‘Psychology is my life’

How did you get into psychology?

As a young person I was secretary of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Bloemfontein and treasurer of the Students’ Christian Movement at Moroka High School, a boarding school in Thaba Nchu in the Free State. I then became secretary of the Young Adult Youth Alive and of Youth Alliance. I was also an active member of the Turret College Student Movement.

My experience with these organisations gave me an understanding of the socio-political and economic situation and the plight of black people under apartheid. Their suffering motivated me to take up psychology in order to contribute to the healing process of our country.

During school holidays, together with my colleagues, I used most of my time working as a volunteer at Orlando Orphanage in Soweto. I loved working and helping other people to better their lives, which transformed their mindsets and restored their dignity.

In 1982 through a childhood friend, Dr Buti Kale, who is now deputy director of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Washington, DC, I received sponsorship from the late Manuela Abbe to study in France. A year later I got a scholarship from the minister of education in France to study psychology at the University of Franche-Compté in Besançon. I completed all my studies in French, which I found pretty difficult, and obtained my masters degree in clinical psychology. In 1995 I returned home to work as a psychologist.

Where did you go to school?

I received my foundation education at Bochabela Primary and proceeded to Marang Secondary school in Bloemfontein. One of my teachers was the late Winkie Direko, the former premier of the Free State. I then moved to Moroka High, a boarding school in Thaba Nchu, while studying there I was detained with a group of students who challenged Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in schools. Upon my release from prison I was expelled from school. I then had to study O levels at a Sached Trust-run Turret College in Johannesburg, an alternative education private college. My studies were interrupted and I had to complte O levels in Swaziland. This is where my career was shaped and my political conscience sharpened.

In 1982 I left for France and only returned home in 1995. Little did I know that it was going to be a struggle getting a job as a psychologist. With the help of the wonderful Professor Queen Mokhuane, I was employed at Medunsa as a senior lecturer and supervisor for masters students in clinical psychology and final-year dental students.

One of the professors I had come to know, Professor Charles Vorster, advised me to pursue forensic psychology studies at Pretoria University. I followed that advice and qualified.

The collective contributions of all these professionals encouraged me to start my own practice — KJM Health Wellness.

In 2010 I was honoured with another scholarship, from Yale University and USAID, to study with the Foundation for Professional Development (FPD) based in Pretoria. I studied advanced health management locally and internationally. I graduated in December 2011.

This experience enlightened me about HIV/Aids and other health-related issues in our country.

I believe that there is potential to normalise the health system in South Africa and educate our people about their health.

What is interesting about the field you chose?

While every situation is unique and needs to be treated as such, it is interesting for me as a psychology practitioner to see people through therapy intervention changing their negative thoughts to positive ones, with a resultant behavioural change.

What should young people do to get into your field of forensic psychology?

It is important that young people complete their master’s degree in psychology before they can study forensic psychology because they must be in a position to understand the differences between the two. In clinical psychology we empower clients to deal with their emotional and psychological pain. In forensic psychology we make recommendations to the court as expert witnesses.

Was there an event or a person who encouraged you to go into the field?

My childhood friend Dr Buti Kale and other members of my family encouraged me to go for a career that is people oriented. My parents Edwin and Vicky Morata who supported me. Kale said it was my calling from God.

What value would you say your field adds to human existence?

My work adds value to all humankind because we all have challenges — emotionally, psychologically, financially — and all of them affect our families and work environments. I render my services to individuals, families, the private sector, mines, government, churches and schools.

I do wellness workshops in the workplace, and for women and couples. I provide professional advice to the broader population through the media as a panelist and an adviser.

Who do you admire most in your profession?

I admire Professor Queen Mokhuane, under whose leadership I was privileged to work. She is the first black woman psychologist in South Africa and head of clinical psychology at Medunsa.

What do you do when you are not working?

I spend quality time with my family, my parther Shadrack Nakeli and visit my parents in Soweto. It is important to me to reconnect with them because I travel a lot. I also set aside time for myself — to get a spa massage, or to read and listen to gospel music. I also escape to prayer retreats and spend time at couples meetings. It is also important for me to have regular meetings with my colleagues for debriefing sessions as clinicians to check how we are doing in our workplace. I structure my end-of-the-year holidays with my family to have meaningful family bonding; this helps me to have a good start in the new year.

What is your message to young people who want to go into your field?

For young and old people who would like to become psychologists it is important to have passion and not to be judgmental. You must have love for people and respect ethics. In this way you can help others recover from pain. You must be a good listener and communicator. You must understand that you are handling real-life issues that individuals may have been battling with for many years and keep strict confidentiality. They must also be able to refer to other medical professionals. People will come to you because they trust that they are going to get help from you and solutions for their problems.

Ketso Moorosi’s rooms are located at Lister Building, Suite 1002, 10th Floor, Cnr Jeppe & Small Street, Johannesburg, Tel: 011 337 3227

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