A Brazilian psychologist in Canada.
By Sacha Vaz
Born in Rio de Janeiro, the Carioca psychologist Elizabeth Schulz left Brazil in 1988 for Montreal. A graduate of PUC with a post-graduate degree from Getúlio Vargas University in Rio, Schulz wanted to continue her professional career in Canada. She studied at McGill University and left with a degree in social work. She faced great challenges to learn French and English and even considered giving up her career.
Persistent, Schulz got her first job as a psychologist at the Luso Clinic, where she tended to the Portuguese community in Montreal. After this, her career took off and she worked as a social assistant and psychologist in government health institutions and hospitals. Today, Schulz is a member of the Order of Psychologists in Quebec. Read the interview given to the Wave team and find out a little bit more about the world of psychology.
What activities are you involved in right now?
Schulz – Today I work at the Richardson Medical Center, a critical re-adaptation center in Montreal. I take care of people who, for example, after a brain seizure, cannot speak, read or move and need psychological support. This service also involves their families, who need the support to deal with frustrating situations. I also see clients in my private office.
How do you know when the best time is to seek professional help?
Schulz – I think everyone has their own time. I believe that each person knows their own pain and suffering. The main symptoms of someone who is losing control of themselves is when they begin to over-eat, or are not eating anything; the person cries a lot, they avoid leaving the house so that they do not have to face challenges or speak another language. Seeking professional help is surely choosing a path with the least amount of suffering, in order to find a solution. There is a price for therapy, but I believe it is a personal investment; for the future and for a healthier life. Also, today, insurance companies in general offer reimbursement for part of the cost, when the psychologist is a member of the professional order of psychologists.
What are the most common difficulties for a Brazilian psychologist when working with this profession in Canada?
Schulz – In Brazil, when you graduate after five years of schooling, the professional can then be accepted to the Regional Board of Psychology, even though the majority of people do specialization courses after this period. Here in Canada, you must have your doctorate, which is about seven years of studies, in order to be accepted by the Order of Psychologists in your province.
What are the main psychological problems that Brazilian immigrants face, due to the culture change?
Schulz – This is exactly the theme of my lecture here in Montreal: immigration and identity. The feeling you get when you arrive in another country can be difficult. All of us had a history before we got here. How do you remember every day, in the morning, that you are a doctor, for example? Through people, who know you and call you “doctor”. Especially for people who had a solid education in their home country, and after immigrating could not work right away, this affects part of their identity, because you lose recognition. The people who surround us are a mirror; they remind us of who we are! But to answer your question, the three most frequent problems are anxiety, fear and depression. A very anxious person can develop depression.
We live in a time where the real presence of a person is being substituted by machines, as in communication by Internet and even at automated teller machines. In what way does this lack of personal contact interfere in our relations?
Schulz – It is clear that there are many people that misuse technology. I think that, first of all, the example must come from the parents. If your son only thinks about playing video games and chatting on the Internet, how about turning off the TV and schedule a family outing by biking through the park? It doesn’t help to just ask the child to turn off the computer. It’s up to the parents to create a healthy family routine, which includes outdoor activities. Therefore, I think that humans need personal contact; they need to go to a party, go to the movies. Unfortunately, the misuse of technology can interfere with real life and limit relationships.
You see clients in your office and also online, through Skype. Why did you start seeing clients this way and how does it work?
Schulz – Seeing clients through Skype happened by chance. I never intended to do this. What happened was that some of my clients were moving from Quebec to other provinces, mainly to Ontario. Others were returning to Brazil. None of them wanted to stop the psychotherapy because we already had a history together. I first started with appointments by phone, before this wonderful tool called Skype came about. I find it amazing, the mobility that technology provides.
What are your tips for choosing a psychologist?
Schulz – I find choosing a psychologist very important. If the person does not want to do online therapy, they can look for a professional in their city, through the Canadian register of psychologists. The site of the Canadian Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology is: www.crhspp.ca. Believe me, speaking to a psychologist about what is happening to you, will facilitate your life!