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Blind psychologist Yevhen Klopota is successfully breaking down stereotypes

There are 65,000 blind people living in Ukraine, along with a larger number of individuals who have various vision problems. Today, this country operates a more or less adequate legal framework aimed at rehabilitating individuals with such physical handicaps. In reality, the situation is not all that rosy, say people who are in need of treatment. Yevhen A. Klopota, a young researcher from Zaporizhia, explored this subject in his dissertation.
He was eight years old when he entered Kharkiv’s regional Korolenko High School for the Blind. After graduation he enrolled in the Department of Social Pedagogics at the Kharkiv Institute of Culture, and a year and a half later transferred to Zaporizhia State University, where he majored in practical psychology. He graduated with honors and was offered a postgraduate course at the Skovoroda State Pedagogical University of Kharkiv. Together with his research coordinator, Prof. Marat Kuznetsov of the Practical Psychology Chair, Yevhen Klopota developed the topic of his dissertation: “The Specifics of Ego Formation in Individuals with Vision Problems.” While working on his thesis, he manned a hotline at a youth social center in Zaporizhia. Later, he worked as a consultant with an international project in Kharkiv, financed by the World Bank.
How do you manage to take such an active stand in life? A lot of people can only envy your energy and determination.
Klopota: My life experience shows that it is not enough to teach a blind person to walk with a cane or operate a PC. You have to reveal that global mechanism which allows that person to further adjust to society. Self-consciousness can be that mechanism. You tell yourself, ‘yes, I am physically handicapped, but I can still accomplish many things.’ This is easier said than done, of course, especially considering that many people regard blind people as outcasts. Lack of understanding and sympathy on the part of society prevent blind people, including me, from fully revising our view of life and becoming full-fledged members of the community.
Why did you specialize in psychology?
Klopota: I have always enjoyed communicating with people, helping to solve their problems, rejoicing in other people’s accomplishments.
How do you cope with your responsibilities, considering that a psychologist must establish direct contact with every patient in the first place?
Klopota: In modern psychology, it is customary to communicate with a patient so as to avoid looking into his/her eyes. It is believed that looking straight in the patient’s eyes makes the patient feel ill at ease and even irritated. Therefore, eyesight is not a paramount factor. In addition, professional psychologists prefer verbal communication, meaning that I can hold my patient’s hand and sense his condition by feeling the wetness on his palm and by checking his pulse. In principle, when psychoanalysis was at an early stage, a psychotherapist would communicate with his patients from behind a curtain. Also, the eyes, which are considered the mirror of the soul, often fail to convey true emotions, if one knows how to hold them in check.
I know that I am constantly confronted by difficulties, but I am not afraid of them. I believe that, given certain motivation, knowledge, skill, and properly defined objectives, you can alter your destiny. Of course, everyone chooses one’s path in life; some elect to beg in subway cars. I prefer science. At present, I am teaching at the Departmen of Practical Psychology, Zaporizhia State University. I am a research fellow and I conduct fundamental research in psychology. After defending my thesis, I hope to dedicate all my time to teaching, although I will not stop practicing.”
Do you have a family?
Klopota: Yes. My wife Anna has normal eyesight (she was a fellow student); she’s also a psychologist. Seven months ago she gave birth to a boy. She wanted to come to Kharkiv, to be present when I defended my thesis, but Illya was too small for such a long trip.
When did you lose your eyesight?
Klopota: I was born with perfect eyesight, but suffered a serious injury at age six. At the hospital, instead of treating my brain concussion, they treated what they believed was a stomach disease. Time was wasted. In Moscow they told me that I could have kept my eyesight if the initial diagnosis had been correct. I am not one of those who expect medicine to come out with new discoveries and repair the damage. My principle is ‘live while you can and make the most of it.’ My diagnosis is optic nerve atrophy; there is nothing the doctors can do.
Did anyone caution you against embarking on your chosen profession?
Klopota: Yes, some said I’d make a good masseur, telling me ‘why don’t you enroll in a medical college and then get a well-paid job.’ But then I met an expert in Kharkiv who said I could always take up massage, but first I should try to enroll at an institute. So he was the one who guided me. I have no regrets. Many friends tried to talk me out of it, telling me that I don’t need it, that I won’t have a future this way, there are so many healthy, unemployed people. Fortunately, my parents always believed in me and this helped me to live and continue struggling.
By Maryna HOLINA, Kharkiv
Sumber: http://www.day.kiev.ua/en/article/close/blind-psychologist-yevhen-klopota-successfully-breaking-down-stereotypes

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