- Sometimes, when choosing a profession, a future psychologist is driven by the desire for power, self-affirmation, the need for admiration and love.
- The desire to help often leads to negative consequences: the psychologist seeks to get results, pushing the client to move faster than he is ready.
- The most important qualities for a psychologist are: interest in people, curiosity, benevolence and respect.
- The prospective psychologist must undergo personal therapy and supervision.
To some, they seem to be special people who hold the keys to human souls. Oracles capable of solving our secrets, unknown to ourselves. Healers who relieve mental pain. Let’s try to abandon romantic notions and take a sober look at this work. Because a psychologist is just a job. But not at all simple.
Desire to help
A psychologist is a helping profession, clients turn to psychologists for help … It seems to follow that psychologists should go to people who strive to help others? Not everything is so simple.
“At the heart of our profession, of course, is the desire to be useful, to help,” says gestalt therapist Nifont Dolgopolov. “But I have been teaching psychologists for many years and I can say that a pronounced desire to help often leads to negative consequences.” Systemic family therapist Anna Varga agrees with this. “If a psychologist is eager to help and overwhelmed with pity for the client, this is bad motivation. Behind it, there are likely to be unresolved problems of its own. “
What does this mean for the client? “The psychologist seeks to get visible results of his work as soon as possible, confirming to himself that he helped, and thus increasing his professional self-esteem,” explains Nifont Dolgopolov. “At the same time, he violates the client’s boundaries, pushing him to advance in therapy faster than he is ready.” In this way, the psychologist can harm the client if the client increases resistance or leaves therapy altogether. This is why help cannot be the goal of therapy.
“The main thing is to understand the client, to build psychotherapeutic contact with him, and help is a side effect,” concludes Anna Varga.
Such is the paradox: the desire to help gets in the way of helping.
Interest in people
Well, then, maybe the future psychologist needs to love people? Not at all, objected Nifont Dolgopolov. Moreover, in some cases this can become an obstacle in psychological work, since a strong feeling prevents the specialist from maintaining the necessary position of “neutrality”.
The same is true for negative emotions. Could a specialist be, for example, disgusted with a client? “This is absolutely unprofessional! – exclaims Anna Varga. – Imagine a surgeon who, instead of operating, begins to think that the patient is ugly. It is the same with a psychologist: when, during work, he enters into a professional position, he is no longer “quite a person”, but rather a function. “
But what is really extremely important for a psychologist, experts agree, is sincere curiosity and interest in people, in their inner world. Nifont Dolgopolov adds two more qualities to this: benevolence in order to explore his inner world together with the client, and respect – it assumes that any features and actions of another person deserve careful attention and consideration. “If I respect another person,” says the gestalt therapist, “then I give him the right to his own thoughts, feelings, values, even if they do not coincide with mine.”
Good attitude towards yourself
“I cannot treat another person kindly and respectfully if I don’t love and respect myself, I do not appreciate myself,” Nifont Dolgopolov emphasizes. “The degree of my tolerance for other people, and in particular for clients, depends on how tolerant I am of my shortcomings, of my actions, how much I can recognize them, while not destroying my values and ideals.”
This implies the ability to reflect – awareness of their thoughts, experiences, actions, which develops in learning. If parents are interested in the inner world of the child, if it is a value for them, then they encourage him to turn his interest inward, notes Nifont Dolgopolov. This interest can come through literature, and more broadly – culture, if a child in a family is introduced to it. These childhood experiences can be a good (but not required) prerequisite for psychology classes.
In any case, during the training, the student psychologist will spend many hours in therapy, emphasizes Anna Varga. “They will teach a psychologist to observe himself and be aware of what is happening in his soul. Unless, of course, this is a serious educational institution. Sometimes one has to face the fact that the practicing psychologist himself was not a client, and this is very bad. “
Psychologist and others: who is who
Psychologist – a specialist who has received a psychological education. Can engage in science and teaching, conduct trainings and career guidance, work on the helpline, test the level of intelligence, identify abilities, consult.
Psychotherapist works with people in difficult life situations. In addition to basic (psychological or medical) education, he needs to receive additional specialization in psychotherapy. The task of the therapist is to help the patient to understand themselves deeper, to change thinking and behavior in order to become happier and more productive. A psychotherapist who does not have a medical education has no right to diagnose and prescribe medications.
Psychiatrist – a doctor who consults mentally healthy and mentally ill people and treats with drugs.
My own therapist
The opposite situation also happens. Psychology often attracts those who really want (often unconsciously) to deal with their own problems and difficulties. That is, their interest is rather directed not outside, at other people, but inside, at themselves. The therapy that the student undergoes during his studies will help to understand what really brought him into this profession, and it is quite possible that he will be able to solve his problems.
“There is nothing wrong when initially a student is driven by the desire to get help on his own, if in the course of his studies he is successfully progressing in self-healing,” says Nifont Dolgopolov. “This experience can be a good basis for understanding and helping others.”
If his problems are not solved and he remains more a client of the therapist than a professional, then he will not be able to meet the requirements that the system of psychological education imposes on him.
“The teachers will explain to him that it would be better to think about another specialty. And the student himself usually understands that he cannot cope, ”says Anna Varga. “But even if he gets a certificate of psychology, he will not be able to really help clients and, most likely, they will not go to him,” adds Nifont Dolgopolov.
Deal with the question “why am I going into this profession?” for the future psychologist is extremely important. This choice may be based on hidden motives that emerge at the key moments of personal psychotherapy: the desire for power, self-affirmation, the need for admiration, love …
“All these are rental motives (a person wants to receive“ rent ”from his profession), and they are unacceptable,” explains Anna Varga. “If in the course of training we find out that a student seeks to use clients to satisfy his egocentric needs, for us this is a signal that it is contraindicated for him to practice, and he may not receive a certificate,” confirms Nifont Dolgopolov.
Learn from others, work on yourself
Finally, those who believe that the profession of a psychologist will allow them to quietly earn a living, without reporting to anyone, should give up their illusions. This job involves a great sense of responsibility, and it can also carry risks, such as meeting unstable or sometimes dangerous clients.
The study itself will be long. You cannot become a practicing psychologist by going to college right after school. “Such young people receive basic psychological education and can work as researchers,” says Anna Varga. “But in order to practice, they lack the experience that will help them understand what the clients have to say. To become, for example, a family psychotherapist, you will have to study for another four years. Mature people often come to us after 35 – and this is perhaps the best option. “
The study will always continue, because this is the way this profession works.
In addition, both during his studies and becoming a practicing specialist, the psychologist regularly undergoes supervision, where he discusses his work with experienced colleagues. “Students are often asked by their relatives:“ When will you learn and stop going to your trainings ?! – smiles Nifont Dolgopolov. “And there is only one answer: this will always continue, because this is the way this profession works.”
A psychologist must be a member of at least one professional community: “Otherwise, he is nobody! – exclaims Anna Varga. “There is no collective body behind him, with which he can consult, which will give him feedback, and in case of unacceptable mistakes, apply sanctions.”
It may seem to us that this is a necessary condition for successful practice, especially if we read the books of the classics of psychology, marveling at the richness of their cultural associations. In fact, it depends on the approach that the specialist takes for himself.
For example, in systemic family therapy, explains Anna Varga, a professional should really be broadly educated, understand such related fields as medicine, psychiatry, philosophy, neuroscience, ethology (animal behavior), know modern cultural trends: cinema, theater, literature, because this is the external environment that surrounds the family.
And, say, for short-term psychological assistance, when it comes to stress or shock, cultural baggage is not necessary, it is enough to own the necessary strategies to get a good result. The Gestalt method requires attentiveness and the ability to describe well what you see and hear. “For this, a rich language is rather needed,” reflects Nifont Dolgopolov. – And this already depends on the wealth of the individual. After all, a psychologist works with himself, with his thoughts, feelings, his personal experience. Although, of course, professional knowledge from related fields is also necessary. “
Gift or craft?
Anna Varga answers this question categorically: “This is not a gift. I am against this myth. This is a profession. This is skill. And even in a sense, a craft. ” In her opinion, anyone can master it, provided that he is well trained. The only thing is that he must understand his professional limitations. Thus, a conscientious and responsible psychologist who does not shine with bright ideas can effectively work as a trainer.
“As in any profession, there are especially gifted people among psychologists. I remember how brightly my teachers worked with a large audience, how they inspired hundreds of people in the hall. That’s what talent is needed for, – reflects Nifont Dolgopolov. – But this is not at all necessary for a practical psychologist. Having a good school and painstakingly working with a client can always be of great benefit. “
But how not to lose a keen interest in the profession after many years of practice and meeting with hundreds of clients? “A psychologist should not work for wear and tear, this leads to the extinction of energy and he will not have a natural impulse to be included in the client,” Nifont Dolgopolov replies. “To avoid burnout, you need to limit the number of clients.” And also take care of yourself, pay attention to different areas of your life, and not just professional.