Some self-disclosure: I’ve never been on the other side of the couch.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I went to a child psychologist when I was three or four – my parents regale me with tales of my “weirdness” as a child (apparently speaking entirely in quotes from Winnie the Pooh is “abnormal”…but really, what do they know?), but I only have a few vivid memories from my childhood (someone can analyze me on that one). There was the time in 10th grade, when I got sent to the guidance counselor after my grandfather died. And there was my one-therapy-stand in college to deal with re-adjusting after studying abroad, where my therapist’s coldness and judgmental attitude only strengthened my desire to enter this field.
But since then, I’ve only been the therapist, rather than the client. And as I begin to establish a career in the mental health world, I’m realizing how problematic that is.
I was walking out of the stadium, clad in a cap and gown, when my father yelled “GET A JOB!” from the stands. While my dad was only kidding (here’s hoping anyway), it illustrated the pressure and necessity of getting a job as soon as possible after graduation. Maybe you’re taking a summer position or working at your part-time job you had in graduate school. Or maybe you were lucky enough to land a full-time, paid position at your internship and be the envy of everyone in your graduating class. Or maybe you decided, “hey, writing a dissertation sounds fun, maybe I’ll spend my next 5-7 years in a Ph.D/Psy.D program!” (If I wasn’t so burnt out from school, I’d envy you all). Or perhaps you were smart and started applying for jobs in February and got one before you graduated. In any case, this life cycle is primarily intended for those of us who are not currently in school or employed full-time.
It was the end of the day at my internship, and one of the patients was discharging. At some time during one’s final wrap-up group, the concept of acknowledging each other outside of the treatment setting comes up. As confidentiality ethics and laws (thanks HIPPA) stipulate that a therapist cannot disclose any information about a particular patient without their consent, I always go into the standard, “if you see us in real life, say hi because we can’t legally say hi to you first” spiel.
Whenever I have given this speech, it is usually met with one of three responses. One is the eye roll/blank stare/”there’s no way in hell I’m saying hi to you if I run into you” glare. As angry as I would expect to be with this response, I can legitimately appreciate the honesty of these individuals, as I’ve struggled to fully internalize the fact that clients lie (another post for another time). The second is something along the lines of, “oh my goodness of course I’ll say hi if I see any of you!” Some have been stated genuinely, where others have been as phony as…a telephone? And then there’s the hesitant, “if I say hi, will you say you’re my [teacher/family friend/distant cousin/classmate/circus performer I met once]?”
Walking out of my Human Development class tonight, I came to that daunting realization that I will be graduating with a master’s degree in two weeks. This particular class ended a week earlier than my other classes, and experiencing my first last class of graduate school is a strange feeling. Denial is my favorite defense mechanism, and it’s difficult coming to terms with the fact that for the first time since I was two years old, I will no longer be a student. So instead of being productive and doing things like job searching, tailoring my cover letters, or working on the three papers I have left, I’ve chosen to do some self-reflection and impart my words of wisdom regarding the journey that is a graduate school counseling program.
Earlier this evening, I was putting off searching for jobs/sprucing up my cover letters and paroozing the interwebs when a friend of mine posted this link on Facebook.
The Facebook share has been posted for about an hour, and there have been a variety of comments made. Some thanking my friend for sharing the “powerful” article, others criticizing the writer for referring to the tragedy in Boston as a “white” tragedy and insinuating that the writer is over-reacting to to societal racism and the significant lack of untold stories of non-whites in the media (side note: every single commentator on this Facebook post was white).