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Community Story: Zuraida Dada of Invictus Psychology

August 23, 2023

Meet Zuraida Dada, psychologist and clinic owner of Invictus Psychology based in Alberta, Canada. Established in 2003, Invictus Psychology’s collaborative approach to mental health care is helping people reconnect with themselves and strengthen their resilience, so they can live a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a psychologist

My story begins in South Africa. I was born during the apartheid era in a small town called Polokwane. Under apartheid, universities were segregated, and due to apartheid-related laws and legal restrictions, permission from the apartheid government’s Minister of Education was needed to attend “whites only” universities. Additionally, university seats available for BIPOC populations were significantly restricted, fostering unnecessary competition and division within the BIPOC communities. I was successful in obtaining a seat to study at a “whites only” university – the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), the same Alma Mater as Nelson Mandela, and where I shared classes with Winnie Mandela.

I attended university at the height of the anti-apartheid movement and actively participated as an anti-apartheid activist. I completed my undergraduate degree and a postgraduate diploma in HR management at Wits Business School. I worked in human resources management and pursued a master’s degree in industrial psychology. I helped organizations with post-apartheid transformation efforts, recognizing the profound impact apartheid had on every aspect of our lives.

I became one of the first psychologists, specifically an industrial psychologist, in my hometown. I immigrated to Canada with my family in 2006. I established my private practice in South Africa in 2003 and have been successful in continuing it here in Alberta and in Ontario. I have been a licensed psychologist in Alberta since 2007 and in Ontario since 2021, with specializations in I/O Psychology and Counselling Psychology.

What is industrial and organisational psychology?

Industrial/Organizational psychology, also known as IO psychology, is the psychology of the workplace and includes, but is not limited to, organizational practices, culture, processes, employee behaviour, and team dynamics. The HR profession is an allied field to I/O psychology. However, there are differences, and one of the key distinctions is that while HR focuses on various aspects of human resources management, IO psychology specializes in assessments and analysis.

For example, in I/O Psychology, skill-related assessments such as visual-spatial recognition to evaluate skills relevant to specific professions, like train engineers, are regularly designed and administered. Other assessments, such as exercises to evaluate time management and the ability to work under pressure, are also created and conducted. The design and administration of these types of assessments require specialized training and licenses.

Over the past few years, one of the most significant impacts of COVID-19 has been the rise of virtual work and remote work from home. In my practice, I have firsthand experience of this transformation and have been exploring the challenges of remote work, including integrating organizational culture into home workspaces, as well as the disproportionate impact it has had on women. They faced increased responsibilities for childcare and homeschooling alongside their professional roles.

As an I/O psychologist, my work extends beyond the traditional HR framework. Now I’m striving to create awareness and foster an understanding of the complexities involved in achieving work-life balance and productivity in evolving work environments.

How have you seen the work-from-home move change psychology practices?

Prior to the pandemic, 90% of my counselling work was conducted in person. Now, I would say that the vast majority (approximately 80%) of my sessions take place online. In my own practice, in-person appointments are often substituted with virtual sessions. Anecdotally, from what I have heard from my clients, the convenience and feeling of safety in one’s own home contribute to the popularity of virtual counselling. Additionally, clients have shared that when they are in a secure environment (usually their homes), they are more likely to be more open in therapy.

Furthermore, access to telepsychology for rural communities has been a significant positive development, allowing people in rural areas to receive support that would not have been possible otherwise.

How do you view the roles of both the client and yourself in the therapeutic process?

The individuals I primarily see are those who experience anxiety, depression, and trauma-related conditions; work-related issues; life stressors and changes; and require support. I adopt a client-centered approach, and I truly believe that you, the client, are the expert on yourself, while I bring expertise in understanding human behaviour and these conditions.

During a session, my goal is to help you connect with yourself and regain control over your condition/life circumstances so you can be your best self and lead a healthy and fulfilled life. While I am responsible for creating a safe context for self-growth and for providing the tools to allow that to happen, the responsibility for individual growth and change ultimately lies with the client. It’s their responsibility to make the most out of our sessions and to recognize that real progress happens between our sessions and when they implement these changes in their lives.

I provide strategies, psychoeducation, and guidance, but ultimately, I believe that you are the expert in your own life and are responsible for your actions. An analogy that I like to use for therapy is dance: therapy is like a partner dance between myself and my client. Sometimes I lead, and sometimes my client leads. For instance, I may suggest techniques to try at home, and the client tries them in their lives, and we adjust based on feedback. It’s a collaborative process of discovering what works best for the client.

What are some of the techniques you use in your collaborative approach to care?

As a cognitive behavioural therapist (CBT), my focus is on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. There are several CBT techniques, including cognitive restructuring, and identifying and addressing cognitive distortions (which are dysfunctional ways of thinking). CBT is an effective approach to helping clients change their dysfunctional thought patterns so that they can lead healthier lives.

Additionally, I’m trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a somatic technique primarily used to address trauma but also used for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. EMDR involves desensitizing and reprocessing memories to bring about healing.

My approach is truly person-centred, so I tailor the therapeutic techniques based on the client’s needs. I also incorporate spiritual approaches and continuously seek professional development opportunities to enhance my skills. Psychology is a field where there’s always more to learn, and as a lifelong learner, I’m dedicated to evolving and finding unique ways to support my clients.

For those who find it hard to reach out for mental health help, what would you say to them?

Clients often tell me that when they reach out to me, it’s their first time seeking help, and they’re anxious about those first steps. I often use the analogy of seeking help for an electrical or plumbing problem in your home. When the issue persists despite your attempts to solve it, you recognize your limitations and reach out to a professional for help. Similarly, seeking therapy is about solving problems and understanding oneself better to improve one’s life.

It’s important to acknowledge our own limitations and realize that reaching out for support is a way to address those limitations. Anxiety, in particular, is fear-based, leading to what-if scenarios and catastrophizing. Being gentle with oneself and recognizing that anxiety may create hesitancy in seeking support are crucial.

It’s essential to understand that having anxiety or depression doesn’t mean that there is something inherently wrong with you; it’s a condition that can be managed, similar to other health conditions like diabetes. Seeking help is about learning to manage and cope with these conditions effectively.

What methods do you use to help ease new clients when they arrive for their first session with you?

Validation is a key strategy I use to acknowledge and understand clients’ fears and emotions. I also offer a free 15-minute consultation to ensure that I’m a good fit and can address their presenting issues.

My approach to sessions is conversational. I am practical and solutions-oriented. I see clients as human beings first and do my best to meet them where they are. I prioritize the therapeutic alliance and psychoeducation. I help clients understand the nature of their conditions, identify their thinking patterns and internal beliefs, and provide them with tools and strategies to manage their conditions and navigate through their lives.

As mentioned, it’s important to establish that clients are the experts on themselves, while I provide guidance and shine a light on blind spots. As conditions such as anxiety and depression can hinder clear thinking, my aim is to help clients identify and challenge their cognitive distortions, access rational thinking, and gain an objective perspective on their self-perception and their lives.

What other work are you doing outside of your practice?

I am an avid volunteer in my profession and a passionate social justice advocate. In my role as a social justice advocate, I have been engaged in projects addressing social injustice and the experiences of racism while focusing on tools and strategies to address and navigate through these situations. I have been invited to contribute to an e-book on counselling with a focus on injustice and racism. In June, I was elected to the role of Chair-Elect for the Canadian Psychological Association’s Counselling Section. I am preparing for a presentation that I will deliver at a counselling conference in October. Additionally, I am completing my PhD in Psychology with a focus on post-traumatic growth and personal resilience.

How do you help those who have experienced racism?

The first step is understanding that the experience of racism in and of itself is traumatic. Through a trauma-informed lens, I aim to help clients navigate and recover from these experiences. It is also really essential to address the disconnect between our training as psychologists and the realities of racism that we as people of colour face. My current work aims to bridge this gap by openly discussing these situations and developing protocols to effectively support clients and counsellors alike.

Validation is crucial for clients to feel safe and understood. They appreciate knowing that someone comprehends what they are going through, as it helps them regain a sense of control amidst challenging circumstances.

How did you hear about Jane?

My daughter actually introduced me to Jane! She is a psychologist, too. Prior to joining me in my practice, she had worked with other psychologists and they had used Jane too.

Jane Team Shoutout: Jane automatically sends an email reminder to clients with an incomplete intake form 24 hours before their appointment. We want to make sure that clients have a dedicated reminder to complete their intake forms, with an eye-catching subject line that’s hard to miss.

How were you running your practice before joining Jane?**

For a long time, I managed my practice without any scheduling or billing system. I handled everything manually, including scheduling clients and sending invoices.

When my daughter told me about Jane, it was the first comprehensive system that I had encountered, and I instantly loved it. As I am not particularly tech-savvy, Jane has been a comprehensive solution for me and my practice. As administration is not a strength of mine and is a time-consuming endeavour, what I really value and appreciate is that Jane takes care of the administrative tasks that I used to do manually, like typing invoices and reaching out to clients to remind them of their appointments.

Another invaluable feature is that Jane also allows me to securely charge credit cards, thereby eliminating the often challenging task of following up with clients (after the fact). Jane is an invaluable, reliable, and efficient tool that allows me to focus on what I love and run my practice seamlessly and efficiently. Jane meets my needs perfectly!


Connect with Zuraida through her website

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