Psychologist logo
BPS updates

One to one… Dr Nandini Jayachandran

We dip into the Society member database and pick out Dr Nandini Jayachandran, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology & Head of the Department of Clinical Psychology, Institute for Communicative & Cognitive Neurosciences, Trivandrum, Kerala.

19 April 2022

One challenge at work

My job entails clinical case management, teaching, and research in neuro-developmental disorders. In a typical workday I apportion time to handle therapy sessions, evaluate and assess new clients, and have discussions and offer guidance to my research staff. In addition, I take up teaching assignments which I thoroughly enjoy. Handling all these roles together is often challenging in terms of time, but the effort is less obvious now, as I am a novelty seeker – I find something new in them every day.

One film

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a 2014 Indo-American comedy drama about the cold war between two chefs – a Michelin starred restaurant owner (Helen Mirren) and an immigrant Indian chef (Om Puri) who work 100 ft across the road from each other. I remember its portrayal of jealousy and bitterness, and the slow eventual acceptance of the culinary skills of the Indian chef’s son (Mangal Pandey). It is a reassuring depiction of how a true professional with integrity can appreciate, mentor and support others who are talented in their sphere of expertise.

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists

No psychologist, however qualified, is competent enough without years of experience with patients/clients. They are your best teachers. Each case shows another aspect about a diagnosis or symptom which you may not have noticed before, which will surprise you, if you are open enough in each new case as your first case. This will stir your interest and curiosity, inspire you to read and learn more, and help you to become a better psychologist. 

One hope for psychology

Psychology is a vast subject area with the potential to touch our lives on different levels, be it personal, educational, occupational or relationship oriented. So it is absolutely essential that we ensure more young people take up the role of Psychologists as a profession, so that more people get the benefit. Need-based professional Psychology courses should be started at University level by able partnerships with hospitals and research centres who offer clinical or rehabilitative services to patients with disabilities, or specific pathological problems, or general coping difficulties.

One lesson learnt

I had the good luck to be part of the organisation I work with from its inception. I have initiated many professional activities like group training programs, social skill training programs for children with specific learning disabilities, and parental training. Plus, I’ve had administrative responsibilities like organising conferences, representing the institution and initiating independent research projects. Having had these opportunities, I have learned that the driving forces that will help you excel in whatever endeavour is passion in what you do. You put in the hard work, but it doesn’t feel so hard when you’re enthusiastic.

One inspiration

My research interests have been in developmental dyscalculia. Way back in the 1990s and 2000s, there was not much research on this in my country except for by Dr Ramaa and Dr Gowramma. I have been deeply influenced by Dr Steve Chinn’s remediation work and experiments with children with dyscalculia. He offered generous support and encouragement to me by sharing relevant literature at a time when I was totally new to this area. 

Dr J.P. Das, Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Alberta, Canada, also left a deep impact on me. Dr Das initiated the PASS theory of intelligence and validated specific cognitive retraining packages at a time when such initiatives were rare for neurodevelopmental disorders. Both have instilled in me the idea that development and validation of remedial training packages is the most valuable contribution researchers in this area can make.

One article from The Psychologist

A revolution for the at-risk’ by Emily J.H. Jones and Mark H. Johnson in September 2016 detailed the current status on early intervention in neurodevelopmental disorders. They shed light on the changes needed to target the mechanisms underlying the surface features of conditions like autism and ADHD, so that children at heightened risk can be helped, rather than waiting for the emergence of a recognisable clinical syndrome.

One book

It’s difficult to choose between these books so here are two! During my initial days in clinics, autism was a challenging condition to manage, and I was finding it difficult to figure out what meaning the restricted behaviours and interests might have for them. Thinking in pictures by Dr Temple Grandin, a scientist and autism advocate, was an eye-opener into the autistic often visual world, which resulted in a sea change in the way I began to offer therapies to autistic people.

Fractured Minds: A case study approach to clinical neuropsychology, edited by Jenni A. Ogden, helped me learn the neurological underpinnings of conditions in simple and lucid language and about neuropsychological testing and its interpretation.

One thing psychologists should be proud of

Psychologists have this uncanny ability to understand people around us, which is can be automatic and makes us more tolerant. We are often looked upon by the public with hope, as people they can depend on, share their concerns and deepest problems with, and ultimately help them to be better.

One challenge

In India there is a lopsided importance given to Clinical Psychology, which in itself has a vast number of sub-specialities. At times it gives a wrong impression that Psychology is limited to that only. The challenge is to start more diverse practical courses, both Degree and Diploma level, in areas like Organisational Behaviour, Rehabilitation Psychology, and Educational Psychology. This will ensure that specific client populations get quality psychological assistance.