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Career Story: Psychotherapist In Private Practice

Psychotherapist In Private Practice

Job Title: Psychotherapist With Individuals And Couples

Type of Company: I am self-employed and work with individuals and couples, usually meeting on a weekly basis.

Education: BA, Psychology, University of Pennsylvania •• MS, Rehab Counseling, University of Florida •• MSW, Simmons Graduate School of Social Work (Boston, MA)

Previous Experience: I worked as a clinician at a mental health clinic with varied diagnostic populations.

Job Tasks: I now help those who seek my services to learn how to resolve emotional and relationship problems, such as conflict with spouse, child, parent, authority. Patients review the concerns, complaints or symptoms that are interfering with their ability to put their lives in order. Starting out, I review their family and personal histories to get a sense of how their problems have developed, and ask if there are ways they've been successful in the past in resolving problems.

I have occasionally worked with teenagers whose parents are concerned about their behavior or performance in school. It is important to find out if this is the patient's concern or his parents'. I see women who have self-esteem issues associated with job difficulties or conflicts with friends or family. I also help people who suffer from depression and anxiety, suggesting tools they can use to fight these disorders. I help to point out cognitive distortions that are signs of depression, and teach breathing exercises to assist in calming in order to clarify thinking.

Most sessions last about an hour, and generally, we meet weekly. I am presently working 17 direct-service hours, but that varies from week to week. However, along with sessions, I spend time keeping records to assist in planning the future sessions. I may also contact other professionals for advice.

I meet weekly with colleagues to consult about various cases. I also attend professional seminars to broaden my knowledge base.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is engaging directly with an individual or family, and learning about them; then being able to assist them understand themselves better. Even though I sit for long periods in a day, and the setting isn't varied, I meet so many interesting people that I feel very energized.

The worst part is report writing and filling out insurance forms, which I must do to get paid!!

Job Tips: It is important to work in a variety of settings with varied populations before grad school. I did volunteer work in high school and college, and had summer employment in a school for delinquent girls.

Graduate training is necessary to be licensed, but more importantly, to actively learn from others with more experience. I learned how to be empathetic without getting overwhelmed by the problems that face people.

Private practice should follow after some years of agency, public or hospital work. But keep studying even when your are self-employed, and share information and concerns with colleagues.

Additional Thoughts: Connecting emotionally with others, curiosity about how people work and the infinite variety of self-expression is what has been most important for me. Wanting to help others is not enough and can even get in the way.

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