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Hoy Vathana: working as a mental-health counsellor

4 Hoy Vathana

With a love of psychology, Hoy Vathana, 29, has worked as a counselor for mental crisises at the Transcultural and Psychosocial Organization (TPO). She also works for the Justice and Relief for Victims of Torture in Khmer Rouge.

Vathana, with her soft, friendly speech, explained why she loves her work.

“In my position, I not only help the society, but it also improves self-development related to general knowledge. For instance, working with the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, I participate in history to deal with the past that affected Cambodian citizens.

Originally from Takeo, this graduate of Chea Sim Takeo High School got her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2008. Before becoming a counselor, she worked as an office assistant at the Youth Resource Development Program for nearly two years.

Why is Vathana interested in psychology?

“I love psychology because it is associated with people and how to deal with people,” she said confidently.

“So it is really interesting. And I always hear from my family about the importance of psychology, that I can help us live better in the society.”

Of course, working as a counselor for victims of mental crises comes with its challenges.

“My job requires me to listen a lot, but every day different victims have many different crises. So those problems can be spread to me via daily activities if I cannot manage myself.”

Furthermore, her patients sometimes hide facts or live in denial. People often do not recognise or accept their mistakes, and often blame others for them.

In order to meet the challenges of the job, Vathana said one must be open-minded, understand social issues, and love helping others. In order to help patients open their minds, we must not judge them, and we also must understand that they have good and bad points. We need to use our listening skills and encourage our patients, but we shouldn’t blame them because it will cause them to feel more hopeless. The most important thing is to maintain patient confidentiality after counseling with them, which means that you cannot discuss the patient with others.

As a counselor on mental crises who has worked with many different patients, Hoy Vathana had a message to ordinary people who have no mental illnesses: “I would like Cambodians not to think that the ones who have mental crises are all crazy. And if you have a mental crisis and need help, you should not be shy because this counselling service is very common. Everyone should accept the usefulness of counselling, because without it, people have more mental problems. In fact, it is good when we trust and discuss possible solutions together.”



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