?
This was while I was doing my undergraduate degree from LUMS. My stumbling into psychology was actually a happenstance. Till that point I hadnâ€™t liked medicine, sciences or business subjects. However, psychology instantly clicked for me, and the more I studied psychology courses, my passion for this field became clear to me.
What is your background and training?
I am a Fulbright scholar who did his Masters in Counseling for Mental Health & Wellness from New York University. I have been professionally working as a mental health counselor since 2011. I have attended numerous trainings, conferences and workshops in the U.S. and Iâ€™ve been lucky to have received training in prestigious institutes like the Albert Ellis Institute and Omega in New York.
Tell us about the assessment tests you have developed. What issues are they addressing? How are they being received?
As a mental health practitioner, Iâ€™m licensed and eligible to administer psychometric assessments. I offer various international instruments for career and personality assessment through my company called PsychAbility. These licensed tools are used around the world to help students select career paths from high school, college and beyond. They also help first time career seekers to determine what sort of jobs and environments would suit their unique personality. I also offer assessments that are used by organizations for leadership enrichment and development, conflict resolution, team building etc. These tests are used by 99 of the top 100 colleges in the U.S as well as most Fortune 500 companies. Iâ€™m also working with dozens of schools throughout Pakistan who use these tests to help students decide on their O and A Level subjects, as well as universities to help their students decide on their Majors. There is an initial hesitation and skepticism in individuals and institutions regarding these, given their novelty. However, the benefits are hugely acknowledged by students, parents, and institutions alike.
What are your clinical interest areas? Tell us a little about your practice.
I work with individuals struggling with mood disorders, anxiety, marital and relationship issues, gender identity, unresolved grief and loss, career and educational issues, anger management, low self-esteem and other issues pertaining to wellness. I offer both individual as well as group therapy. I practice with TherapyWorks Lahore and only take 8-10 clients a week to ensure quality service.
Can you walk us through a therapy session?
I begin any therapy session with a new client with the question â€œwhat brings you to therapy?â€ A clientâ€™s narrative unfolds over the course of therapy that may explore their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. An environment of trust, confidentiality, safety and non-judgment facilitates a clientâ€™s expression of their life story, their triumphs and traumas. Expressing oneself in a therapeutic relationship not only brings insight and awareness to a client but also facilitates change. A therapist may apply a range of techniques depending on the clientâ€™s issues and the goals of therapy. Some therapy sessions may be structured and focused on problem solving, or learning new skills. Others may be free-flowing in processing painful memories or specific events. Yet other sessions may spent using specific techniques like using visualizations, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, cognitive restructuring, use of art therapy etc.
What made you decide to live and practice in Lahore?
Iâ€™m a Lahori born and bred. The pace of life in Lahore, the people, the food and fruits, the rain, fog as well as the tormenting summer sun makes Lahore irreplaceable for me. I resolved a while ago that going to other cities and countries would only be for leisure and work.Â I live and work in Lahore by choice. Thereâ€™s really no other place that I am able to call home.
There is a perception that there is a dearth of professional therapists in Lahore. Do you feel that’s true?
Thatâ€™s quite true. We may be able to count therapists in Lahore on our finger tips. Especially young therapists educated and trained abroad in counseling (in contrast to clinical psychology) are few. Male therapists are fewer. This may sound vane but I donâ€™t know any another male therapist in Lahore besides myself. Some statistics suggest that there may be fewer than a 1000 practicing mental health professionals in the entire country.
What’s the most challenging part of your job? Most rewarding?
In countries abroad, people may generally have an idea of how therapy works. However, here many clients may come to a therapist with an expectation of receiving advice from an â€œexpertâ€ which is a misperception. This makes it a challenge, bridging the cultural expectations regarding therapy that our job is to advise. My work is extremely rewarding seeing people grow; regaining their previous selves; their becoming unstuck and reaching their potential; their becoming flexible, coping better, being energized, and over the process of therapy, their becoming stable and fulfilled in their own lives. Seeing this very change in individuals is beautiful and extremely rewarding.
Do you have any client success stories you would like to share?
There are dozens of such stories. People recovering from deep personal and relational losses. Some discovering their true vocational calling and excelling in those. Others have recovered from their fears, and experience a renewed sense of life. Yet others become better connected with their own selves, their families, work and finding purpose and meaning in life. Iâ€™m purposefully being vague here for reasons of confidentiality, however, time and again my experiencing the triumph of the human spirit, and seeing resilience, strength and fulfillment emergingÂ in individuals who have been bruised, battered and broken by their circumstances or other people.
What advice would you give to young people who want to pursue a career in psychology?
I genuinely believe that we have a dearth of mental health counselors, therapists, school counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists and other professionals in this field, in Lahore as well as overall in Pakistan. People who care for others and may be interested in human behavior, this is a rewarding and growing field in Pakistan.
How do you balance your work life with your professional life?
I do have a 50-60 hour work week. So, a lot goes into my self-care. Mindfulness practices, a good diet, regular sleeping, exercise, time with friends and family, and a couple of breaks during the year help me stay energized.
What do you love most about living in Lahore?
Being around friends and family
When you’re not working you areâ€¦
On my couch watching TV.
Fav. vacation spot: Kauai Island in Hawaii
Cologne you wear: Issey Miyake
What makes you impatient?: Bureaucracy
Addicted to: Chai
If I could change one thing about me, it would be:Â Iâ€™m alright, thank you.
Secret talent: I can sleep for a whole day if time permitted
I like my coffee with: Biscuits
Brain or brawn: Brains
Love or money: Love
You hate it when you see people wearing: Pieces of clothing, jewelry and shoes which may be a hazard to oneself and others
Your closet is a shrine to: Plain white and black tee shirts
Favorite designer: Cole Haan
Oldest item in your closet?: Cards and gifts Iâ€™ve received
Necessary extravagance: Electronics
Fav. piece of furniture in your home: My couch
In my DVD player: Homeland
Most typically Pakistani thing about me: Absolute love for desi food
What makes you laugh uncontrollably? Pakistani theatre dramas and standup comedians like Russell Peters
When are you happiest? Right before sleeping, reflecting on my day, being grateful for being alive and healthy and loving what I do