The Sunday Leader

The Psychologist From Holland Who Took A Closer Look At Sri Lanka

By Ranee Mohamed

Dr. Marcel de Roos from Holland

Marcel de Roos, (PhD)  a psychologist from Holland is preparing to settle down in Sri Lanka — leaving behind a 25 year old practice – Central Clinic —  in Amsterdam. Dr de Roos says that he has fallen in love with Sri Lanka and has moved his home to this country. As  human emotions, feelings and the mind does not change from country to country, Psychologist  de Roos says that his practice in Sri Lanka will help many Sri Lankans.

Having also been a counsellor for students at the University of Amsterdam  in the past few years, Dr.  de Roos helped them to  cope with the stressful environment and issues such as depression, anxiety and loneliness.

Recently Dr. Marcel de Roos  set up a company (Marcel de Roos Consultancy) in Holland dealing with assessment for higher management. Corporate firms not only want qualified staff but they want them to perform adequately in their own work environment.  Besides interviewing them he devised a series of appropriate tests and let them perform tasks with the help of hired actors and colleague psychologists.

Speaking of his patients in Holland down the years, de Roos said ‘‘The patient population has been varied, but the majority consisted of women. Relationship issues, work related ones and depression were the most commonly asked questions.”

“My practice was a general one so I treated all kinds of disorders. My patients came from all strata of society. I have a strong sense of justice so abuse in any form is something I abhor. Clients with a history of abuse may count on my help and I will do everything I can to empower them to overcome their ordeals,” he said directing this help to victims of abuse and those who need his help in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Marcel de Roos went on to elaborate that he is appalled by the stories he has heard from female clients about what they have had to go through. “There seems to be a huge difference between role patterns in Holland and Sri Lanka. In Holland there is a strong sense of equality among women. A majority of them work (part time) and thus generate their own income. In the past 30  years the women’s’ lib movement has accomplished much. For instance equal rights at work, men taking an active part in the upbringing of children and much legislation,” he said.

He went on to say that the strong bonds parents have with their children in Sri Lanka is notable. “The education system seems successful and drugs and alcohol are not promoted,” observed de Roos.

But Dr. Marcel de Roos also went on to point out some disturbing facets. “Sri  Lanka seems to be a very male oriented society where most women take second place. I have heard  many tales about emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Behind the typical Sri Lankan smile a completely different world often seems to be hidden: women in Sri Lanka are prone to ‘stand by their man’ no matter what. When a woman has had enough and has the courage to speak out, chances are that she isn’t taken seriously.
“What many women need here is support and understanding. Very often women take the blame. They feel guilty and feel it is their fault that they are abused and that their marriage is failing apart. The difference in the gender roles in Sri Lanka seems to play a dominant part in the lives of men and women from a very young age,” observed the psychologist from Holland.

But Dr. Marcel de Roos went on to warn that contrary to what many people believe, emotional abuse is as serious and as harmful as physical or sexual abuse. “It is used to control, demean, harm or punish a woman. The forms may vary, but the end result is the same – a frightened woman who does everything to please her partner to be safe from harm,” pointed out Dr. de Roos.

Dr. de Roos said that some tactics used by the abuser are to isolate a woman from her friends and family, criticize the woman constantly, act overly jealous and possessive, control her money, make all the decisions in the family, intimidate and harass – even making use of the children. ‘Abused women should try to seek help and speak about their experiences. It is only then that her ordeal may end,’ he advised.

He went on to observe that depression seems to be increasing among young people in Sri Lanka. “The many pressures they have to cope with might be a factor.  I hope that I can make a contribution to alleviate the above mentioned issues in Sri Lanka,” he said

“Twenty five years ago when I started practising, the emphasis in psychology was on trying to change the thoughts of  clients. As a result of that their feelings would improve. As I got more experience I realised that it wasn’t helping my clients in the long term. There seemed to be something missing. The feelings of depression or anxiety in many  cases reappeared after a while. That’s why my motto in psychology is ‘feelings are stronger than the mind.’ The inclusion of feelings and making them the focal point of counseling changed a lot for my clients,” Dr. de Roos added.

“When  people are feeling empty, depressed or burnt out, these are in many cases symptoms of an underlying conflict. Usually these symptoms stem for feelings from the past which are still too painful to be felt. When you succeed in making the connection then those ‘old’ feelings (usually mixed with present ones) explain to you the cause of your present state. Finally you can start to feel the painful feelings from the past in full. At first with the help of the therapist, after a while by yourself. Each time when you are triggered in the present by a representative of an old feeling, the intensity of the painful feeling will diminish,” said Dr. de Roos.

He went on to elaborate “For instance when you are feeling depressed, it does not originate in the present but in your past. Focussing on your feelings can reveal the cause of your present state and can allow you to feel the deeper, underlying roots.  The  new approach is that you don’t focus on the ‘thought’ side, but that you work with your feelings. Present plus past combined. It is a very down to earth  method. It is aimed at giving the client powerful tools to do the work himself so that in time he does not have to rely on the therapist.”

“Medication can have its benefits with severe traumas and phobias  where the client is unable to cope with the deeper underlying issues. In my patient group, I prefer to work without medication and solve problems with therapy,” said Dr. de Roos.

When asked: How do you like Sri Lanka, Dr. Marcel de Roos said, “Well on the surface, Sri Lanka is in many ways like a picture post card. The beauty of the island is often breathtaking and natural resources are plentiful. People who live in tropical countries seem to be warmer by nature and smile a lot more than in cold Northern Europe. I plan to stay here and work here for some years and it is certainly no punishment to do so,” said this famous psychologist with a smile.

Dr. Marcel de Roos is also a member of Mensa International. “I took care of the testing and introduction of aspirant members and was responsible for the selection of members into the group. Maxwell de Silva (Chairman of the Institute of Ship brokers) and I are about to start  a Mensa group here in Sri  Lanka too. We are still in the early stages but will expand it once we have sufficient numbers of people to join this intelligent network. We hope to meet regularly and discuss issues of interest,” revealed Dr. de Roos.

A huge fan of Sri Lankan food, Dr. de Roos now finds that he cannot live without the godamba rotis, koththu rotis, hoppers and hot curries. “So much so that if I have to now visit Holland I will have to take the curry and chillie powders with me. As a Sri Lankan, I now find that food in Holland is bland…” he said with a smile. And he truly has gone the whole hog, for not only has he fallen in love with Sri Lankan but says that he is also deeply in love with his Sri Lankan wife Jennifer, who seems to have entered his heart and mind in a big way. raneemoham@hotmail.com

Dealing With Loss And Grief

Speaking of death and loss,   Psychologist Dr. Marcel de Roos went on to say ‘This month it’s a year since the Editor of The Sunday Leader was killed. Many are still trying to cope with his death and the loss continues to evoke grief and sadness. From a professional point of view grief is a natural reaction to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. There is no right way or right amount of time to grieve. It’s a very personal experience. However it is possible to give some general advice. The most important is to try to get support from other people. Share your grief with your family or co-workers, don’t grieve alone. It is also important to take care of yourself. Face your feelings and try to maintain good physical health. Be aware that grief doesn’t turn into depression and don’t hesitate to seek professional help when necessary.’

8 Comments for “The Psychologist From Holland Who Took A Closer Look At Sri Lanka”

  1. Dain

    I need the contact details of Dr. Marcel De Roos please.

    • sanath

      My practise is located at:

      19/1 Hospital Terrace

      Sunandarama Road

      Kalubowila

      (It’s easy to find, Sunadarama Road is next to the Kalubowila hospital. Halfway down Sunandarama Road there is

      a busstop and a fruit stall. Opposite these is Hospital Terrace).

      Phone: 077-2310869 or 011-2764852

      email: marcel.deroos@yahoo.com

      • Marcel de Roos

        We have moved house. My practise is now located at:

        4/3B Edirigoda Mawatta
        Nugegoda
        It’s in a residential area near Nugegoda Junction
        When you come from the fruit/vegetable market, you cross the railway track, near the junction there is a supermarket on your right side, cross Nugegoda Junction, on the other side it’s the FIRST road on the right (Edirigoda Road). Follow the road and turn right till the Jesus Christ temple. Opposite that you see a number sign 4/3 7/3, there turn LEFT. My practise is a few numbers beyond the physiotherapy building. Our house is earthy orange coloured , number 4/3B.
        Phone: 077-2310869 or 077-2534018
        email: marcel.deroos@yahoo.com

  2. kiran

    Are u conducting spoken english classes for adults.when , venue and fees

    • Marcel de Roos

      My wife conducts english classes for adults and children. Her phone number is: 077-2534018

  3. I read the article this morning in the island publication and was very pleased to know that someonre who really has a approach toward this subject with the lighter side to take on step 1. as Srilanka has been so behind the mental health programme. he culure really allowed the subject to be swept under the carpet untill conflicts and wars made it into a vast problem. A few Pstchiatrists were available for a population of 20million people with war and conflicts that turned brual and the poverty, abuse of all forms, forceful abductions and torture and fear, with addiction problems etc. to deal with. It was a joke when the tsunami happenned that most who were victims of dead family and relatives, sometimes the entire family and loss of property and livelyhoods were ignored for the mere fact of the ignorance of the health sector and the people at large.

    I have been following this line of psychiatrist and mental health sector for many years and i am happy to read that some one had the heart to come over to Srilanka and help this sector improve in a more organized way. How could one make an earning from specilly the poor population when faced with a family member who is in trauma and deeper mental health disorder. The care is limited, facilities are very substandard, medication has escalated in price and there is a lack of education about the subject. it should be incoroporated in the school carriculam and encouraged teachers to follw psychology courses to deal with the present students problem ,how to detect a child in need of some care and where to refer them, student councelling and career guidance is necessary and cshould be made compulsory in the education sector.

    Please call me on 0774710119 and email me on saninajayamaha58@yahoo.com i would like to share more detail items on this subject.and would like to join your team too.

    Sincerely

    Saturnina

  4. Judith

    I am really glad that there is someone to help Sri Lanka
    I am a student and I am very interested in this field but my parents think that there is no scope in Sri Lanka. If i were to start Psychology for further studies i would start next year. I really love Psychology and would love to help people.

    I would love to know if Sri Lanka has scope for Psychologists… especially child and clinical. Please answer this question for me

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