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Winning Mzansi Women: Interview with Dr Melane van Zyl, Psychiatrist


Aug 2, 2022 5:02:40 PM

For our next #WinningMzansiWomen Hellopeter Women in Business interview series, we chatted to Dr Melane van Zyl, a psychiatrist and psychologist, about working in the mental health industry and what she hopes for future generations stepping into her role. 

Hellopeter: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career so far?

Dr Melane van Zyl: My patients trust me to share sensitive information with me and allow themselves to be vulnerable in my presence. Therefore, the most rewarding aspect of my career has been the relationships I've built and that I've witnessed people being able to create the kind of life they want to live.

HP: What has been your greatest challenge as a woman working in the mental health industry?

Dr MvZ: In the mental health industry, feminine traits such as nurturing and caring are assets (which many of my male colleagues also embody). My biggest challenges are related to my role as a mother and being able to juggle the demands of my work and family.

HP: Have you always dreamt of becoming a psychiatrist, or did it only come later in life?

Dr MvZ: I enjoyed psychiatry as a medical student, but I actually wanted to become a surgeon. Luckily it did not work out for me!

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HP: What have you witnessed in the mental health industry regarding women's empowerment? Do you feel that there has been a shift to more women stepping into these roles?

Dr MvZ: Yes, definitely. More women are stepping into these positions. Our current SASOP president is a woman, Dr Sebo Seape. The feminine principle* (if I may use Jungian terminology) enables both females and males to care for our patients during consultations and be compassionate when acting from positions of power.

*Feminine principle: the "being" part versus the "doing" part, which is masculine.

HP: What do you hope to see when it comes to our future generation of women in business, particularly in the mental health space?

Dr MvZ: I hope to see both men and women embrace the 'feminine aspects of their personalities, which will include characteristics such as intuition, patience, compassion, and nurturing. 

HP: How did leveraging online reviews help you grow your business?

Dr MvZ: Some patients have told me they chose to consult me because they have read my reviews. I also bring attention to my reviews when I speak to my colleagues about online reputation, a subject I believe we as mental health professionals perhaps do not have enough awareness of.

I think my patients should be empowered to voice their opinions about how satisfied they are with the service they received from my practice.

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HP: Any advice for young women thinking about going into the business of running their psychiatrist practice? Or even just working in the mental health industry?

Dr MvZ: Be yourself. It might sound cliché, but being human and imperfect is very important. People want to relate to you, and they cannot do that if you are too 'perfect'.

Also very important is that you must do your own psychological work and resolve your issues. We ALL would have assumptions we are unaware of. Even if we had a very blessed life, we still carry some psychological wounding. We should be able to provide a safe space for our patients, even (and especially) if they are hostile towards us in therapy.

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