Job Title: Clinical Psychologist
Type of Company: Currently I work as a consultant for a private school which teaches children from 15 months to 14 years old.
Education: BA, Psychology, University of Massachusetts M.Ed., Counseling, Boston University Ed.D., Counseling Psychology, Boston University
Previous Experience: I started out working on suicide help lines and in group homes for adolescents and then went to work in public schools as a teacher's aide before deciding to return to school to study clinical psychology. After receiving a degree I worked in community mental health centers, schools, day care facilities, emergency room settings and universities as faculty.
Job Tasks: I have held many positions as a clinical psychologist. It is a flexible profession and after more than 25 years of working in it I work more as a consultant than a clinician. That means that although I saw clients for many of my 25 years and worked with them to help with all sorts of psychological and family problems, I no longer do that work. Now my job is to help professionals understand the behavior of humans and advise them on how best to work with others. I am at a private school now where I work only part time as a consultant to teachers, administrators and parents. Typically with teachers I spend some of my time observing in their classrooms and taking notes about student behaviors, teaching style and classroom environment. Later I consult with teachers about specific things I see and answer their questions. We come up with plans for helping students with academic and social and behavioral difficulties. I also consult with administrators on all sorts of school issues. I meet with parents to address their concerns about their children and finally I work with children in groups to help them learn to act towards each other with kindness and courtesy.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: After many years of working directly with clients in a one-on-one setting, I really enjoy working as a team with the faculty of the school and having many interactions with people of all ages during the day. It is gratifying to make suggestions for changes and to see them work in the classrooms. I enjoy working on issues of "bullying prevention" with young children and seeing them incorporate those values into their play.
Job Tips: I would suggest that aspiring clinical psychologists make certain that this is the profession they want, since the training they will need takes many years: more than 7 years of college, along with internships and exams for licensing. If you want to become a counselor and nothing more, it is possible to do so in much less time by becoming a social worker. However, if you are truly fascinated by human behavior then this is probably the field for you.
Secondly, I would suggest getting as much experience working in the field as possible beforehand to insure you have the temperament for working with people with difficulties. Volunteer at hotlines and shelters and work with people in al sorts of settings for free or minimal pay to get a feel for it.
Finally, be prepared to spend a lot of time learning how to do your job even after you get your degree. Don't expect that you will immediately advance to the private office with the wealthy clients right after you graduate. There is so much to know before you can help others and life experience and job experience and supervision by more senior psychologists is mandatory for years before you are ready to assume independent responsibilities of helping others with serious life challenges.
Additional Thoughts: Psychology is an endlessly fascinating field of study and practice. I get great satisfaction from my profession and have the respect of others as well. But you should know that it doesn't really pay that well anymore and the money you spend to become a psychologist may be more than you will earn for many years. It is a job that requires maturity and the ability to be objective rather than emotional. You need to be the kind of person who does not become overly involved in other people's problems or you will have trouble being of help and find yourself burdened by their concerns. It is a field of study for someone who is very scholarly. The course work is very difficult. You must study full-time for many years and be able to write extremely well and quickly. It is a field for a quick thinker, but a person who thinks before he acts. You need to be open-minded, unprejudiced and empathic. Some of these things you learn as you grow in the field. You need to not be easily offended or easily frightened as both of these things happen regularly. There is a lot of praise from others that comes to you from those you help and those who admire how you do your job. But there are also people who, when hearing what your profession is, become nervous around you and believe you may be analyzing them all the time. It is different from other professions in that way as it can set you apart from some people when they find out what you do. Bur for all of the study and money and challenges, I wouldn't have traded this profession for any other.
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