Dr. Sanam Hafeez immigrated to the US from Pakistan when she was 12 years old, and she was the first one in her family in this country to go to college. Though both of her parents were college educated and has an uncle in London who has a master’s in psychology, there was no one to really guide her through the college experience. She started college earlier than her peers (17 years old) and found the freedom of college intoxicating. At first, she thought that she could stay in her room and read all of the books and materials instead of attending classes. She gravitated toward older people, and it was these friends who helped her realize the importance of going to class and educated her on how doctoral programs, and the schools that offer these programs, are the hardest schools to get into. She recalls, “I was very quickly made aware of the fact that I wasn’t going to sail into a program.” In this podcast, Dr. Hafeez shares her interesting and unique journey and offers impactful advice regarding building a successful career in the field of psychology.
Dr. Hafeez earned her PsyD in School-Community Psychology from Hofstra University. Dr. Hafeez is a neuropsychologist, Director & Founder of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services (CCPS) with two locations in NY (one in Manhattan and the other in Queens), and a TV & media medical expert. She is published as a contributing author to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. She has appeared as an expert guest on The Dr. Oz Show, CNN News, CBS, NBC, and others. Dr. Hafeez is fluent in English, Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi (Pakistani and Indian languages) and shares how this helped her find opportunities and grow her business.
During our discussion, Dr. Hafeez actively sought out opportunities to set herself up for a very successful academic and professional career. The advice she offers throughout this podcast is practical and impactful. For example, she states, “one of the things that I love to tell everyone, but especially the younger people, [is] that your friends can truly make your or break you.” She knew in high school that she wanted to be a psychologist and was undeterred from that path. Even when her academic advisor at Queens College, where she attended for her undergraduate degree in psychology, laughed at her when she told her that she wanted to get a doctorate in psychology, Dr. Hafeez didn’t let her break her spirit or deter her from her goal. Her advisor stated, “I can’t believe you think you’re going to get into a doctoral program. You’re not going to get into a doctoral program. Your best bet is to get a masters in psychology and then try your luck.” Dr. Hafeez didn’t apply to a single master’s program. Instead, she applied to only three doctoral programs and was accepted into all three of them (Hofstra University, Pace University, Long Island University). She shares a few of the reasons why she selected Hofstra University for her doctorate instead of the other universities.
When opening her own private practice, Dr. Hafeez recalls never “skimping” on hiring help or staff. She states, “I know I could not do everything myself. I knew I needed help with answering phones, making appointments, billing, support staff, people to help with the psychometrics of things. So, I have always hired very generously, compensated generously, and it’s paid me back.” She believes treating people with respect and knowing your own limitations as it “allowed [her] to flourish and grow as a person, as a clinician, it’s helped my evolution.” She grew her practice very organically through hard work and referrals, and eventually got contracts with the City of New York and with the Departments of Education in Long Island, and Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties.
We discussed her private practice at length and how fascinating the brain is because it never really takes a rest, even when you are sleeping. She contributed to an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal about how much we learn while we sleep. There are studies that show “we have something called sleep spindles that actually absorb information. So, people who listen to a tape on, let’s say, a new language they were learning while they were sleeping and then learned it during the day were much more able to absorb and learn the language more proficiently than those who are just learning it during the day.”
When asked for any final words of advice to those interested in the field of psychology, Dr. Hafeez stated “I think the younger folks need to hear that they have, they should have, they have the world at their fingertips, literally (referencing a cell phone)” and “they should embrace every aspect of themselves, not apologize for it. Embrace it…follow your passion. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it…Throw yourself into everything and eventually you’ll find your way.”
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Sanam Hafeez specializes in diagnosing and assessing ADD, ADHD, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety) and other conditions. She is a sought-out media medical expert and serves as an expert witness in cases ranging from custody to immigration.
Bachelor of Arts (BA), Psychology (1998); Queens College, CUNY, Flushing, NY.
Master of Science (MS), Psychology (1999); Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY.
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), School-Community Psychology (2002); Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast, where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Sanam Hafeez to the show. Dr. Hafeez is a neuropsychologist and director and founder of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, otherwise known as CCPS, or Comprehend the mind, which this this facility is actually a diagnostic and treatment Center for neuropsychological psychiatric and educational difficulties. CCPS has two locations: one in Manhattan and the other in Queens. Dr. Hafeez has been practicing as a licensed psychologist in New York City since 2004 and specializes in ADD, ADHD, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury psychopathology, including bipolar, Schizophrenia, depression and anxiety, as well as other conditions. She is a sought-out media expert and serves as a medical expert and expert witness in cases ranging from custody to immigration. Today, we will learn more about her academic and professional journey, more about CCPS and hear her advice to those interested in the field of psychology. Dr. Hafeez, welcome to our podcast.
I’m happy to be here. Thank you for having me on.
I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. I know that one of the fun things for me is doing all the research on my guests beforehand, and so I did notice that you received your bachelor’s degree in psychology from Queens College. Tell me a little bit more about your undergraduate experiences and when you first took an interest in psychology.
So, I, I was one of those, maybe, maybe not so rare at the time I thought I was a little bit rare because a lot of my friends didn’t quite know what they wanted to do. They maybe had an idea, maybe some leanings, but I was in high school, and I said I am going to be a psychologist. I knew very little about what that would entail because obviously this is before the time of the Internet, you know, so you. Whatever you knew, you knew from movies and TV and maybe some books that you’ve read, and I just thought that’s what I want to be. And I was undeterred from, from that path. I, I, I, didn’t even. When people tried to tell me, well, you know, you might change your mind when you go to college. I go, “no, I’m going to be a psychologist.” And so, I get to college. And I immediately of course I was one of those people who immediately, you know, put her major down and Queens College is a fantastic school for those who know Queens College. It’s part of the CUNY program, CUNY University system. When it, I think it’s the second largest system in the country and amazing faculty. It’s just a brilliant school and you don’t pay a tremendous amount to go to school. And so, it was great because I wasn’t, you know, laden with debt when I left and I had an amazing education, a lot of my friends went with me from high school, and I made some amazing friends. So, my college experience was incredible. And what I do want to mention is, now, this is the 90s which is, you know, the era of the the dinosaurs at the at this point. I, I was the first one of my family in this country to go to college. Both my parents were college educated and my mother had a master’s degree in in, in economics. So, I come from an educated, college educated family. I have actually have an uncle in London who has a master’s in psychology, but there was no one to really guide me, you know, how the college experience would go. And I was also 17, I graduated earlier than my peers. So, when I started college, I was really a kid in so many ways, and the freedom was intoxicating. And I could get a car and I could just, you know, there were no cell phones. So, my parents couldn’t track me, and if I didn’t go to class, no one found out it was amazing, you know. And I made some really good friends and I think one of the things that I love to tell everyone, but especially the younger people, that your friends can truly make you or break you. You know when you have friends, of course you wanna have friends that you have something in common with that are fun. You enjoy your time with them, but you also need them to kind of set you straight and I had, I gravitated toward older people, so I had friends who were maybe three or four years older than me, and they’d say, Sanam, uhm, you really you gotta go to class. OK, I know it sounds boring, but you’ve gotta make it to that 8:00 AM class. Because I was I I loved. Reading and learning came easy to me and I. Thought ohh you you mean I could just read at home and not go into the class. That’s great. You know, and they said no, no, no. Trust me. You want to go to class or, you know, graduate programs are not that easy. You know I. Thought because I wanted to be a psychologist, I would just be a psychologist. They would be lucky to have me. And then they said Ohh no PhD and and doctoral programs are some of the hardest schools to get into. They’re the hardest programs to get into, you know, medical school, dental school, law school. They take about 200 people a year, students a year. And there’s so many of them. Doctoral programs take about 8 to 10 people a year, and there’s not a lot of them to go around. So, I was very quickly made aware of the fact that I wasn’t going to sail into a program but I I don’t know what it was I don’t know if it was my dedication to wanting to be a psychologist, I will say I was resourceful and I did some things right that that they needed to see. I joined a research lab. I became a peer advisor on campus. I, very luckily, fell into a summer internship where they needed a, uh, student teacher for a special needs child at the United Cerebral Palsy and the only reason I got that job was that this little boy came from an Urdu speaking household and I’m of Pakistani descent and I spoke Urdu and it just sort of opened my eyes to the special needs, you know, population. And, as luck would have it, the program that I went to, eventually my doctorate. The the doctor, the the psychologist who interviewed me had been the director of United Cerebral Palsy, and we talked about that the entire time. So, it was just serendipitous. You know, nothing goes unnoticed. Nothing goes unrewarded. You just have to throw yourself into everything. And I did that in my undergraduate career. And I also had a great time.
Well, it sounds like it and thanks for sharing. I know that you attended Hofstra University for your master’s and your doctorate. There are many schools in New York that offer graduate degrees in psychology. So, what drew you to Hofstra?
I wanted to stay in New York, and I guess at the time I realized, looking back, it was a very unwise thing to do. I only applied to three programs. They were all in New York City, cause I didn’t want to leave home. I wasn’t one of those people who wanted to go away. I wanted to stay close to my family. I love New York City. I wanted to stay close to my friends and so Hofstra, Pace, and maybe LIU? I got into all three programs, and, at the time, Hofstra is the only one that offered me a scholarship or partial scholarship, and I could get a car and I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to take a train every day into the city, which, by the way I did for a long time anyway, because I worked as an interpreter on the side, and I ended up in one of the best programs in the country. And when I say that, I am not just, you know, just giving you my personal opinion. A study, a research study, looked at 105 doctoral programs across the country and the program I graduated from was in the top five. So, I can tell you that I ended up in in one of the best programs in the country, it was amazing. And I also like that Hofstra University program offered me both a school and clinical track. So, I was able to do both those things.
Yes, and I’m glad you mentioned that. So, I’m sharing Hofstra University, Department of Psychology. You actually received your doctorate in school community psychology. And here’s that program, and we’ll of course add this when we go live so people can take a look at it. I guess I’m curious, can you recall what drew you to the neuropsychological branch of psychology because? Your undergrad was just psychology, and then your master’s psychology and then school community psychology. What brought you or what drew you toward that neuropsychology branch of psychology?
It’s very interesting. I was at a a graduate, graduation party for my best friend’s daughter yesterday, and she had three friends there and one of them was like, oh, my, she’s fan going, oh my God. You were a neuro, I want to be a neuropsychologist and I thought when I was your age, I had no idea, I’d never heard of the word neuropsychology, it isn’t what…
It is now, you know. Neuropsychology has quite a draw on the younger, younger people now, I’m not sure what it is. I don’t know if it’s because they think it’s lucrative. If it’s, it sounds fancier. I mean, I’m I’m a little. I’m a little surprised by it because I certainly didn’t know what it was at the time. I’m not sure how much they know, but people get very excited, the younger, younger kids get very excited. So, when I went to the Hofstra program I I really thought I’d just be doing therapy. I really wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but Hofstra, because it had this school concentration, trained us very heavily in assessments. And so, by the time I was done with maybe my first year and a half in, I must have conduct conducted about 15 complete neuropsychological assessments with a heavy heavy emphasis on the school component. So, learning disabilities, ADHD, you know, cognitive functioning, psychological functioning. And I enjoyed understanding that these instruments were so sensitive and so standardized that they could tell me all I needed to know about a person and I could make predictions about what the future would look like for them, what they were at risk for, and I enjoyed the the formula, I guess, it was an algorithm and it was amazing how on point it was because when I would communicate these results I could see the the patients or their parents eyes was like go, wow, yes, that’s me. And I also had the benefit of having some of the most brilliant supervisors. I mean my professors, I was trained by a man named Dr. Robert Motta, who is a giant in the field of PTSD, and I worked with him as his research assistant. We published a couple of papers. I counted, count him as one of my dearest friends, and I have a just a tremendous amount of respect for him. Dr. Paul Meller, who is now the chairman, the director of the program not the chairman of the Psychology Department. Dr. Norman Miller, I mean. Absolute giants in the field, but they were approachable. They were friendly, they they treated us like colleagues from day one. And so, people thrive in a culture of respect, and, you know, companionship. And but they, they did not pull any punches when it came to actually training us. You know, they were strict. They were, you know, they demanded a lot of us, and we we provided, we delivered, you know. And I also had a fantastic class and I count them as some of my best friends to this day. And so, I think altogether the experience was just unifying and it was eye opening and because I mentioned I was very young, I was only 20 years old when I got into the program. So, I grew up in that program, surrounded by people that I just truly looked up to. Like a child. Oh my God. You guys are amazing, and I you know, every. Day was like, imagine a little child, just sort of like, the brain is just opening up and just absorbing all this information. And again, before the time of the Internet, right? So, a lot of the work that I did, for instance, was really the hard work of doing your own research, doing the, you know, the running around, putting in the elbow grease. If I wanted a paper, I had to go to the library, you know, to to get the microfilm or to print it out and and and in a way it served me well because there were fewer distractions, you know, so I I managed to get my doctorate by the time I was 25, and I did my dissertation in PTSD and EMT’s and the impact of violence on first responders, which coincidentally by the way, lined up with 911. And so, it impacted the way that research came out because I was in New York, and I gathered my data from fire houses in New York City. So, you can imagine it was a very. I guess in some ways an educational time, but it was definitely not something a doctoral student wants to have happen to participation.
And speaking of your dissertation, your title was “The Relationship between Violence-Related Trauma and Length of Exposure to PTSD in Emergency Medical Technicians.” And so, I’m glad you mentioned that. The other thing that you mentioned was you were surprised that more and more people (a) are aware of neuropsychology, that branch, because you really have to dig deep to find that. And then secondly, why the sudden interest? And one thing crossed my mind, Dr. Hafeez, is I think the technology and the resources available to help diagnose and look at the neuropsychological aspect of what’s happening to the brain has increased throughout the years and be improved throughout the years as well, wouldn’t you say?
Well, we’re finding out so much about what the brain can do. You know, the the concept of how neuroplastic the brain is is fairly novel. We knew the brain had capacity that we didn’t quite understand, but we didn’t quite know how much the brain can repair and learn. And even as it gets older, we used to think that’s it. You’re done. Knowing your your IQ is set, you’re. Done. Yes, yes, to a degree that’s true. Now you can train your brain to do a lot of things. So, I think neuropsychology has come a long way because research is showing us how incredibly malleable the brain continues to. To be.
I always remember growing up when I was going through grad school, talking about my parents, and getting older and stuff that you should introduce new activities, new games for people, because that helps create new pathways in the brain and helps offset the the onset of Alzheimer’s and other things as well. It’s even more deeper than that, based on everything that I’ve been looking at.
I mean, there’s so much information I I once contributed to an article by the Wall Street Journal for their science times, and it was about how much we learn while we sleep, because there’s studies that show that they have, we have something called sleep spindles that actually absorb information. So, people who listen to a tape on, let’s say, a new language they were learning while they were sleeping and then learned it during the day were much more able to to absorb and learn the language more proficiently than those who are just learning it during the day. I mean, you know, when you think of things like that, you realize, wow, the brain never stops. You know, when we dream, that’s how the brain shuffles your memories and decides what to keep and what not to keep. It actually serves a neuropsychological purpose. You know, when we find these things through research, through studies. It just reminds you of just how complex and intricate the system is and how, I mean, also everything that you do is controlled by the brain. So, it really never gets to take a rest but one of the other things that it’s teaching us as we get older is you gotta treat this organ with love and and delicacy because we’re going to need this to the very end. So, working yourself to the bone, not giving it time to relax or rest, not treating it well by giving it breaks during the day, by not meditating, by not exercising, you’re gonna be in for a rough time, you know, as you get older, so I think people are recognizing the value in that.
One thing that I should say is you’ve been practicing as a licensed psychologist in New York City in varying capacities, from clinician to teaching to supervising faculty at various institutions shortly after you graduated with your PsyD in 2002, at what point did you know that you wanted to open your own business, focusing on the consultation psychological services aspect?
So, I had a very organic natural fluid career and sometimes I I feel fortunate because it seems like, wow, I I didn’t have to struggle all that much, but I guess that’s easier to say in hindsight. I think when you truly love something that you want to do and you’re not. You’re not. You know, one of the things and I have to say this because I, I I I’m gonna guess you have a lot of young people listening to this. People can get very fixated on what am I gonna get out of this? You know, if I put in this many hours, I’m working for free and I. I understand people don’t always have the luxury of living at home, and people don’t always have that, but I think what really served me was my genuine love for wanting to be a psychologist and I threw myself in everything that came my way and I paid attention and I learned from people who came before me and I focused on what worked for them and I took what I wanted to and I left what I didn’t want. And so, when I was in graduate school, I started teaching classes. I started teaching undergraduate classes and I loved it. I loved teaching. I was younger than or as old as my students, but I loved teaching. And I enjoy the the attraction, I love teaching. I loved relearning some of the things that I, you know, couldn’t focus. And so, when I got out of my program, when I graduated, I was constantly being asked by program directors and and faculty to teach classes. And it was a great way to make some money on the side. It was a great way to keep connected to the academic institutions. And then I got a job at Coney Island Hospital working as a neurodevelopmental psychologist, and I helped grow that center significantly. At the time, I did not fill anyone’s shoes, so it was mine to do what I when I wanted to with it, and I enjoyed that creative aspect of it. And then I found out that people were beginning to learn about me and the fact that I had some bilingual skills and I started a a very small side practice that grew so quickly that I I couldn’t manage both my job and the private practice. I know that’s a very good problem to have, and so I quit my job and I focused on growing this practice. I taught for as long as I could, but the practice grew so big that I couldn’t do that either anymore, and the practice grew very organically I. I suggest anyone who wants to do that to focus on things having to do with billing practices and the administrative end of things, because clinically you can become busy very quickly and clinicians, overall, medical physicians included, lawyers included, can get very overwhelmed and almost drowned under that because those things are very important. And if you’re truly someone who loves what you do, you’re too focused on the clinical or the the service act of things to be able to take care of that. So that took a lot out of me. I got contracts with the City of New York with the Department of with Port Authority of New York. With the departments of Education and Long Island and Nassau and Suffolk County and Westchester County, and bosses. And so, my practice just grew. I started hiring people sort of almost haphazardly. Like ohh yeah. You wanna work great. Great, great. You know, set up a payroll system and it was very overwhelming. And I was very lucky that I found some very good people. And sometimes I had. You know, issues with just hiring and keeping people on and getting them to do what they were supposed to do. Because I didn’t have an administrative streak. Really. I just wanted to build a business that I enjoyed going to every day and well, lo and behold, you know, as time went on things started sorting themselves out. I always focused on the things that were most important, paying people and paying your taxes do not mess around with that. Do both those things, even if that means that you take a bit of a hit, eventually you’ll be OK. You never want to not pay people that work for you. And you never want to not pay Uncle Sam what is due, and you keep your hands clean, and things eventually will always work themselves out.
Very good advice and we’ve had previous guests on who have their own private practice and some of them would attack some of the administrative (billing, insurance) and then get overwhelmed and to your point, they reverted back to what they really, truly loved. What was important to them, and then they hired out the people that they needed to actually get that done. So, as I mentioned in the intro., you’re a neuropsychologist and director and founder of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, also known as CCPS or for short, Comprehend the Mind. Tell us a little bit more about CCPS and what your typical day looks like for you.
So, I, like I said, I’ve been very fortunate. I have my own practice. The one thing that I never sort of skimped on was hiring help or staff. I knew I could not do everything myself. I knew I needed help with answering the phones, making appointments, billing, support staff, people to help with the psychometrics of things. So, I have always hired very generously, compensated generously, and it’s paid me back. The rewards have been really great because when you treat people with respect. And you know your own limitations. I think it works in your favor toward the end. And that’s oh, even when I’ve taken hits in the end, it’s always worked out well for me. So, it allowed me to flourish and grow as a person, as a clinician, it’s helped my evolution because I wasn’t bogged down in paperwork and answering calls and dealing with insurances. I have washed my hands of that stuff. And I’ve always said sorry, so and so is the boss. I just am the the figurehead, you know, talk to them about scheduling. Talk to this person about billing. Talk to this person about, you know, whatever clinical issue. I oversee everything. I only get in the mix when I must. The pandemic was a little tricky, but one of the things one of the wonderful things that happened with me was it my creativity kept getting fed by things that somewhat fell in my lap. You know, many years ago when I just had my my twin boys eight years ago, Dr. Oz’s show came calling and, if you recall, it was a pretty big presence at the time on TV. And I went on and talked about ADHD and something called nootropics, which was sort of like supplements. And the research behind it. I’m fortunate that I always kept my head above water. I always came in with research and data and I never just went out and spewed stuff. I’m still very careful about what I put out there. I then started doing a lot of work with outlets. I was in the New York Times several times and the Washington Post about the opioid crisis and the Wall Street Journal. But also fun stuff like fashion magazines and you know other outlets. So, it kept the creativity going. It gave me some presence, you know, in the community outside my own little practice, we clinicians in private practice can become very mired in our little pond and don’t know what’s going on outside of it. I also did a lot of forensic work, and I did work with the courts. And so, I tell my children who are 8, I say, look, your mother had dreams about maybe wanting to be an actress and I did some acting in college and in grad school. And I said, you know, I pursued psychology because it’s a sure thing and I loved wanting to be a psychologist. But I get to be on TV, it’s not as a psychologist, but I get to be on TV. I wanted to be a lawyer when I was a kid. I used to tell my dad. I think we also want to be a lawyer when I grow up, I get to go into courts and I get to be an expert witness and I get to play a lawyer, you know. So, it’s my my work has allowed me to be a lot of fun things without really giving up what I really wanted to do and it keeps me going. And it keeps me evolving it keeps keeps me wanting to do more for the community at large. I am in the process of writing a book. I have a contract and I’m I’m writing a book on substance abuse and the clinical disorders that overlap with that and trauma which you know of course, has become a cornerstone for a lot of work in psychology as well. And so, you know, I get to enjoy neuropsychology, I get to enjoy the legal end of things. I get to do the media end of things and last but not least, one of the most important things. The reason I went into private practice, which is a question you asked me earlier, is I thought when I have children, I want to pick them up from school. When they’re off from school, I want to be home with them, and you couldn’t do that with a job. The only way for me to do that was to have my own practice and so I love being able to say that I’ve spent an incredibly fortunate, enormous amount of time with my kids, and I value that a lot, you know.
So many of our many of our listeners are going to ask what type of disorders are commonly evaluated as a neuropsychologist. Can you just kind of list kind of your top disorders that you typically evaluate?
Our bread and. Butter, as I like to say, are ADHD, learning disabilities. We define dyslexia and diagnose it because a lot of places can’t. Autism has become a huge one, with adults and children. We see both adults and children, and the adult population, which used to be maybe 35% of my population, is now about 50%. So, 50-50, you know, because (a) a lot of the children we saw are now becoming adults and there are a lot of adults who understand some of the difficulties they’ve had over their life because they had ADHD or an undiagnosed learning disability or or or autism and never quite got detected for it. And so, we do a lot of diagnoses. We do a tremendous amount of testing that allows us to give them answers, but also solutions and treatment planning and referrals. And that’s what we focus on. We’re not purporting to be a therapeutic place, or you know we’ll give you this, that or the other. No, we’re going to give you an assessment. We’re going to give you clear answers based on data and we’re going to tell you what to do about it.
Well, it sounds like you’re, you’re focused and you, you it almost comes to you though the type of disorders that you usually evaluate are determined by the need, you know, that’s out there. So, one follow-up question that I do have is as neuropsychology continues to evolve and develop, what do you feel are the most pressing issues in the field?
I think some things that neuropsychologists generally, I find, don’t do very well is that they kind of get stuck in the neuro psych component. The neural component of the neuro Psych and they kind of forget that. We assess for bipolar disorder, for instance, which has a tremendous amount of overlap with ADHD. You know, autism can also be mimicked by people with social anxiety and ADHD. You know, there’s a type of high functioning autism that is not really autism, it’s more the psychiatric end of things. If you don’t know what, how to look for those things. You can easily miss them and misdiagnose and miss the boat on a on a on a diagnosis. So, because I have established this practice and I I love assessment so much, my library of tools and and testing is so vast. I have the luxury of testing for everything and anything, even if I suspect it and a lot of times find that the referral question is not at all what’s going. It’s something entirely else and is parading around as a different diagnosis, so it’s very important to find the missing answer to answer the question the the piece of the puzzle that’s missing and not just going for the predictable answer.
I have a couple fun questions for you before we stop the podcast here, number one is tell us something unique about yourself.
Unique outside of psychology, I I I mean, I guess I’m a little bit of a renaissance person. I I love art. I love reading. I love shows, I love movies. I am a night owl. My husband and I were watching Black Mirror till like 2 in the morning and I still had patients at 8:00 in the morning. So sometimes I’ll do that. I enjoy fashion. I’m obsessed with skin care. So, you know the beauty end of things comes naturally to me because I enjoy it. I love New York City. I love traveling. I am very fond of my cultural roots. I’m Pakistani by birth and origin and I I just you know. I I’m always kind of finding ways to meld parts of myself. And and the one thing that I would like to say is I make no apologies for any of that. And I think people should not apologize for who they are. If it makes you look like less of a grown-up or an adult, who cares? Be authentic. Be yourself. Enjoy life. We only have so much of it.
I should add a couple things. So, you actually immigrated to the US from Pakistan when you were 12 years old and you’re fluent. You mentioned this already in English, Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi and so there’s a couple of other aspects that make you unique as well. If you had the time and money to complete one project or go on one trip, what would you do?
Oh my God that is a tough one. I’ll give you 2.
I would develop. Ohh gosh that’s a tough one. I I was set up for nonprofit for individuals who can’t afford neuropsychological evaluations, who don’t have the insurance and the funding for it. I would definitely do a lot for women who are victims of domestic violence, especially in the family court system for custody cases. That’s a huge one, very close to my heart. I went through a very grueling custody battle and divorce with my children’s dad, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. And I, from a personal standpoint, would just. I honestly, I don’t think I would do you know travel for like 6 months out of the year. I believe in making money and working hard and then spending it on traveling and seeing the world and every chance I get; I whisk my kids off to some destination you know and and to teach them something. I am I. Love Italy and maybe if I spent anytime anywhere, it would probably be Italy somewhere just lost in in Tuscany or something. And a non-clinically related project, I don’t know, maybe develop the skin line, skin care line for ethnic skin or something fun like that.
OK. Well, that’s interesting. Do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of psychology?
I, God, I have so much advice. I think the younger folks need to hear that they have, they should have, they have the world at their fingertips, literally. You know, when I say fingertips, I mean fingertips. They should embrace every aspect of themselves, not apologize for it. Embrace it, find even, even, you know, look for the positives in even what they think is is a negative. And pursue what they want truly, with gusto, as long as they can keep their head above water. Eventually life will reward you. Follow your passion. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. I want to tell them a quick little snippet of a story. When I was in Queens at Queens College in undergrad. A a school advisor, a every you know you got to have an advisor if you wanted one. And I went to someone and and said to her Dr. so and so I want to go and get my doctorate in psychology and Queens College is a very competitive school full of people with 4.0s, and she laughed. She laughed, looked at my transcript and she laughed and said. I can’t believe you think you’re going to get into a doctoral program. You’re not going to get into a doctoral program. Your best bet is to get a masters in psychology and then try your luck. And I said OK. And I did not let her break me. I did not let her deter me. I didn’t apply to a single master’s program. I only applied to three doctoral programs. I got into all three of them. So don’t let people break your spirit. If you want to do something, you can do it. Don’t let the naysayers tell you there’s too much competition. You’re not bright enough. You’re not smart enough. Your grades are not good enough. You don’t have enough experience. Throw yourself into everything and eventually you’ll find your way.
Very good advice. Is there anything else that you’d like to discuss or bring up on this podcast?
No, I think we’ve covered a lot. You know, I, I I would say. The only thing I guess the only other thing I would say is find ways to set limits around things like Instagram, social media and phone time because I I see a lot of very bright people not finishing what they start because they’re just way too many distractions and I thank God, I thank my lucky stars that I went to school at a time right before the Internet exploded and became what it is because God knows we may not have this conversation today, so I know the temptations out there, but find a way to put that away and set timetables for yourself.
Dr. Hafeez, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. I look forward to, looking forward to that book that you’re going to be writing and…
Do you have an ETA on that?
You know, books can be tricky. There are a lot of revisions back and forth I’m writing with a co-author. So hopefully maybe by next year.
OK. All right. We’ll keep an eye out for it. Thanks again for your help and your participation in this podcast.
Thank you so much for speaking with me. And good luck to everyone out there who wants to go into psychology.