Member of the Month: Iva Erceg

 

Graduate Program:
UBC Counselling Psychology M.A.
Pronouns: She/her/hers
Year: First

What drew you to studying counselling psychology?

There has always been a passion inside me for understanding how we function personally and in our relationships, and the multitude of ways we cope with what life throws our way. Counselling psychology is a fantastic avenue to acknowledge and address life stressors, help ease emotional burdens, guide people through personal challenges, and empower people to improve their sense of well-being and pursue new ways to live.

I would feel incredibly privileged to provide a listening ear, unconditional positive regard, and helpful tools to help pull clients out of rough patches, as well as to address more enduring and systemic hardships. Everyone is unique, and we’re all doing the best we can. It takes courage to seek out counselling and expose our vulnerabilities to another – and I would feel truly humbled to be part of that journey.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I was fortunate enough to work as a lawyer in Vancouver for five years as a member of the Law Society of British Columbia. During that time, I had the privilege of working with incredibly talented and inspiring individuals, both colleagues and clients alike, and immerse myself fully in a fast-paced, challenging, and very rewarding career.

I am equally proud of the fact that I was brave enough to leave the corporate world behind and embark on a new adventure and a different career path to becoming a therapist. My curiosity about the human condition and my desire to help others in a deeper and more personal way drew me to this profession. Looking back, it was the hardest decision I ever made, and also the best decision for me. Having gone through such a fundamental life and career transition, I have greater perspective on the road to finding balance and a sense of purpose in one’s life roles.

Growing up in an immigrant household, as a first-generation Canadian born in Serbia, I am also proud that I am embarking on a career path that challenges the stigma associated with therapy in my cultural background, and many first-generation cultural backgrounds, where counselling is not a common or valued practice, and those who ask for help risk feeling judged. We all need a safe space to talk about our struggles, but there can be great discomfort in seeking out the much-needed help – I look forward to continuing to break that stigma and encouraging individuals to come to therapy.

What are the most profound things you’ve learned so far in the program?

There are so many different ways to do therapy, all with their own unique perspective and contribution.

It’s important to tailor our approach to each unique client – there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

A therapist is different from a friend – we can offer a safe space for the release of pent up emotions, new insights, personal growth, exploration, and catharsis, all the while providing a trained, guiding hand and impartial, non-judgmental support.

What has been a pivotal moment for you on this journey?

As a distress line volunteer at the Crisis Centre, seeing the real impact I was having on people in their most difficult moments and the great need for mental health support, I was convinced that I had made the right decision to enter into this field.

Looking ahead, what are your career goals?

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all of us and there is an increased demand for mental health services as isolation, anxiety, and depression are on the rise. The ground is shifting beneath our feet, and it can feel like a constant struggle to figure out how to adapt. I look forward to working as a therapist to provide a safe space for people to address these concerns, as well as other challenges, including navigating relationships, coping in new environments, thriving in busy lifestyles, or dealing with major life and career transitions.

Who inspires you?  

Brené Brown for daring us to be vulnerable, Laurie Santos for promoting scientific research on what actually leads to lasting happiness, Loretta Ross for reminding us not to dehumanize others simply because we disagree with them, Dan Harris for showing us how to be 10% happier, Esther Perel for normalizing common relationship struggles, and, of course, Neil deGrasse Tyson for inspiring our cosmic curiosity!

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