Occasionally I’m asked to do Q&As by people interested in psychology as a field and/or the practice I’ve developed with Embolden Psychology. What follows are the questions and answers from a brief interview I did recently with an actor who was researching a role.
1.) What fascinates you about psychology?
So many things, but what comes to mind are two important but different levels.
First, studying human behavior is something we all do. From trying to figure out our friends and family to people watching, it’s all about psychology. In my belief, we have an inherent need to understand others that’s part of our wiring. The field of clinical psychology takes it to a level of science and research, combined with empathy and treatment/healing. My doctoral program emphasized what is called the scientist practitioner model. This basically refers to having an understanding of social science, psychological, and medical research and how to use this knowledge in ways that are helpful to your clients.
Second, in clinical psychology practice, you actively strive to meet another in their experience, with empathy, acceptance, and a genuine desire to understand all that has brought them to this place and time. This has been described as a “corrective emotional experience” for clients, Meaning an acceptance and openness to the uniqueness of that individual that may not necessarily be present in other meaningful relationships with family, friends, and partners.
2.) What do you love about your job?
I love seeing people find satisfaction and joy in their lives. I also love, on a personal level, how much I learn just from talking to hundreds of people every year. I’ve had the privilege of hearing thousands of stories of courage, pain, and triumph. Although psychologists go through many years of education and training, the education we receive from being with our clients is the highest echelon.
Another wonderful thing about psychology is the broad range of work and learning it makes possible. Psychologists were the original consultants for the advertising industry, as seen in Mad Men. Psychologist are professors, researchers, therapists, consultants, and scientists, just to name a few roles. For example, I received advanced training in neuropsychology, mindfulness-based therapy, and psychodynamic psychotherapy after I completed my formal doctoral program. The field of psychology is dynamic and growing.
3.) Rewards? Challenges?
The rewards are having a job where you can genuinely help alleviate suffering, do something different every day, work with multiple colleagues (I believe in a team approach), and continue to grow and learn as a person. For example, we have to to keep up with continuing medical education credits, so staying on top of advances in our field is extremely important and required. Education never stops.
The challenges parallel the rewards. On a daily basis, we hear some of the most painful things, and sit with people who are suffering. Self-care is paramount to prevent burnout. Most mental health health professionals have participated in personal counseling/therapy, which is highly recommended, and in my belief crucial, to help us understand our own concerns that might affect our work. Having a strong social support network, healthy routines, and personal activities to destress are essential. I have an incredible network of colleagues and close friends who are so helpful in this regard. For me, being outdoors, being with my dogs, and spending quiet time (reading, writing, meditation) are tools that help me replenish.
Lastly, I have to add that I believe that psychology has a social justice and advocacy component that is relatively new to the field, at least “officially”. Not until 2017, did the American Psychological Association add to their ethical guidelines that examining systems of oppression and environment are factors that we must actively address as psychologists.