Staff Spotlight: Dr. Saya Karavadra, Professor of Psychology - Barcelona
The CEA CAPA Staff Spotlight is a monthly series highlighting the individuals who teach courses and provide academic instruction at our global study centers in different study abroad locations across the world. Their teaching leaves a mark on students who study abroad. This month, we meet Saya Karavadra, DPsyc, (she/her) from our Barcelona destination.
Q: WHICH COURSE(S) DO YOU TEACH AT CEA CAPA?
Dr. Karavadra: I teach Abnormal Psychology and Cognitive Psychology.
Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TEACHING FOR CEA CAPA?
Dr. Karavadra: I’ve been teaching with CEA CAPA for three years.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR ACADEMIC INTERESTS AND FOCUS(ES)?
Dr. Karavadra: Over the course of my academic and clinical career I have developed an interest in working with minority groups, such as those identifying as LGBTQIA+, racial and ethnic minorities, and more recently with those identifying as profession-based minorities such as sex-workers. Focusing on such minority groups who experience stigma and discrimination, where risks are high and where help-seeking is low, has become a passion in my work, both academically and clinically. Exploring the experiences of such minority groups through qualitative research, focusing on giving voice to those who are historically under-represented and stigmatized within the field of psychology is something I feel compelled to try and address through my work.
Another academic interest I have is the experiences of those who self-harm; my doctoral thesis explored the experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals who engage in self-harm.
Finally, I’m also interested in psychosexual psychotherapy. Sexual problems which are psychologically rooted are common and don’t follow the stereotypes we might imagine. People carry a lot of shame around such difficulties and I enjoy working with them to address the issue, and their perception of it. Working with sex, sexuality, gender, and minority groups in general is something I felt my academic and clinical training didn’t adequately address and I therefore aim to ensure my students to not experience the same disparity. I try to create an environment within which my students are encouraged to think critically about such topics while confronting assumptions about themselves, each other, and mental health and well-being in general.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PROFESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS?
Dr. Karavadra: Finally completing my doctorate was of course a professional highlight. At age 18 I enrolled in an undergraduate degree in business and marketing; I have no idea why and I failed miserably. I changed to a psychology degree and quickly decided I wanted to become a psychologist, but was daunted by the 10 years it'd take to get there. In the end it took a lot longer. I graduated from my doctorate aged 35! It was such a long and treacherous journey which I wanted to quit often. Life threw me countless curve balls and thwarted my plans again and again, so it took what felt like forever. It wasn’t until I finally attended graduation, wore the gown, threw the hat, and took the obligatory pictures with my family that it all sunk in; I was finally done and it felt great.
Another professional highlight for me was my conducting doctoral thesis. It took five years to write, it evolved and changed so much over those years that I often doubted my ability to tackle the complex topic I was focusing on: experiences of self-harm in LGBTQIA+ individuals. What helped motivate me was a commitment to giving voice to those participants who volunteered to share their stories with me. It was an intense process and I felt a strong sense of responsibility to analyze, interpret, and report their interviews as best I could. I feel really satisfied that I could do so, particularly given the how underrepresented both LGBTQIA+ experiences and experiences of self-harm are in qualitative research.
Finally, simply being a professor of any kind is indeed a professional highlight for me! I’ve had a public speaking phobia since childhood where I would panic, shake, and stutter to the point of not being able to speak in front of groups. I never thought teaching was even a possibility for me. Despite working successfully with clients who experienced the same difficulty and knowing the treatment protocol, etc., I couldn’t overcome it and avoided public speaking at all costs. So, the fact that I now thoroughly enjoy standing up in front of a class full of students and delivering a lecture feels great.
Q: PLEASE SHARE SOMETHING UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR CLASS OR ACADEMIC DISCIPLINE.
Dr. Karavadra: I aim to create classes within which we discuss, reflect, and challenge each other often. I encourage students to not blindly accept the conclusions of the research papers, theories, and models we cover, or even what I teach them, but instead to question things from a well-formed critical perspective. This can be tough for them and debates can be lively. There is an increasing censorship in the academic world (and beyond), which I can feel my students are aware and cautious of. While I’m strict about maintaining respect for each other’s opinions, I most definitively encourage discussions about difficult and complex topics in mental health and beyond. I find that once students feel comfortable and safe in the classroom, they usually have a lot to say and I’m committed to ensuring that my classes are a place that enables them to do so.
Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT TEACHING STUDY ABROAD STUDENTS?
Dr. Karavadra: It sounds cliché but I most enjoy seeing the progress in my students over the course of the semester. In the first few weeks they are reserved, daunted, and hesitant to participate or share their ideas. It’s a big adjustment arriving in Barcelona for most of them. But by the end of the semester, I can see amazing progress where students can think critically and insightfully about all kinds of topics. They develop a confidence in their ability to communicate their ideas and I emphasize the need for them to do this formally and academically also. I enjoy seeing their ideas challenged and them making sense of the content I introduce them to.
Additionally, the international nature of study abroad programs means that I also get to learn a lot from my students each semester. While my expertise is in psychology, students in my class come from all kinds of backgrounds and disciplines so they often hold perspectives which are new and intriguing to me. I may think about a certain topic for years and sometimes a student will offer a perspective on that same topic which I never even considered; this I enjoy a lot.
ABOUT DR. SAYA KARAVADRA
Saya Karavadra is a doctor of psychology, psychotherapist, and professor of psychology. She’s living and working in Barcelona for the last five years. She has an extensive academic and clinical background, and currently works in private practice providing therapy to adults, and teaching two undergraduate psychology classes at CEA CAPA. Dr. Karavadra has 15 years of experience working in mental health within a variety of different roles and settings including public, private, and charitable sectors. She completed a majority of her training in London, gaining a masters from King’s College and a professional doctorate from City, University of London. Her clinical work entails providing psychotherapy to adults experiencing all kinds of mental health difficulties, drawing on multiple models of therapy but primarily working from a psychoanalytical perspective. Dr. Karavadra has been teaching at CEA CAPA for the last three years and embraces her role as a professor with CEA CAPA as an opportunity to exchange ideas with students, encouraging them to challenge their own assumptions regarding mental health and psychology in general.
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