From Cindy’s pressed lips, lined with wrinkles that extended noticeably beyond her years, came exasperated concerns of torturous anxiety.
Deeper than her polite solemnity, there seemed to be a well of sadness. This sadness pervaded her down-turned lips, slow gate, and slumped posture. Cindy’s helpless presentation pulled at my heart-strings; in particular as a young therapist-in-training, I wanted to help. I listened empathically, encouraged her strengths, taught skills such as deep-breathing, and offered advice.
However, like clockwork, every 15 minutes Cindy’s down-turned, sad lips would slowly become pursed with frustration. Pursed like a toddler refusing a big spoonful of syrupy cough-medicine. Shutting off, and shutting me out.
I have made it no secret that I do not want to pursue a career as a clinician. It’s not that I dislike therapy; it’s that I have a pie chart dilemma. The only steadfast rule of pie charts is that there is a finite amount of space. A bigger slice in one area means a smaller slice in another.
Students learn from their early graduate school days that they cannot be good at everything, and that they ought to pick a path—in clinical psychology, this choice is typically between clinician and researcher. I have chosen the latter.
Securing a position as an adjunct professor less than 6 months after completing my doctorate was both exciting and terrifying. Three months later, I can honestly say that it is some of the most rewarding work of my life to date.
I urge clinical psychology students to remember that the potential applications of your training do not begin and end with seeing and serving clients.