My work as a psychologist


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Therapy has for most people been associated with something mystical. Before I started with psychology myself, I also had my mental images of it, and knew about the standard Freudian couch where you simply said whatever you wanted. I`ve heard about Freud, and knew you probably had to talk about your childhood, but had no idea how a typical therapist or patient actually looked.

For people who haven`t been in therapy, it is often still a mystery. A lot of my friend have asked me, isn`t it hard to hear about so many horrible things, every day? But it’s basically what we all do, every day, anyway. We see films, listen to our friends, read books and watch news about what`s going on. Of course, we don´t have the “obligation” to do something about that, so people might feel that it`s different, but I promise you, a therapist is not more than a personal trainer cheering the clients on. We always stand by our patients sides when something needs to be done or untangled.

Even if I am a therapist, I still love to go to therapy or supervision myself. I don`t respond to the words, but simply to the fact that I talk with a human being about myself. It’s good to have someone there, who just say “it truly sounds like you had a rough time”.

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What do you talk about in therapy?

This might still be a bit vague. You might think: Well, that`s fine: But what do you exactly DO in those 45 minutes? To make it more concrete, I will try to write a bit more of what can be done in therapy. Since we can`t talk about patients, I must underline that this is just a general picture, and referrers to no specific client of mine. Of course there will be variations in how we work and approach problems, but I always have some basics that I live by: Respect, curiosity and an attitude of “everything is possible”. I truly believe that, no matter how far someone has fallen, with motivation and hard work, nothing can´t be done.

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A typical morning for me is getting to work, looking through my calendar and appointments or maybe attending a meeting if its monday or Wednesday. Normally I have about four sessions every day, with people who have a variety of diagnosis. If we have our first meeting, I have to go through some standard questions, but mostly I try to get a description of the problem as they see it. Sometime I also give them some surveys that have to be filled out before the next session, but personally I prefer to not use too much time on those, since I think

people might get a bit annoyed if this is the only focus. I also go through why they have to answer them: So that we can choose a treatment that fits people who generally score the same on those surveys. And of course, if they have a diagnosis that might require medications, I can`t ignore that. For very depressed, bipolar people, AD/HD or people in a psychosis, conversations might not be what we focus on the most in the beginning, it might be we also must talk with the doctor so that we can secure basics like sleep. For some people, collecting energy will be the first thing we do. It’s about saying no to people who drain energy, working with attitudes about how perfect everything must be, or simply working in a schedule where they put in healthy food, physical activities and “alone-time”. Some people worry a lot, and then the goal might be to set up experiments where those worries are put to the test. For example, people with panic attacks, might worry about fainting in public, and after a while they start to avoid situations that they feel are dangerous. An example that I actually saw on television, was a woman afraid of hurting kids if she had a knife in her hand.

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Using eye movements to reduce fear

After a while, she stopped using knives, and even made sure to lock them securely in. She also developed a fear where she worried she might accidentally kill someone by not paying not attention while driving. After a while she simply stopped driving, because she didn`t want to take any risks. The therapy for her was rather concrete: She had to expose herself to what she feared, like being in the area where kids could be WHILE she carried a knife, and drive a car where people could potentially be, without turning back to check if she had run over people.

I work mostly with traumatized people and people with personality disorders. I usually follow a model where I first focus on collecting energy, before we work with specific traumas that give them flashbacks, nightmares and disrupt them in their daily lives (can`t relax, must always be on “guard”). I use EMDR for this work, which is basically using eye movements while they think about trauma. I ask them to bring forward a memory which scare them, and to think about the part the worst part. Then they keep that picture in their mind’s eye, while following specific movements I do with my fingers. I monitor their discomfort on a scale from 1-10, where 10 is the worst discomfort they have ever felt, and 0 is completely calm, and keep doing the finger movement until they feel calm. I will write more about EMDR later, but it the main point is that afterwards, it`s easier to live with what happened. People have described it as “earlier I lived IN it, now it feels like it`s behind me”.

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How to say goodbye

The last “face” is to talk about ending the therapy. We go through the work we have done, and talk about how it will be to say goodbye. This is important, because being “left” is something a lot struggle with. I must make sure that people don’t feel abandoned, that they can take with them some part of what they learnt, inside their hearts. I have also been in therapy, and when I feel especially low, I can hear her voice in my head saying: “Take care of yourself, dear”. I say this to my clients: If I can be with you in just one tiny part, I will gladly be there, and allow them to contact me later, if they need to. It’s just a way of saying that goodbye is just “now you can continue on your own. I wish I could walk every step of the journey with you, and in my heart, I do”.

A lot of my jobs is

Panic attack
Panic attack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)s .

actually about respect and being there. Far too many think they aren`t good enough. It doesn`t matter how many times they have been told or have read that everyone has worth, and so do they, it still FEELS different. Sometimes its all about stating the obvious; I see how kind-hearted they are (most people are really wonderful), how hard they try, how much suffering they had to go through, and remind them off this, when they just see what they feel is “bad”. It’s about never leaving, and being stable and sure when they feel giving up is the only option

I truly care about my job and my clients. When they manage to do something good for themselves, I cheer them on and feel real joy in my chest. Its magic, what I do, and it gives me hope, because no matter how many bad choices, relationships or events that have taken place in a life, it truly is never to late.

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12 thoughts on “My work as a psychologist

    […] – https://mirrorgirlblog.wordpress.com/about/my-work-as-a-psychologist/ ”likes” this post (click on link, she seems bloody good value, considering… Send […]

    Still not giving in | Free psychology said:
    July 5, 2013 at 11:26

    […] My work as a psychologist […]

    David said:
    August 26, 2013 at 18:42

    I don’t know what your experience is as a clinician, but EMDR has to be the weirdest idea to actually work. I’m sure it makes scientific sense somehow, but, just thinking about it, it seems silly. Still, it worked for me!

      mirrorgirl responded:
      August 26, 2013 at 18:57

      I am a big emdr fan, and has used it on a lot of clients already. For me (I have always loved biology, and actually once wanted to be a neuropsychologist) it actually makes sense. We know that the right and left part of the brain is connected to different emotions, that is, negative on the right – positive on the left. Left is also the seat for language, and eye movement ‘forces’ the brain to go back and forth between both. We do the same back-and-forth movements while we sleep. I got an ‘aha’ moment the last months, when I suddenly realized we also do the same thing while reading. And who hasn’t felt calmed by that? I actually wrote to inquire about studies related to eye-movements and reading, but unfortunately, there isn’t anyone yet. I still hold a button on the probability that there might be a connection between reading and emdr and sleep, all of them letting us feel something at the same time as we are able to handle it! Don’t know if that made sense ? I think I must work on an EMDR article soon: this inspired me 🙂

        David said:
        August 26, 2013 at 19:01

        Odd association: When I have a bad dream while sleeping on my right side, I can turn over and the dream haunts me less.

        If it matches reading, what would happen in East Asian cultures where things can be written vertically?

        To me EMDR felt like a way to distract my thinking self (a hard thing to do) and just grab the emotions and work through those.

        mirrorgirl responded:
        August 26, 2013 at 19:42

        that is actually an interesting question, I always slept on my stomach, and have never had any real nightmares in my life. The question about the asiatian countries, is just as (creative) stimulating for me. I know they actually sometimes alternate between back and forth movements, and more diagonal, just to “break the habit” if nothing happens in the EMDR (when one gets stuck in the same memory). But when one thinks about it: Aren`t they much more “controlled” in Asian countries? I am extremly interested in such connections, since I am bilangual and left-handed also, so I think my brain is wired a bit strangely.

        I, like you, think EMDR also is about that. It surely is distracting, and forces you to “come back to the here and now” which is also effective. I also think part of the mechanism is mere exposure, as we know that just feeling emotions one is afraid of, cools them down. But, its like EMDR “speeds up” this process somehow.

        Btw, did you know that D. Lama had the highest left-sided activity ever recorded in mankind so far? And that when recording brain-activity before and after meditiation, there is an actual switch from the right to the left side of the brain?

    beckyday6 said:
    August 28, 2013 at 20:01

    This is a fantastic explanation! I have actually been considering for a long time going into this area of psychology so this was really interesting. I do have one burning question though that I wonder if you could answer, how long did it take you to be able to separate yourself emotionally? I tend to empathize a lot and I have always wondered how I would deal with that in this area of psychology.

      mirrorgirl responded:
      August 28, 2013 at 20:19

      I never do. I think my emotions are essential for the work I do. I always feel stronger when I can feel some of what they feel, but mostly what I feel comes naturally. I am proud when they manage to change small things (or big things) in their life, I guess a bit like I would feel about my children, and if they hurt, I can feel sympathy with them. I have never tried to cut away my own feelings, but I DO talk with my supervisor about feelings all the time, to make sure they are not clouding my judgement or interfering in the process. People think it will be terrible to hear all those stories, but for me it has just made me more motivated to help them: I am so touched by how wonderful these people often are, and when they tell about how they have fought for their life. I have immense respect for those who have suffered, and managed to live a life, anyway, and I guess I`ve always had that inside of me (I hate seeing people standing alone, then I sometimes go over and talk to them, for example at a meeting). I also get so much energy by seeing people getting better, that it makes it worth it all. Not sure if this make sense, but I think empathy is a resource, not something one has to “put aside”

    annarosemeeds said:
    September 17, 2013 at 02:59

    🙂 I just nominated you for A Lovely Blog Award at http://annarosemeeds.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/one-lovely-blog-award/. Thank you for being so encouraging and uplifting.

    Anthony Turi said:
    March 27, 2014 at 21:55

    This is a really interesting article, an insight into the way you work, and especially your comment above (in reply to a comment… which I am now posting in this comment!): “I always feel stronger when I can feel some of what they feel, but mostly what I feel comes naturally”. I totally get where you are coming from with this. Really nicely put 🙂

    cherished79 said:
    February 2, 2015 at 23:16

    I have seen therapists in the past, but am now working with a psychologist in private practice who has been the best. This is the first time I have been able to trust someone to let her in on my most buried secrets (I’ve been seeing her for 5 years). Trust has always been an issue PTSD (childhood sexual abuse), and it’s remarkable what a trained therapist can achieve.

    Your article is most informative, and I always wondered what goes on in the mind of the therapist while I’m sitting across from them. Really good article. 🙂

      mirrorgirl responded:
      February 3, 2015 at 09:18

      I am really happy you found a good therapist, and that you tried until you found one. It is easy to give up, but Your story shows that one shouldn`t do that. I am glad you found it informative! Good Luck With the therapy and take care of yourself 🙂

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