Being a Psychologist

woman by the psychologistInterviewer: Joanne Callahan, radio host.
Interviewee: Sigmund Croyde, psychologist, a member of the American Psychological Association.

[excerpt]

Q. Have you ever visited a psychologist yourself? As far as I understand, you’ve got a rather nerve-racking job. Is it so?

A. Well, yes, the job is quite stressful. And, of course, I’ve been visiting a psychologist. Actually, I am doing it regularly.

Q. Oh, really? Why? I thought you guys could deal with your problems yourselves. I mean, since you have appropriate knowledge and skills…

A. You know, it’s a common mistake. The truth is that a psychologist’s complexes, fears, and other emotions, often prevent him or her from seeing his or her own personality objectively. So, we often need the help of our colleagues to deal with certain issues. Actually, this factor is crucial not only for us, but for our clients as well. Therapists who have not dealt with their problems may project them on their patients, which is obviously not good at all.

Q. Oh, wow. Sounds serious and trying.

A. I see it as a part of my job. But yes, sometimes it can be rather difficult.

Q. Would you like to talk about it (laughs)?

A. (Smiles)

Q. Okay, seriously, what is the most difficult part of your job? For you, I mean.

A. You know, when people find out that I am a psychologist, they start to discuss their problems with me (laughs). Okay, it’s a half-joke. But still, sometimes people start to behave differently when I am around.

Q. How?

A. It depends. Some people become cautious and choose words more carefully, as if they were afraid that I could reveal some of their secrets. Others, on the contrary, start to bombard me with questions, or ask for advice. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes, irritating.

Q. And what about other disadvantages?

A. Well, leaving the joking aside, the most difficult part of my job is emotional strain. As you can understand, I, as well as other psychologists, have to deal with the intense emotional conditions of my clients on a daily basis. As a human being, I cannot be indifferent to them and their problems. However, in order to be able to work efficiently and avoid over-identification with my clients, I have to repress my own emotions. And this is rather bad for the health, you know.

Q. How bad?

A. Well, let’s say that burnouts and distresses are rather common among psychologists.

Q. And here is the moment when you start needing therapy yourself, right?

A. Yes, but one should better go through therapy before something like that happens. I believe therapy must be a regular practice if you are a psychologist.

Q. What about violent clients? I’ve read that sometimes patients cannot cope with their overwhelming emotions, and become aggressive towards their therapists.

A. Oh yes, there is always a chance of patient assault. However, such cases are rather rare, and physical damage is usually minimal. However, let’s not forget about emotional injuries; sometimes they can do more harm than physical attacks.

[…]

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