In recent years, the importance of human psychology in our society has become increasingly understood. We interviewed clinical sports psychologist Dr. Seren Akıncı Özdurulmuş about people’s approaches to psychologists and their own psychology in recent years, the positive and negative aspects of psychology-based information spread on social media, the popular family syntax with a TV series, and the subtleties of raising children.
Ms. Özdurulmuş, can we ask to what do you attribute the understanding of the importance of human psychology in our country in recent years, and the fact that mental health specialists are not seen as “mad doctors”?
As in many areas, we have of course seen the effects of accessing information more easily in the field of psychology recently, and this has a positive effect. In the past, psychology was seen only as clinical psychology or as a body that only needed support for seemingly problematic behaviors, but recently it has been realized how important it is to maintain a state of well-being. This, of course, has increased the need for support. On the other hand, of course, some psychology-based TV series also had the following effect: It was observed that even the characters in these series, who can be seen as extreme in society and never want to undergo a restructuring of their own inner past, received support. We should not deny this. Apart from that, in this new age we live in, people work more intensely, and it is not possible to socialize as one did before, in terms of free time. On top of all that, we had to isolate ourselves during the pandemic. When all these combined and the difficulties in socializing were added, people needed to express themselves in a reliable environment without being judged. In this sense, we have reached a period in which our profession stands out much more.
There is still a segment of society in which it is taboo to seek a psychologist’s support.
What perspectives and attitudes do you think society should change in this regard?
Although it now appears to be a small fraction compared to the past, there is still a segment of society in which it is taboo to seek a psychologist’s support. Everyone has individual differences, and everyone can have different opinions. Some may get the necessary social support by seeing a psychologist, while some may think that they have this need met in a conversation with their neighbors and may not be aware that they need professional support at the moment. I think the most important thing here is, we grow up in a system where our own internal awareness is not very prominent. We live in a society in which we usually do what we are told, assuming that we will be more peaceful when we live without breaking the rules, because of this, we are usually too late to ask ourselves these questions: “What do I actually want or don’t want, what bothers me, what makes me feel more peaceful?”. I think that as this awareness develops, we will continue to receive psychological support and believe that this support is necessary not only in the case of a problem, but also to maintain a state of well-being.
We see that some mental health professionals on social media streaming and posting about psychological problems and this is increasing. How would you evaluate this with its positive and negative aspects?
Of course, the use of psychologists and psychiatrists in TV series, and similarly, “expert articles” on social media have advantages as well as disadvantages. As always and in every subject, it should always be kept in mind that not everything claimed by the identity of an expert is true and that science is based on a review of the data we have. For this reason, we should not accept the opinion of each expert without questioning and checking what the information given is and whether it is supported by other sources. I see this situation as a little more positive rather than negative, because, as I said, increasing the inner vision and realizing actually allows us to see that we can get support even in the areas where we feel helpless and that there is a solution. And sometimes, we can see that with very simple and small suggestions, people experience that awareness and control their behavior a little more. If we talk about a negative effect on this issue, the first thing that comes into my mind is the pressure that can occur especially on mothers regarding parenting. Making very strict judgments about what needs to be done can sometimes do more harm than good, and mothers may feel that they are not being ‘good enough’ as mothers. So, it is necessary to maintain this balance well.
With a series, the issue of family constellation has joined the agenda, you know. What can you tell us about the family constellation method? What kind of problems may emerge during the application of this method? Does every method fit every patient?
My family constellation got a lot of attention with a T.V. series, right. In psychology, and more precisely in psychology an area of science that studies human behavior, many different methods are used in fields that are similar to it. The method currently on the agenda known as family constellation is one of the methods used. However, here, too, we encounter methods that may pose a danger when used by non-experts and untrained people. Therefore, yes, everyone may need psychological support, but each individual has different needs and there are different solutions suitable for those needs. In other words, just as a single type of medicine is not good for every disease, not every therapy method or every technique is good for every person. This is applicable both for normal people as well as for athletes who I work with. Instead of just saying, “They do this, and I heard it is good,” one should ask, “What do I need?” What we do is like making custom clothing. ‘What is the most appropriate fabric, what is the most appropriate clothing, and how to prepare and work with them’, we are working on this. For this reason, instead of following a trend because it is popular, it is necessary to research its scientific depth and consult with competent people who are really educated on this subject and remember that this is a process.
Instead of just saying, “They do this, and I heard it is good,” one should ask, “What do I need?”
If we are someone who is not familiar with this science, what should we pay attention to when seeking support for our psychological problems?
In our business, as in any business, it is actually the right of the consumer to question our scientific expertise and knowledge. In other words, when you receive support or counseling, it is your obligation to ask where that person received their qualifications and to question their diploma. We know that many people have been trained as ‘experts’ through online education and certification programs recently; but unfortunately, there are certain programs that lack the high quality of education. So, of course, you can ask whether the expert is a well-trained person who has undergone a certain supervision process and has trained themselves specifically in the field of therapy. Apart from this, it is valuable to remember that our work is human-oriented. I mean, not every therapist is for everyone, and not everyone’s style is for everyone. The method that we can call “hitting it off” is important. It is also worth mentioning that the person you can feel comfortable with and you feel you can be yourself in front of, without being judged will be the right person for you.
Every child has a different path, every parent has a different path, and it’s valuable to know this from the start.
What do you think are the few things that parents should pay the most attention to when raising children?
In fact, I have mentioned certain aspects above. We can put it this way, every child has a different path, every parent has a different path, and it’s valuable to know this from the start. Of course, brief expertise here and there is useful. However, just as there are different ways in science, sometimes when raising children, different solutions can be found for different situations. Therefore, to be flexible and most importantly to accept our children unconditionally, to make them feel loved without any condition, to make them feel sufficient and worthy of being loved without any condition is the most valuable information I can share on preparing them for life. It is important to guide them to be flexible so that they can tolerate their disappointments more easily when they encounter a problematic situation or when things do not go their way. Since life does not always give us what we want, it is also beneficial to experience and learn the optimum disappointments within the family little by little and learn ways to cope with them at home, which is the safest environment.