Ishma Alvi

The People’s Advocate: How Ishma Alvi Empowers her Clients by Recognizing and Embracing their Differences

“Mental health is very important to me. It’s important to understand that the individual I’m speaking with doesn’t exist under a cloche or in a bubble.”

It’s difficult to sum up Ishma Alvi in a few sentences. While our clients at Vida Psychology may know her by her trademark humour and calmly delivered advice, the person behind the psychologist holds even more identities: artist, writer, feminist, and mother, to name a few. Her strong principles of equality and advocacy underpin all she does in life, including her clinical practice. We truly value Ishma’s contribution to our team, our clients, and our wider community.
The intersectionality of mental health


In her role as Senior Psychologist, Ishma helps her patients understand their mental health, unpack trauma, and determine strategies to reduce impact on everyday life. She assists clients who have experienced anxiety and mood disorders, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Ishma says her passion for helping clients through these challenges isn’t just part of the job, but something driven by her personal values.


“Mental health is very important to me. It’s important to understand that the individual I’m speaking with doesn’t exist under a cloche or in a bubble. The trauma an individual experiences is affected by their position in the world. I look at everything that informs how we see ourselves in the world.”

Striving for equity and fairness


Ishma draws on her personal values to strengthen her practice. She says her worldview is holistically influenced by principles of feminism and gender equity. This affects everything, from Ishma’s relationships and parenting style to volunteering and her work at Vida. As a Psychologist, Ishma is particularly interested in helping people from diverse communities access therapeutic services – especially those who may have previously faced barriers to assistance.


Ishma was raised in Pakistan in what she describes as a moderately religious family. She grew up practicing Islam, and while she experienced misogyny, she did have female role models to look up to. The women in her family were educated, and she had the luck of being born into a family with financial privilege.


“Despite the advantages I experienced, there was still no way to completely escape gender inequality. I decided Pakistan was not the place to raise my three-year-old daughter. So, we moved to Australia.”


Ishma has created a life here. She humbly describes herself as “maybe not an artist, but someone who makes art” – although the exhibitions she held pre-lockdown tell a different story. She enjoys exercising, baking, and writing. She’s also created a small side hustle, building awareness on consent education. Ishma is committed to deconstructing oppression wherever she is, using her skills to contribute to healthier, fairer communities.

Vida’s values: creative, curious, and conscious


As a cornerstone member of the Vida team, Ishma is proud of the workplace culture she’s helped shape. She and her colleagues represent diverse race, culture, gender and life experiences. Ishma says it’s about more than just tolerance, which implies “putting up” with something. Instead, they accept and celebrate differences, both within their team and in practice with clients. It’s a mindset that must be shared by anyone wishing to join Vida.


“As a team, we have a clear vision and clear values. This doesn’t mean we’re homogenous – we embrace differences – but it is important that the people who choose to work for us can connect with the values of our existing team. We also definitely think outside the box. We value curiosity and creativity – qualities that are essential for our practice.”


These values have served Vida well, and we couldn’t be prouder of our team. Ishma enthusiastically explains that for the right person, Vida Psychology is a place where you can truly thrive.


“My development has been exponential. Carmen (Founder, Director and Principal Psychologist) and Bronwyn (Practice Manager) have been fantastic in supporting me to learn and grow. They trust and guide me without being controlling, and this has really built my confidence. When I first started the Senior Clinician role two years ago, I lacked confidence. But they always believed in me.”

Do you want a career where you can empower people to live meaningful lives?