Job Title: Psychologist
Type of Company: I have a private practice working with children and adults. My specialization is in psychological assessment and testing, but I do some therapy too.
Education: BA, Psychology and Sociology MA, Clinical Psychology
Previous Experience: I started as a therapist at a local county mental health center and was there for two years. Next I worked for the state of North Carolina for almost three years at the Developmental Evaluation Center and later with the Department of Corrections. Seven years ago I opened my private practice.
Job Tasks: During a typical week, I spend most of my time doing psychological testing and evaluations. Clients are referred to see me by psychiatrists, other therapists, and their medical doctors. I also evaluate people referred by the state for disability benefits. I give IQ tests, achievements tests, memory tests, and behavioral checklists, among other things, to help determine the most appropriate diagnosis for a person and suggest treatment recommendations for them. I also do therapy, mostly with children, to address a variety of concerns, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, adjustment problems, and other behavioral issues.
I also bill insurance, schedule appointments, make business decisions, (such as whether to advertise certain services) and all other administrative duties associated with running a very small business.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I thoroughly enjoy working with people, and I get to meet new people from different backgrounds every day. It helps for me to understand the differences among us, and helps me to appreciate individuality in others.
The worst aspects of my job currently involve dealing with time constraints and scheduling. I do not generate enough income currently to employ office staff, so I am the one responsible for returning phone calls, scheduling appointments, billing insurance, banking, etc. This makes it very difficult for me to complete some tasks in a timely fashion, and it also causes a lengthy waiting time before someone can get in to see me for an appointment.
1.) If you are interested in becoming a psychologist, be aware that those with a Master's degree can only practice independently in eleven states (at this point in time) and that the terminal degree for psychology is a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. If you plan to stop with a Master's degree, consider a degree in Social Work or as an LPC, so that you will be able to practice more independently and you will have a much wider range of jobs available to you.
2.) Be advised that being in this field may not fulfill your need to "be helpful to others" in the idealistic way that you think it might when you are younger. There are ample opportunities to help others, both in the job, but also outside of work. Boundaries are crucial in maintaining your own health, and it will be important to leave your work at work at the end of each day.
3.) Keep in mind that as research is completed, we may find that much of what we practice now is obsolete. Be willing to learn about new advances (especially in physiology and neuro-psychology) that affect the way we identify and treat different disorders.
Additional Thoughts: One of the most surprising things to me over the past 15 or so years is that my perception of what I really wanted to do has changed. When I was younger and newly married, I was idealistic and had a rigid idea of the population I wanted to work with (adults who were incarcerated.) I did not want to work with children at all.
Now, I work primarily with children, and my view of this work has changed tremendously. I can't imagine ever doing anything different. Now that I have two children of my own (one of whom has special needs), I appreciate the help and the understanding that one person can provide for someone else when they are sailing in uncharted waters. I can be many things to people who come in to see me for help: an advocate, a sounding board, a supporter, a teacher. My greatest role is in being a mother to my children, and realizing that none of us are perfect and that we are all learning one day at a time.
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