One on One... Dr Iyabo Fatimilehi
One thing psychologists could do better
I’m a huge fan of community-based systemic approaches to prevention and intervention. From my work and research, I believe it does not make sense to individualise psychological distress. When I worked in Liverpool, we ran a narrative-based community project aimed at strengthening relationships between fathers and sons in the Somali, Yemeni and Black British communities. During one of the meal-based events for Yemeni fathers and sons, Amira Hassan (my esteemed colleague) and I walked past a father who was speaking loudly in Arabic on his phone. Amira started to laugh and explained that he was saying ‘I’m at a party!’. A highlight of my career! The least we can do is intervene systemically; the best we can do is community-based prevention.
The Princes’ Quest by Michel Ocelot is a beautiful family film that resonates with my childhood experiences of living in multicultural, multiracial, multilingual, multifaith family contexts. I was born in London and lived in both the UK and Nigeria during my childhood and adolescence. This film challenges attempts to restrict people to specific categories or communities of identity.
One moment that changed my career
I worked as a nursing assistant at Fairmile Hospital while I was an undergraduate at the University of Reading. I conducted a single case project with one of the men on the semi-secure unit under the supervision of the Clinical Psychologist. Later that year, after my graduation, I received a letter from the hospital’s matron explaining the difference that my work had made. This man had been in hospital for many years and considered too aggressive and violent to be rehabilitated to the community. As a result of the work we did, this decision had been reviewed and he was in the process of moving into the community. I committed myself to a career in Clinical Psychology and have never looked back!
One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists from BAME backgrounds
Choose your battles and keep your eyes on the prize! Be clear about what you want to do with your life and don’t waste your energy competing with others. Your path is unique. Seek advice and support from people who share your values and are further along their career journeys.
My work with children and families has been heavily influenced by research and writing on anthropology. I strongly recommend LeVine and New’s Anthropology and Child Development: A Cross-Cultural Reader. I also love the work of Heidi Keller – start with Keller and Bard’s The Cultural Nature of Attachment: Contextualising Relationships and Development.
That within my lifetime, psychological knowledge and research will be decolonised and no longer based on research based on WEIRD (White, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic) societies. It is time we recognised the harm that this does to people who have grown up in very different cultural and social contexts – it is important to consider this both for people who have migrated to the UK as well as for those in other sub-cultures such as White working-class communities.
My Christian faith has been a source of inspiration and motivation throughout my career. It forms the basis and bedrock for my commitment to social justice (hence, the ‘just’ in Just Psychology CIC) and the empowerment of marginalised and oppressed peoples.
PMS by Mary J. Blige. While revising for my undergraduate exams, I teamed up with a male friend for mutual support. We attended the library together every day for two to three months. During that time, I reflected on the fact that I had to manage the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome whilst he did not! This song sums it up for me. I’ve avoided exams ever since!
One proud moment
The proudest moments of my career have included supporting aspiring psychologists into professional practice. I have provided placements and work experience for GCSE and A-Level students (love them!), undergraduates (amazing people!) and trainee psychologists (stupendous!). It has been an honour and privilege to have this impact on people’s lives (and to learn from them!). If I do nothing else with my career, this alone has made it worthwhile!
BPS Members can discuss this article
Already a member? Or Create an account
Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber