An Insight into the World of Psychosocial Work

By Jasniza Johari. Photos courtesy of Miss Foo Pei Lynn and Ooi Giap Sim.

The DISTED Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) degree students were given an inspiring perspective on careers related to the field of psychosocial work by guest speaker Miss Silviane Bonadei, Coordinator of the 2 Way Centre. The 2 Way Centre, an initiative of the Penang Mental Health Association, is catered to aid and educate children and adolescents with special needs and their families. Miss Bonadei shared her experience in aid work in several countries under different organisations, and lent several helpful pointers for students who are interested in taking up psychosocial or psychology-related careers. Held on the 11th of June, School of Psychology Programme Coordinator Miss Foo Pei Lynn and lecturer Miss Asnina Anandan were also present at the lecture.

Miss Silviane Bonadei developed an interest in working with children with special needs from a young age. “They were integrating special needs children into mainstream schools,” said Miss Bonadei of her childhood in Switzerland. “My parents often encouraged me to help these children. As a young child, I often visited the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva. In the years to come, I found myself working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)”. Miss Bonadei’s work with the ICRC – a humanitarian institution dealing with the protection and aid of the war wounded, prisoners and refugees – has brought her to countries such as Indonesia.
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Miss Silviane Bonadei sharing her psychosocial work experience with DISTED Psychology students at the guest lecture.
Miss Silviane Bonadei sharing her psychosocial work experience with DISTED Psychology students at the guest lecture.

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Miss Silviane speaks on the important values of working in the field, as listed down by Psychology students during their interactive session.
Miss Silviane speaks on the important values of working in the field, as listed down by Psychology students during their interactive session.

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The speaker has also worked with children with special needs for the past 15 years in Malaysia. With the DISTED School of Psychology students and lecturers, she shared about her work as a special educator at the 2 Way Centre, her work with autistic children as well as her previous experience working in a children’s shelter in Scotland. During the interactive session, Miss Bonadei also asked the audience to suggest several qualities that may be of necessity when getting involved in the field of psychosocial work, prompting students to list down qualities such as patience, tolerance, empathy, resilience and passion. “In this line of work, it is also important to have listening and observation skills, to be able to understand people, provide feedback and lastly, support,” said Miss Bonadei of the vital skills required when working with special needs children and their families.

Second-year student Vickram Venugopal commented, “I believe that the skills pointed out during the lecture today would be useful for those who want to pursue careers in Psychology, particularly counselling and clinical work. Those who intend to work with children too should find these skills very useful.”

Other than acquiring positive values and necessary skills, Miss Bonadei also spoke of other required aspects of careers within the field. “Empathy is the way to go,” she said. “Being judgemental will lead you nowhere. Passion, perseverance, persistence – these will help to carry you forward without burning out.” She also told students that psychosocial work requires one to be determined to make a difference in people’s lives, and that the opportunity to learn should always be taken. “Leaving work to others will only deprive yourself of experience,” said Miss Bonadei.

These words struck a chord with second-year student Jasper Tan Si Kai, who said, “The values and skills mentioned by the speaker are definitely something one should take note of, regardless of the career pursued.”
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An activity with the students on understanding the various unique qualities possessed by each individual.
An activity with the students on understanding the various unique qualities possessed by each individual.

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Miss Silviane Bonadei sharing her psychosocial work Psychology students posing with Miss Silviane Bonadei and Miss Foo Pei Lynn (centre).
Miss Silviane Bonadei sharing her psychosocial work Psychology students posing with Miss Silviane Bonadei and Miss Foo Pei Lynn (centre).

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The lecture also delivered a new perspective to students on performing psychosocial work within different contexts. “Working in different countries with different cultural backgrounds and different people, we need to be sensitive to culture and life experiences of each individual rather than preconceived ideas,” said Miss Bonadei. She is also currently involved with MERCY Malaysia and the country’s first Child Trauma Psychosocial Response Team pioneered in Penang, working to help child victims of the Typhoon Haiyan in Ormoc City, Philippines.

The session ended with a short activity by Miss Bonadei asking the audience to each draw a head, a heart and a hand, and then to list down what they thought they were good at in these areas. She then explained the nature of this activity, “You will realise that you are better at tasks in certain areas than in others. These days, children are often reinforced to think that if they do not excel in studying, they are incapable of anything else. However, other qualities do exist.”

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and broadening talk for the Psychology students and lecturers. Student Shih Hon Soon jovially commented, “It was great to be able to hear of experiences of those who have embarked on careers like these.” Another student, first-year Loo Ee Lynn also said of the session, “It was indeed wholesome and inspirational. I think more students should be active in volunteering activities, so that the skills mentioned can be put to good practice.”