I don't work in private practice. My career path has taken me into the world of corrections. when i went to college, i went as an english major (didn't do too well in high school, at least academically). when they said "psychology" as a major, i just knew that was what i wanted to do. i ended up needing to work in college and ended up as a child care counselor in a group home. after graduating, i realized quickly that you really can't do a whole lot with just a bachelors degree, so after a summer of lifeguarding, i went back to school and got a master's degree in psychology. i applied with the state (after i graduated & went back to lifeguarding) and got hired by the department of corrections. i had no idea what i was doing, was scared to death and thought, if i'm still scared in 6 months, i'll do something else. 6 months turned into 5 years. went back to school for my doctorate, got out and the only job i was interested in was with the federal bureau of prisons. so i supervised the drug treatment programs there, then went to work with juveniles (the state juvenile justice system), which is what i do now. this is a long story to say that all my life, i've wanted to help other people. and i've ended up working with people who do some of the most hurtful things to other human beings and what i'm trying to get them to do is stop it. so there you go...
First let me state: I'm not a psychologist, I'm a counselor. Many people who are not in this field (and many young people who haven't begun the taxing process of navigating college majors) tend to clump Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Counselors and Social Workers all in the same category, believing that we all perform talk therapy. Talk therapy is what I do…even though I'm not a psychologist :)
For me the most rewarding part of my work is watching my clients grow and transform their lives. When there is a good fit between therapist and client- magic can happen! It is amazing to watch people you've come to care about take control of their life and get healthy. It is quite literally like gazing into a cocoon and watching the process of transformation from caterpillar to butterfly….there is no other experience I've had in my life that can compare. I am in absolute awe of the process and it never gets old. My second favorite thing is when my client leaves therapy. That may sound counterintuitive but when you're doing therapy properly you're helping clients come to depend on themselves and therefor to not need you anymore. Those moments are typically filled with tears, of both joy and loss, and some of the kindest words of gratitude I hear. Many people in the helping professions get into this work for reasons other than getting rich, we see other rewards as more important than money…this has always been true for me and i have no regrets about it. Witnessing a client "launch" and hearing, "I wouldn't be here without your help" is the greatest life's reward I could imagine experiencing.
I have been in mental health for almost 20 years, some of that time working as a counselor and for the last five years (since completing my PhD) as a psychologist in private practice. I have wanted to do exactly this since I was 14 years old so for me, I am living my dream every day. The work can be challenging, but I enjoy helping people think things through, understand themselves better, manage chronic illness, and even overcome the effects of childhood abuse. I work for myself so I set my own schedule. I feel useful and helpful and I believe I am making a contribution.
It is very important to decide that you really want to do before deciding on a major in Psychology. Talk to your favorite teachers to learn more. Talk to your school counselor to see about coop, internship, shadowing, and volunteer programs that will enable you to learn more.
Too many people get a degree in psychology and cannot get a paying job.
This site will enable you to learn more about various helping careers including psychology.
Please keep me posted. I would like to help further, if I can. Keep me posted. Send thank you notes to those who help you. Best of luck!