The Three Lessons I Learned Pursuing A Career in Psychology

My dream was to become a psychologist. It began when I was a young boy and my parents thought a visit with a therapist may assist in curbing some behavioral and social issues they were concerned about. The office was welcoming in its warm and friendly atmosphere. The therapist was a sweet lady that asked me to sit down and spoke with me about anything and everything that I wanted. She gave me advice on how to handle my thoughts and feelings along with something she referred to as “impulse control”. Eventually, we began to confide in each other and I started helping her through her issues too. We saw each other for years until she retired and moved to another state. A long lasting impression had been made and right after high school, I enrolled in college declaring myself a psychology major.

The program was difficult with all the lecturing, research papers, and tests but that wasn’t fulfilling my desire to help people. I don’t know how they expect students to gain experience without interacting with real clients. Case studies were bullshit, I wanted the real thing. They say that if you want to start changing the world, you need to start in your own community so I began to console those in desperate need on campus. While it did not gain me popularity with my peers, it was a valuable first lesson: You cannot help those that do not wish to help themselves.

I tried to help the women first since my therapist was a woman and I felt I had a better connection and understanding of them. Not that many women accepted that their binge drinking, experimentation with narcotics, and sexual promiscuity was a result of their father’s molestation, paternal lack of attention or male presence in their life, or an unconscious emulation of their mother’s behavior. I expressed my desires to help the fix their obvious moral flaws but I was met with physical violence more often than not.

The men were equally as unresponsive to my diagnosis of their overwhelming desire to prove their masculinity. Their fixation on chugging beers, bedding women, and acting as an “alpha male” was due to underlying issues with unacknowledged homosexual tendencies and incestuous desires for their mothers. These encounters solidified my belief in helping only those that want to be helped. When I presented my theories to these troubled men, I was met with fierce emotional outbursts and threats of violence.

As much as I wanted to help my fellow students, I couldn’t save them from themselves. It’s not about nature vs. nurture. It was their environment that didn’t help them see the forest from the trees. I switched my approach and found a method to have those in need come to me. I applied for an internship at a therapist’s office where I was assigned administrative work. Although it wasn’t what I signed up for, I made the best out of it. When the therapist attended conferences and after closing time, I was able to gain practical experience by scheduling my own appointments with new patients. Over three months, I had developed a client list. I must have done an amazing job because none of my clients ever returned after a session with me.

The arrangement went well until the police crashed one of my sessions at the behest of the therapist. Some of my clients had called and complained about my treatments. The police became involved when some clients had relapsed and harmed themselves or others. I was shocked at that accusation that my patients had committed these crimes because of my malpractice. That’s where I learned my second most important lesson: you cannot blame yourself for client failures. You can’t win them all and some will fall between the cracks. Even though the weaker willed clients ruined my practice, the police were interested in having me do some work with them, pro bono, of course.

They escorted me down to the precinct where I was assigned a private room and two new clients waited for a session. They read me the Miranda Rights which was unnecessary. I swore that under the rule of doctor/patient confidentiality I would not disclose any information to anyone about them without their permission. They questioned my qualifications, experience, and competency. I can understand why that clients are interested in the lives of their therapists but these questions probed too deeply into my life. After I finished my session with those clients, they told me that they wanted to keep me on for a little while longer. I was escorted to a cell for the night. I couldn’t imagine why they would put me there but I did not ask questions. It was probably due to budget cuts that they couldn’t give me a hotel suite.

The next morning, I was bought into another session with a new client. The man introduced himself as my lawyer. I laughed at the joke and thanked him for the offer but I didn’t require his services. It would be a violation of ethical standards. The man didn’t seem to understand my refusal of his services and continued to act as if he was performing the duties of a lawyer for me. His case was very extreme but my job is to understand him, not argue about reality.

Like the clients before him, he asked questions about my credentials and services performed for clients. Privilege would not allow me to disclose any personal information about them. I redirected the questions toward the lawyer in order to better understand his obsession with his job. My diagnosis was a combination of grandiose delusions, narcissistic disorder, and he was most certainly a pathological liar. Compulsive lying for a lawyer is an understandable portion of the job but his attempts to convince me I was in trouble with the police were bordering on the line of delusional.

After finishing the session with the lawyer, I was taken into a court room to serve as an expert witness. I had never been in a courtroom before but I found it strange that the judge had referred to me as the defendant. I identified myself as an expert witness. The lawyer told me to stop talking which I took as an offense. We are both professionals. There was no need to treat me like a child. Why would they invite me here, as an expert witness, only to have a client keep me silent? Since the lawyer was the expert on law and court, I stayed quiet while I awaited the defendant to arrive. No one else showed up.

The judge asked the lawyer for a plea on behalf of the defendant. He responded: “not guilty by reason of insanity.” I finally understood what they needed from me. I had spoken out of turn and was reprimanded before. The lawyer asked me to take the witness stand and answer questions. Once again, my credentials were scrutinized until I was dismissed. I don’t know how I was much help to the defendant as I had never met the man or woman before and could not judge their sanity.

After some deliberation, all parties concluded that the defendant was unfit for trial. I’m glad I was able to stop them from putting a mentally ill man through trial. He wouldn’t even be able to understand what was going on around him. The judge was impressed with my work and assigned me to a new position at a mental health institution.

When I arrived, I was given an office with a desk, chair, and bed. The state must really be going bankrupt if this is how they treat their employees but that wouldn’t stop me from doing the job I was born to do. My client list consisted of daily sessions with other therapists that worked in the facility with me. The job required me to be there 24/7 but at least they were providing me with food, clothing, medical care, and restricted internet access. That’s where I learned my third lesson: always discuss your salary before you start doing a job. I never spoke with anyone in human resources about how much I was being paid for my services. I’ll have to discuss payment with them at some point in the future. For now, I am the happiest man on Earth. My childhood dream came true.

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