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Fotis joined the Focus on Emotions lab for one year as a Master student, Intern and Research Assistant, while completing his degree in Developmental Psychology at Leiden University.

We talked to him about his experiences, and how it influenced where he is now – at the intersection between therapy and research, exactly where he wanted to be. Perhaps the biggest win of all: To learn that you love what you’re doing! 

fotisWho is Fotis?

Fotis came to Leiden from Ioannina, a small town in Greece. Before starting his Masters in Child & Adolescent Psychology, he did clinical work in an accommodation facility for unaccompanied minors, as a therapist. Yet, Fotis aimed for a better theoretical background first.  


Joining the lab.

Given the choice, he  landed in the Focus on Emotions lab for his master thesis, focusing on parenting and psychopathology of deaf and hard-of hearing children from Chinese background – supervised by Carolien Rieffe and Shannon Yuen. Fotis first had other topics in mind, but Carolien advised to work within an existing PhD project. Fotis recalls: “I was describing my thoughts to Carolien and she told me - first, you need to learn how to walk before you run a marathon. First, to do research within an existing project, you must learn how to do research step by step… Now I’m walking quicker”. 

But, Fotis wanted to more…“I expected to work on a small task, but [Carolien] saw I wanted to learn and gave me the opportunity to do more.” Expanding his responsibilities as part of an internship, and later also as research assistant was more than he was first expecting - “and that’s a good thing, it was super interesting!” From participating in various research projects of the lab, becoming more familiar with each of them, to helping with grant proposals, organizing tasks of other Master students, helping with creating literature tables and working with different methodology… “Carolien sets up high standards”, he says, but emphasizes that his work was balanced. His favourite part? Finally seeing everyone face to face after lock-down! He also liked the lab meetings, which gave him ideas from other researchers to incorporate in his thesis and internship.  


Where he is now.

Fotis handed in his master thesis, but that’s not the only thing he has achieved. “I was thinking of doing a PhD, but then got a call from the research centre [where he works now]” the Centre of Systemic Therapy & Counselling (C.S.T.C.) is in his hometown in Greece. He thinks he received the job offer because of his work experience and the knowledge he gained during his thesis and internship: “The people in the Centre were familiar with the work of Carolien and the lab and were super interested when they learned that I worked there.” 

Thanks to the lab I had the chance [to do this] and eventually get the job I wanted”, he reflects. “Everyone [I worked with in the lab] gave me the stage when I needed it and gave me opportunities to work with the things I needed to learn.”  


What’s next? 

I chose this job because it combines research and therapy”, he explains. “I see that parenting plays a major role in children’s development. For example, positive parenting can act as a protective factor against the development of psychopathology symptoms in children. Now, this information is useful for professionals and therapists, as they could target their efforts in increasing aspects of positive parenting, through counselling or by psychoeducation or by implementing different intervention programs.

Even though he is back in Greece now, he wants to stay involved with the Focus on Emotions lab collaborate in the future. “I want to say I'm thankful for everybody in the lab and it was everybody's desire and openness that allowed me to find out that I love what I'm doing!