Inspiring creative reflexivity in clinical psychologists
Durban personality, Dr Devi Rajab, recently spoke at a function for clinical psychologists at the Department of Behavioural Medicine in the School of Public Health and Nursing.
Many of the interns and their supervisors at the talk had a week earlier attended the show Botoo, at the Playhouse Theatre. Written by the venerable Ronnie Govender and based on writings by Rajab in her book Women: South Africans of Indian origin, the play was about Dr Kesaveloo Goonam, a feisty but principled feminist, who was South Africa’s first qualified woman Indian doctor.
Goonam was jailed 18 times for her anti-apartheid activities. The play highlighted the many paradoxes of the principled activist - a sari-clad, fluent Tamil speaker as well as a keen smoker and Scotch drinker.
At the talk, Rajab discussed the importance of the arts in critical thinking and psychological practice as too often, as a psychologist, perspectives were class based.
‘Even Freud used the work of Shakespeare and Greek mythology to develop his ideas in psychoanalysis,’ she reminded the audience. ‘Art gives you the vehicle with which to speak up,’ she noted, using examples of political protest which relied on more artistic forms of rebellion.
Her column in The Mercury, “Devi’s Diary”, often tackles socio-political issues in sharp and witty analysis. Her collection of writings in No Subject is Taboo, is testament to that.
‘You’ve got to be introspective,’ she advised, describing the creative tension between her roles as both public writer and psychologist. ‘I realised I was revealing things about myself in what I write, and people were finding out more about me than what I wrote about.
‘To be a good clinician and a good writer know the world experientially and expose yourself to other stuff outside Western perspectives, people like Rabindranath Tagore. As a writer you don’t only write for others but in the process, you learn about yourself and the need to write boldly and without fear.’
Rajab concluded the discussion saying: ‘You need to know your limitations, because it teaches you about yourself. Through every experience you should learn something.’
This event was inspired by the need to provide space for creative reflexivity as an essential skill of emerging psychologists.
The Department of Behavioural Medicine co-ordinates the year-long clinical psychology internship for interns who rotate through various public hospitals - including Addington, King Edward, and King Dinuzulu - before completing an additional year of community service.