Psychology alumna Hind Sara Bechari Martin graduated with first-class honours and received the Tom Walsh Prize for the best thesis from London Met in 2018. She is now an Honorary Assistant Psychologist at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. We caught up with Hind to share her university experience and how her course has helped carve her career.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I am half Italian and half Moroccan, I was born and raised in Trieste, Italy. After a few years of living in Rome, I moved to London in 2011. I wish I had a good story about why I moved to London, but it was really random. I wanted to spend the summer in a foreign country to learn a new language and it just happened that I had a friend living in London. At the end of the summer, I was meant to go back to Italy, however, I spoke to a few people who studied in the United Kingdom and I really liked that psychology could be studied with a scientific approach rather than the mainly humanistic one adopted in Italy and France.
How would you describe the journey you’ve been on?
Well, it’s been tough. I started with a part-time foundation course and worked two jobs to support myself for two years. During my undergraduate course, I worked full-time as a fashion marketing manager and volunteered with Alzheimer’s Society. I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices but it has been worth it! What definitely helps is that I absolutely love psychology, and the vision of becoming a psychologist in the near future has been inspiring and motivating me through this journey.
How has London Met and your course helped on that journey?
Dr Paul Hutchison has been of great support from the very beginning. Other highly relevant figures in my journey were Dr Chris Chandler, Dr Chris Lange-Küttner, Shara Lochun and Bernard Aidoo. Either at some stage of the journey or throughout, each of these people inspired me, helped me, supervised me, or even just listened to me when it was most needed. Other than teaching me extremely invaluable knowledge and skills, they were responsible for me understanding my full potential and make use of it.
What makes psychology course a valuable degree?
It’s a mind-opening journey. It's not just about human behaviour, but it also teaches an endless amount of transferable skills that come in handy in many different situations. It opens the door to several career paths, and even if someone doesn’t pursue a career in psychology, the knowledge gained in the field is invaluable.
Do you feel that you’ve changed as a person through your uni experience?
I totally have! I am not the same person I was when I first started my course, and for the most part, I am very proud of the changes. When I started I had a lot of curiosity and quite a few ‘potential skills’ that weren’t fully developed. I now am extremely organised, I have learnt to prioritise and use critical thinking as a default thinking style, both in academic and professional situations, and the list of the things I gained through my uni experience goes on and on. On a personal level, I also feel like I’ve changed: with greater knowledge of human behaviour and mental health, only positive traits can come your way.
What are you currently doing?
At the moment I am building my experience. I work as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic and soon I will be working as a Bank Assistant Psychologist at West London NHS trust. I have also trained as a Crisis Counsellor and volunteer as one at the newly launched UK Crisis Text Line #giveusashout.
At The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, there’s no day like another, but on a general basis I carry out research, admin and clinical work. As an Assistant Psychologist I have constant professional interactions with people who are receiving mental health support, as well as experienced clinical, counselling and forensic psychologists. I also write psychoeducational self-help guides for clients, potential clients and the public. While at my volunteering job I specifically support people who are going through a crisis.
At the university, who has had the most impact on your development and why?
I can’t really just name one person because different people helped me develop different things. I’d say if I really have to narrow it down to three, it would be Dr Paul Hutchison because he was there since the very beginning and has gone out of his way to help me on many occasions. Then Dr Chris Lange-Küttner - my dissertation supervisor, because she welcomed my ideas and guided me through with her knowledge. She also went out of her way to support me throughout and after the publication process. I am very proud of that project (a new cognitive rehabilitation training for dementia sufferers) which was also awarded the best thesis of 2018. Finally, Dr Chris Chandler, has had a great impact, the modules he taught were probably the most challenging I’ve come across, yet he worked hard to make sure we really understood, and this was crucial for what followed which is us, or at least me, to fall in love with psychobiology and clinical neuroscience.
How has the university inspired you?
I have to say, I very often felt inspired after lectures. Especially clinical and counselling psychology as they were a taste of what I’d like to do for the rest of my life. In terms of work skills, all the merit goes to Shara Lochun. The skills she taught me, and the perfectionist in me that she ‘triggered’, were extremely useful at my current jobs. Thanks to her I learned to strive to give a professional, competent, clear and precise layout to all my work. I have to say I’m really thankful as this has reflected in my current jobs, where psychologists have referred to my work especially my reports and psychoeducation guides as ‘awesome’, ‘brilliant’, ‘perfect’, ‘great work’, ‘pro job’.
What’s your ambition for the future?
I am still going to work hard to build my experience. My nearest goal is to be accepted at the professional doctorate, which would allow me to become who I dream to be, who I strongly believe I am meant to be and who I want to be: a psychologist.
Can you describe your experience in one word?
Any advice for new students?
Honestly, I have plenty. I’ll limit to share those I believe I really wished I had known earlier, or that really helped me achieve high marks:
- Get experience from your first year. It will be easier to secure a paid job in the field of psychology once you finish. If you are interested in clinical, counselling, health or forensic psychology, work experience as mental health care assistant, support worker, honorary assistant psychologist, are all valuable options. If you are interested in educational psychology, completing work expereince as a teaching assistant, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist or Special Educational Needs (SEN) teaching assistants are all great places to start.
- When you are in trouble, ask for help. I received amazing support.
- Before starting an assignment, try to really understand what’s asked of you and what the title really means. Going off-board is easy and penalising.
- Help each other. In my year we helped each other a lot and even proofread each other's work. Sometimes discussing an assignment with a classmate you get some insight you didn’t consider in the first place and that will help you get those first class marks we all like.
- Doing all the relevant reading for an essay can result in a very large number of resources. Copy and paste all the relevant information you read in one file. Write headings and group or categorise the information. When you get to the writing stage, it helps to organise your mind, your thoughts, your knowledge, you can easily access relevant information and most of all it works wonders for the structure of the essays.