Helping Her Son Through Wins and Losses as a Professional Chess Player Inspired Vidya Bharat’s Interest in Psychology

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Vidya Bharat is in her final year in the Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology at PAU, a journey that started when her son was a professional chess player and struggling with the ups and downs of his wins and losses. She is currently completing her internship at Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC) in Mountain View, an organization that provides children with alternatives to self-destructive behavior. At CHAC, Vidya works with children and families through providing counseling services along with conducting neuropsychological assessments.

“I first became interested in psychology because of my son. He played chess professionally from age eight to 14. He won the 2008 World Schools Chess Championship and was ranked #2 in India in the under-14 age category,” Vidya said. “I knew he had talent, motivation, and passion, but I didn’t know how to help him through the emotional rollercoaster of his wins and losses. When he stopped playing chess due to physical health issues, the field of psychology helped me and our family immensely.”

Around that time, Vidya took a job as general manager of operations at a company in India that promoted sports in schools and counseled talented children in the games of cricket and badminton. This further stimulated her interest in psychology and how the practice could help others, and she enrolled in PAU’s M.S. in Psychology online program.

Vidya moved to a career in Information Technology (IT). Through her experiences working as a networking software engineer at Intel in California, and holding executive management positions at various IT companies in India, she saw firsthand the toll that stress was taking on IT employees.

As part of her dissertation in the Ph.D. program, she conducted research focused on the emotional well-being of IT professionals working in India. The research looked at the prevalence of stress, anxiety, depression, and interpersonal difficulties in the population. It also gathered data on how individuals cope with emotional distress and conducted a needs assessment on digital interventions.

Vidya’s research findings confirmed her hypotheses: There is more than 50 percent prevalence of stress, and more than 20 percent prevalence of anxiety and depression among IT employees in India. Vidya noted, “The research pointed out that there is clearly a need to raise awareness of mental health issues among the IT community in India, and consideration for how this should be addressed for the well-being of individuals.”

“Vidya’s personal understanding of the needs of Indian IT professionals drove this important study, and now her data can serve as a launching pad for promoting mental health and for developing tools to bring about positive change in this population,” said Vidya’s research advisor and chair of her dissertation committee, PAU Associate Professor Yan Leykin, Ph.D.

In the next five to 10 years, Vidya envisions being involved in raising awareness in India about the issue of stress and how the mental health field can be of service. She would like to conduct similar research on other industries in India such as media, entertainment, health and hospitality. Other areas of interest to Vidya include domestic violence and substance abuse in the lower socioeconomic status scales in India. Her Ph.D. degree will give her credibility when establishing partnerships to develop programs in India for substance abuse treatment and counseling for women with trauma.

"PAU has been instrumental in educating me about the field of mental health and its vital role in society. I have learned an enormous amount thanks to the dedication of my professors, my practicum, and internship sites,” said Vidya. “The theory I learned along with my research, and a variety of clinical experiences have prepared me to be a good clinician. PAU has also helped shape me as a person, which I thought would be difficult at my age. The concept of neuroplasticity does exist, and it works!”


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