Mehrshad Arshadi

My name is Mehrshad Arshadi. I was born in 1970 in Iran. I studied physics, chemistry and biology at high school with the hope of continuing my higher education in experimental sciences. The Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979 and the eight years of imposed war by the Iraqi regime from 1980 instigated an existential crisis in my life. Iraqi’s missiles and even chemical bombardment were hitting the cities, yet I had to plan for my future. In an abrupt decision, I changed my subject of study to psychology. I was hoping to deal with the lack of substance and stability in my life. I wanted to gain control over my life.

I received my first degree in clinical psychology in 1992 and my second degree in the same field of study in 2000. Finally war was over and the economical sanctions were softened. I had my own clinic of psychotherapy and I was working as a part-time English translator as well. My spare time was spent in the snowfield ski slopes of Teheran and the green lashes of Caspian see forests. During this time, I attended many CPD’s and workshops about CBT, group therapy etc. In overall my life seemed stable when I decided to take a voluntary migration.

Quite accidentally, I became aware of a scheme which let to enter the UK as a highly skilled immigrant. I took the chance immediately as I wanted to experience life in another place and another culture. Clinical psychology was on demand in the UK but the discrepancies between the immigration laws and the psychology regulating authorities at British Psychological Society (BPS) prevented me from working immediately as a clinical psychologist in the UK. I was asked to top up my degree with a new course in the UK. Naturally I chose to continue my study in clinical psychology when I realised that I was not eligible to apply for the course as one of the entry requirements was to have an indefinite leave to remain. The next choice was to study counselling psychology. My applications were rejected by most of the universities as being too qualified. Finally in a series of accidental events I ended up at the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling.

My first years of study and placement at NSPC were stressful. I didn’t have the background knowledge in philosophy and the English proficiency required for this course was significantly higher than other psychology courses. I remember that some days I had to study up to 12 hours per day to catch up with the other students. My initial struggles with the languageand culture triggered the idea of studying psychotherapy in the second language as my thesis. Many unwanted incidents in my personal and professional life happened which prolonged my study more than I had planned for. My supervisors, professor Digby Tantam and Dr Charlotte Harkness were never happy with anything less than perfect. I rewrote some of the chapters of my final thesis more than 25 times. The final result was astonishing and all the hard work paid off on the eight of May, when I passed my Viva with no corrections and impressive feedback from my examiners.

Graduation from an accredited course means that I can finally register with BPS as a chartered psychologist as well as UKCP. I no longer need to work as an in-training psychotherapist which means I have a better chance to find my desired job. I think that psychotherapy is a very demanding job and doing that as your main profession can be extremely tiring at some point. Graduation from DCPych might help me to find a balanced mix of teaching, supervision and therapy.

More than the aforesaid benefits, learning existential concepts has changed the way I look both to my clients and to myself. I know that life is becoming harder everyday and it takes a grave mental toll to cope with that. Sometimes, we let exasperation or despondency take the lead of our life. Some other times, we rediscover our strengths and find our direction in the dark and all of them are aspects of the complex living circumstances we are thrown in. Existential therapy and it’s phenomenological approach to discover and describe rather than to label will help me to be less rigid and more open to the possibilities.