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Psychology is Not A Dirty Word

When people ask me what I do, the answer comes easily and without hesitation, “I am a therapist”. The reaction to this answer is usually varied into three ways. The first is an expression of interest in the field, usually capped with reasoning for not following through with the dreams of psychology as a career. The second comes from a place of experience stating personal interactions with other therapists, both positive and negative. The final is reference to an old Saturday Night Live skit involving “celebrity” contestants; if you know the reference you will probably enjoy this blog. These three responses all point to a collective knowledge of psychology, but sometimes the assumptions made about the field are inaccurate or narrow minded.

It has been my experience that psychology is often taken as a superfluous and intrusive form of treatment that lacks credibility. This could be due to the examples perpetuated by media, through movies, TV and other outlets. A lot of these examples are satirical takes on personal experiences or hyperbole to stress a point within a story. The problem doesn’t come with the inaccurate portrayal as much as the acceptance of these inferences as truth. I’m not saying that everyone thinks that therapists sit in their comfy leather chair as they doodle and spit out cliché psychology jargon to an unsuspecting  client reclined on a couch, but the underlying feeling of deceit and insincerity does seem to carry on to the general population. The peculiar thing about this portrayal is that it isolates those who could really use the resource of talking to a trained professional.

My experience has been with populations that often are either forced to utilize services by the authorities, or families who feel they have no other alternative. Most of the time, the families and kids I work with come into therapy expecting an experience similar to what is seen in the media. They expect insincerity, apathy and robot like questions like, “how does that make you feel”, or” what is your relationship with your mother like?” Although these questions can be fruitful in understanding the dynamics of the family, they are not always a great place to start. This realization has helped me significantly in developing my style as a therapist. My main goal going into a first session is to develop rapport. I am way more likely to ask what the family or individual like to do, than their drug of choice or how many relatives have been incarcerated. To me the questions about substance abuse and family skeletons will undoubtedly come out, but if you can build rapport with the family you’ll get more than just answers, you’ll get a story. To me stories are very important because they are answers with emotions attached and emotions are integral to therapy.

When I write this blog my focus is going to be similar to how I do therapy. My goal is to write about psychology in an accurate and easily understandable way so that any person can read and take something away from it. I don’t intend to write a “Dear Abby” column because psychology is not about giving advice. My goal is to present fundamental concepts in a relevant and applicable way that everyone can benefit from. I remember reading from many textbooks in my time in school and although I understood the material I couldn’t really grasp it until I saw it for myself. I look to cover many things in this blog, from the importance of communication in families to what is interesting and important to teens. As I stated before I’m not here to give advice, I am merely speaking from personal experience and allowing the reader to discern for themselves what is pertinent and useful. If I can encourage people to look at psychology differently, or at least question the preconceived notions about the field this blog will be a success in my eyes.

Christopher Curran M.A.

Categories: Uncategorized
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