The following is a case study of Cynthia Pottier, an educational psychologist based in Fourways, Johannesburg
We chat to Cynthia Pottier, an educational psychologist based in Fourways about her private practice and everything private practice management related.
Did you always know you wanted to be an educational psychologist?
Why I decided to become an education psychologist is a very interesting question. Because I don’t feel like I chose to become one. I feel like the profession kind of found me and chose me, I was a bit of a lost student.
So moving to Johannesburg, we didn’t move to the city, we moved to the rural part on the outskirts of Johannesburg. In terms of resources at school, we didn’t get much career guidance or help with applications, things like that. I actually didn’t want to study and my parents said, No, you have to study. And I’m so grateful that they did because that’s where I found where my passion lies, and what I really want to do.
Yeah, so the first year, I was actually registered for B Comm in law. And in the first two weeks, you are allowed to change courses. So I did a career assessment and they said, you know, maybe something in the humanities field. So I decided to go for it. I chose really random subjects I did things like film and television, I did psychology, I did law, comics. From there, I just found myself getting more and more interested in psychology. And I wanted more and more. And I went from undergrad wanting to pursue honours then wanting to pursue master’s. Yeah, so that’s how I found myself there. And I’ve no regrets.
What type of patients do you work with?
I work with kids and adolescents and young adults mainly. Normally between the ages of three and twenty-two. So I enjoy working with young people. I love the energy that they bring. And also love the fact that you can make a difference early on in a person’s life. And watch them grow. As they get older and seeing them achieve.
I also know from personal experience I had some challenges in school myself. And that’s what also drew me to psychology, the fact that if you are sick or if you have an injury, it’s something you can see. If you struggling with something internally it’s really difficult. And there’s not a lot of people that you who might understand what, you’re going through and how to support you.
I think what we know today, and what our parents and educators knew, maybe back then has also changed quite a lot. And thankfully that the support is now growing and becoming more inclusive. So definitely, I’m excited to be part of that system and that new development in education. I also have a soft spot for working with learners with special needs or learning difficulties. I enjoy the assessment part. Because I love problem-solving. I love finding out what could possibly be causing ailments? How can we support and how could we address those issues?
How long have you been in private practice?
I’m relatively new. In my second year, a few months into my second year of private practice.
Can you talk about some of the early challenges you faced in private practice?
I think it was just a start-up, generally, you know, how to get around starting up something that seems huge, you know, when you’re not in it does seem like a quite daunting task. And also building how you’re going to get your clients, how are you going to build up your private practice? Those were some of the things I think, were a bit challenging for me.
What do assessments do?
Okay, so there are quite a few different assessments. And based on the reason for referral, you’ll see which one would be more suited for the child or the client. At a grade six-level, if there are concerns academically, behaviorally from the teacher, or the parents. Most of the time if the referral does come from the teacher they just want to understand what’s going on. How the child could be better supported, whether it’s on an emotional level or an academic level.
That’s what an assessment is going to do. So it looks at the child holistically. You’ll do tests or assessments, based on the intellectual potential or capacity of the child? Is there something in that regard, that we need to look at or is everything fine there? Emotionally is everything. Okay, or are there some difficulties that we’re picking up. As well as scholastically so you’d find that if a child has a learning disability. The results for the intellectual assessment would come out fine. But your scholastic assessment would show some difficulties there?
What advise would you give someone who is thinking of becoming an educational psychologist?
Okay, I’ll definitely recommend it. I think it’s a wonderful and rewarding profession. As you said, it has a positive impact on our youth. I would say do as much research as you can. So try and find practitioners that you can speak to and maybe have informational interviews with them. Asking about various aspects of the career. Such as what does their day look like? What are the most challenging parts of the profession? What are the most rewarding parts of your work?
I would also say to try and get as much practical experience as possible. Even if you are in your undergrad year, and you’re not allowed to see clients. But try and volunteer there are so many places where you can do this. Things like SAGDA where they train you telephonically, or Lifeline for example. The Tears Foundation and Academy, if you want to work with kids. Yeah, try and get that experience for yourself. Maybe work for a practice, where you could maybe do some admin related work and more exposure to what private practice looks like.
I would also advise them to go through their own therapeutic process. Because it’s important to believe in your product. And if we think about therapy as a product, it’s not something you can advocate for if you haven’t had that experience of it. So that’s quite important. And as a psychologist in your master’s, it’s a requirement to be in therapy. Maybe go for your own career assessment, because that’s learning about your strength learning about your weaknesses, and just understanding yourself better. So that you can make an informed decision.
How did you hear about the Kitrin IsoForge Product and what made you choose to use it?
So I heard about it at an impact learning conference, there was a presentation there. And the IsoForge product sounded amazing. It sounded like all the things that I feared about private practice, things like tax, marketing, invoicing, I don’t know how to do half of that stuff. And something that is provided training, you know, there’s no business component or business module that we get. So it allowed me to feel a whole lot more comfortable about the business side of the practice. And I’m really glad that I took it.