Sometimes the hardest job can have the most amazing rewards.
Living and working in the New Orleans metro area has been an eye-opening experience, especially working as a mental health counseling intern in one of the area’s elementary schools.
New Orleans has a vibrant culture that is woven together with tragedy and music that just draws you in. Coming here as a visitor, you are usually not aware of the negatives such as the long-term effects of Hurricane Katrina and the communities that have been locked in poverty (and the effects that has had on its residents). As a visitor, your focus is usually on the excellent music, the delicious food, and the eccentric characters that make visiting New Orleans so great.
This article is part of the series, Careers in Behavioral Health, where we interview professionals in the field about their educational and job experiences.
Madeline E. B. Wesh, PsyD is an adjunct psychology professor, field researcher for psych test revisions, and clinical psychology post-doc. Here are the questions we asked Dr. Wesh.
As a psychologist, a profession that brings both routine and unpredictability, I try to hold onto – and maybe even control – what I can.
For me, that means starting each day with my cup of coffee (which I often leave on the Keurig until reminded by someone that I made it) and looking at my schedule to plan for my next few days.
There is comfort in the routine and also excitement in the possibilities of the unknown. Together, this dialectic keeps me passionate for what I do with my patients in consultation, therapy, and assessment.
And yet, one possibility, a mostly unspoken fear during my education and at training sites, was the chance that I would lose a patient to suicide.
Throughout my many practica and on internship, I completed numerous risk assessments and hospitalized patients voluntarily and, in a few cases, involuntarily. The focus of those interventions was the preservation of safety and the illusion that I would be able to keep each of those individuals alive.
“What type of supervision will I receive at this training site?”
How many times have you asked this question during your interviews for practicum, pre-doctoral internship, or post-doctoral training sites? I recall my own apprehension about my clinical supervisors over the last few years.
I had the opportunity to experience wonderful clinical supervisors who provided excellent supervision. I attribute my professional and personal development as a clinical psychologist to the clinical supervisors I worked with during my graduate school training.
My story begins at the tender age of 23, when I was looking forward to starting graduate school and raising my son, who was one year old at the time.
That day in August 2007 still remains very vivid in my mind, as I recall sitting at my desk at work, enjoying what felt like one of the best days thus far.
Then I received a phone call that changed my life forever, and I heard the following: “Shenae, I don’t know how to tell you this, but we received your test results and they appear to look just like your mother’s, which means you, too, have lupus.”
This is the first article in a new series, Careers in Behavioral Health, where we’ll be interviewing professionals in the field about their educational and job experiences.
Our first professional is Jeff Doering, a behavioral scientist and part-time Ph.D. student from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Here are the questions we asked Jeff.
Many military spouses, particularly women, often struggle to answer the question, “So, what do you do?” Personally, I tend to find myself floundering and muttering some long-winded explanation that usually starts with something like, “Well, right now I’m doing XYZ, but my degree is in LMNOP…” followed by some nervous chuckling and the explanation that I am married to a member of the United States Marine Corps.
The challenges of being a military spouse are not limited to those working in the field of behavioral health – they can affect people across all industries and backgrounds.
The spouses of active duty service members, or MilSpouses, are chronically unemployed, underemployed, or working in fields very different from the ones in which we’ve trained.
Throughout this article, you will see excerpts from conversations with MilSpouses like myself who struggle with balancing their chosen careers and their marriages to military members. Many of us are educated, driven, and career-minded women, but we struggle due to the unique circumstances of military life – not the least of which is the frequent relocating.
First, I will talk about the challenges that MilSpouses of all backgrounds and careers may face. Then I will share my own personal story of working in behavioral health while also being a MilSpouse.
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.