Writing About Our Work: Psychologists as Writers
The summer solstice has come and gone. I hope that the long warm evenings are calling you to outside and you are able to find time to enjoy the summer we thought would never arrive.
In early June we hosted our continuing education program with a salon-style meeting at my home. The presentation, “Authors in Conversation: Publishing in Psychology,” attracted members who have an interest in writing. In contrast to our usual extravagant Lafayette Park Hotel venue, we thought the intimate and informal home environment might foster a greater sense of community as well as a more discussion-based space for information sharing. Our panel members included authors Drs. Andy Pojman, Rhoda Olkin, Ed Abramson, and Ann Steiner. We had the opportunity to ask these experienced writers about the fragile balance of maintaining a healthy psychotherapy practice and making time to write.
Their personal accounts and ideas, peppered with witty anecdotes, proved to be informative and fun. There were many funny stories about all the creative ways to avoid sitting down to write.
The majority of psychologists practice in isolation. At the heart of psychotherapy is confidentiality. Rich with poignancy and vivid in pathos, we have profound and even sacred moments that are worthy of re-telling. However, we go home at the end of a day and are bound by our code of ethics to not talk about what we do.
I have often been with friends who ask how my day was, and I smile and say “it was a good day, or it was a full day”, or another equally vague response. Early in my career, I would have to monitor myself at book groups and dinner parties to not begin a conversation with, “I had this patient who…” As psychologists, we are thus unable to contribute much of what we do during our workday, despite the often interesting and touching moments that make up our working life.
Yet we can write about our work. All psychologists have experience in writing. To become a psychologist we had to write a dissertation. It is one of the things we did that separates us from other mental health professionals. We may have agonized over the dissertation, and then once completed, we quickly moved onto the “real work” of helping our patients.
Building a full-time practice left little time for writing. Yet as our authors described, making the time to put into words what we do allows us to develop as a professional and to contribute our expertise to our peers and the public.
President’s Message: Published in the Contra Costa Psychological Association Newsletter July 2011