It’s said that a sabbatical is the perfect time to let your career begin to pursue a new, intellectual path. For Arpana Inman, Associate Professor in the Counseling Psychology Department, that new path took the form of a return to her native country India as a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar at the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore. Visiting India for the first time in a professional capacity, Dr. Inman describes this trip as “the most amazing experience,” an opportunity to slow down and approach her field with an open mind from the vantage point of a unique cultural lens, in a place which for her happens also to be home.
During her stay at NIMHANS, a government-funded teaching hospital that specializes in family therapy, Dr. Inman spent the majority of her time teaching and supervising MPhil. (post graduate) and doctoral-level students. Her greatest enjoyment came from the interaction she was able to experience with her students. Unlike the old British style of instruction common in India, which consists largely of one-sided lecturing, she found her students open to discussion. She notes, too, how her pedagogical approach of directing students to reflect critically on their own decisions struck a fresh, positive chord with many developing counselors.
The timing of her visit came at an exciting period in the development of counseling psychology in India. Long a neglected and socially-stigmatized field, there has been in recent years astonishing growth in the number of counseling and mental health programs in the country, as public attitudes change towards mental health issues. With this growth has come a new need for national standards for accreditation and curricula. During this period of maturation, Dr. Inman was able to participate in conferences and confer with colleagues on what the future of counseling psychology will look like in India.
Her activities were not, however, limited to NIMHANS, her host institution. Through the Fulbright program, she was able to meet her Fulbright colleagues at various conferences where she could share and compare her impressions and experiences with those of her peers. She also secured South Asia travel grants to work with high schools in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, opportunities made possible by her connections with former students at Lehigh. Throughout her experience, she says that the Fulbright staff was extremely supportive and encouraging in making her goals realities and rendering her time abroad fruitful and stimulating.
Returning to Lehigh, Dr. Inman brings with her the lessons learned in Bangalore. At a personal level, it gave her an opportunity to immerse herself into the Indian culture and country after having been away for 25 years. It allowed her to come “home” and reconnect with the people, customs, traditions, and climate. At a professional level, she observed and learned alternative approaches to counseling that can complement the standard practices of the field in the United States. In particular, the family therapy model at NIMHANS as well as the client cases with which she was directly involved will aid her in her teaching by providing valuable first-hand material to impart to her students. She also brings back with her a host of new connections with Indian students and professionals that may culminate in a healthy exchange of ideas and practitioners between Lehigh and India in the years to come.
With her Fulbright experience now behind her, sitting in Iacocca Hall, Dr. Inman relates her experience in glowing terms, and returns to Lehigh with a fresh perspective on her field and practice. In her eyes, the chance to reconnect to her homeland and re-imagine her professional role made for an unforgettable sabbatical.