Healing Hearts and Minds
Working as a psychotherapist
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The psychological realm of human beings has always been full of unsolved mysteries that attract people in attempts to figure out what goes on in the hearts and minds of others. One’s mental state can affect one’s life to the point where it becomes necessary to see a consultant just like how we need doctors for health checkups. Kim Ji-in (Department of Art Psychotherapy, ’17) works as a psychotherapist through artistic measures to touch the hearts of those in need.
The root of Kim's passion
According to Kim, working as a therapist has long been her dream, as she has been interested in psychology since she was a high school student. Unfortunately, the field was not well-known in Korea, which discouraged her from boldly diving into it. Instead, she read many books related to psychology and philosophy to quench her thirst. Things all changed when she went on a trip to Nepal with her husband as a volunteer in 2009. She was there as an educator, and while teaching the kids, she felt that they were psychologically pressured. “It was heartbreaking to see young children who are supposed to be innocent and carefree suppressed like that. However, there were no professionals to help these children. I was also in a bad place back then, so I decided that I should take on that role.” In 2012, Kim started studying educational psychology as soon as she returned to Korea.
When she first started out, psychology was not a field that interested many people. It was relatively hard to find a specific major that dealt with psychology. Many people found it peculiar that she was even interested in such a thing. However, this did not stop Kim from giving it a try. “While I was interested in psychology, I was also into music so I studied music composition when I was a senior in high school. Studying music allowed me to meet many different people, to whom I would always recommend different musical pieces to depending on their current psychological state.”
During her masters as an art psychotherapy student, Kim recalls that most of her professors were art majors. They introduced her to numerous works of art that allowed her to somehow understand, relate, and analyze the psychology of the artists. She says that it was the most helpful thing she had discovered in university, since it was a skill that was not only based on foundational psychological theories, but was also always applicable to real life situations, even today. Aside from being academically passionate, she was also an active volunteer which allowed her to meet many different people in many types of situations.
Upon graduation, Kim started working as a psychotherapist who treats clients using artistic measures. Her clients include a wide range from children to adults, but most of them are children around the age of five, who show symptoms of separation anxiety from their mothers. There are also quite a few teenagers who also show signs of anxiety, depression, and disruptive behavior who sometimes personally reach out to her for help. Kim would use different artistic measures, such as drawing, role-play, working with play dough, storytelling, and listening to music to help these clients build trust and toheal. “Back in the 90s I used to use classical music, but nowadays people just can’t relate to it. Some people much prefer drawing over talking, while some much prefer creating their own music. I even provide raps from High School Rappers, a popular Korean TV program, so that her teenage patients can change the lyrics to them, or use the beats to create their own pieces. Then I try to analyze their works to better understand them.”
As a therapist
Currently, Kim is working at a Good Neighbors (NGO) center. She also has experience in working in public sectors, psychiatric wards, and as a therapist giving lectures and therapy sessions to teenagers. Kim recalls her proudest moments to be whenever a mother or the head of a center decides that the child is now free to end therapy sessions. “Upon the end of the session, the child who had been suffering from separation anxiety has now completely changed so that he doesn’t need his mother to be next to him all the time. He trusts other people and can actually have fun like any other child does on the playground.” She notes that after the sessions have ended, the parents also go through a major change with the help of her constant advice, as it is crucial for the parents to change in order for the children to change as well.
When asked about some of her hardships, Kim instantly said, “whenever I meet a child with a devastating background.” “This child I remember, her parent couldn’t really take care of her and her drawings always broke my heart. Knowing what her mother was also going through, also pained me because there was nothing I could do to realistically help them out of the situation.” Kim mentioned how she sometimes cried while driving home and felt the need to practice separating her life as a therapist and her personal life, because it was just too emotionally consuming. “In the end though, it’s all still worth it and I am very happy with my work. People always said that I’m a very hopeful person, and they’re right because I always had a dream or a goal. I strongly believe in returning what you’ve learned. I would love to learn more even in the future, to put my knowledge to good use for society.”
Park Joo-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Lee Jin-myung
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