Our Evolving Field
For several years every spring I have spoken at Career Day at our local high school and middle school. Men and women representing many diverse jobs assemble in the multi-purpose room for coffee in the morning before being dispersed to the assigned classrooms to speak with high school students about our jobs. To my delight, on each occasion, the Psychologist profession had the largest turnout.
One of the most common questions asked is, “Why did you choose to become a psychologist?” I love this question. It challenges on many levels. Being careful to not discourage, I avoid the words HMO, managed care, reimbursement and collection problems. I also tread lightly when discussing the different degrees and licenses of those who work in mental health. I refrain from talking about unpaid internships and the cost of graduate school. Those in the room are clearly interested in our profession––they are learning about themselves, learning how they are like or unlike others, discovering the patterns that underlie the complexities of how we think and feel. I see in these kids the excitement that launched me, and others like me, into a career in psychology.
We are indeed a privileged profession. In each person who comes to us, there lies a story to be found. The story usually has a universal motif and a theme distinctive to that individual life. When I describe our work to students, I often use the image of having a stack of books on my table, and each hour I take down a different volume, open to a chapter that flows from the previous hour a week apart. Most men and women who come to us for therapy seek wholeness, and the stories that unfold bit by bit, hour by hour, nourish the thirst for, as Dante wrote, “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.”
Our field is rapidly changing with the addition of neurocognitive sciences, and changes in diagnostic criteria and treatment strategies for a number of disorders. Research is continually evolving and our access to information and databases is unparalleled. It is exciting to see the eagerness of high-school students, and graduate students as they explore the field of psychology.
The Contra Costa Psychological Association welcomes graduate students and early career psychologists to our organization. We have seasoned and accomplished members who are working on mentoring. Both the California Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association have made great efforts to help younger psychologists to find work. These organizations offer programs in mentorship, leadership, grant writing, and free legal and ethical hotlines. In addition, they provide tangible, value-added resources such as financial planning, debt reduction, and loan repayment. Resources such as these are immensely valuable at a time when job stability is tenuous.
Originally published: President’s Message Spring 2012