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Get That Life: Sine Zungu – Clinical Psychologist

Got empathy and a passion for people?

Sine Zungu, 24, is a clinical psychologist based in Durban. Find out how she got where she is, here.

Tell us a bit about what you do.

I’m a clinical psychologist currently working at Akeso Clinic, Umhlanga, as well as in my own private practice. My work involves assessing, diagnosing and treating psychological disorders through the use of psychological instruments and evidenced-based psychotherapeutic interventions.

What training have you done to get where you are?

I was awarded my BA in media studies and psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2013. I then went on to get my BSocSci honours degree from UCT, and then my MA in clinical psychology from Stellenbosch University.

I then worked in the South African Defence Force as an intern clinical psychologist before completing my community service (mandatory to formally qualify – just like doctors) as the first clinical psychologist under the Dundee District EMRS and Forensics Unit.

How did you fund your training?

I was fortunate to have all my studies funded through scholarships and study grants. My undergraduate studies were funded by a full scholarship from the Old Mutual Education Trust. My honours degree was funded through the AW Mellon Scholarship, and my MA degree was accomplished through a two-year study grant from the Harry Crossley Foundation.

Full and partial scholarships, study grants and bursaries are available at all universities through the university funding offices.

What is an absolute must in terms of training for getting a job in your industry?

A master’s degree in clinical psychology and completion of a year-long internship and a year-long community service. After that, you need to pass the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) board exams to register as a clinical psychologist.

What’s the best way to gain work experience?

Clinical psychology is one of those fields where practitioners automatically gain work experience as a part of academic training. In the master’s programme, for example, you begin practising as a student psychologist under the supervision of an experienced psychologist. The same applies in the internship and, sometimes, community-service years. In total, you spend at least three years gaining work experience in training before you are permitted to practise independently.

What are the main skills someone needs for your industry?

You have to be curious about people: you have to want to understand what drives and motivates people to do a variety of things. It’s also vital that you have a strong capacity for empathy and warmth, and a non-judgemental attitude. Flexibility as well as a strong sense of self are also highly encouraged.

If I’m still in school, which subjects should I take to get into this field?

No subjects are required, but mathematics is recommended. Statistics forms a large part of undergraduate training, so it’ll be useful if you already have some of this prior knowledge.

Read Fund That Life: This Bursary Website Will CHANGE Your Life

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