Studying Psychology Is Much Harder Than You'd Think

Studying Psychology Is Much Harder Than You'd Think

But it's worth it to me.
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The psychology program at my college requires that we take core classes in different areas of the field: Developmental and abnormal psychology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. Theoretically, this gives us a decent background in all disciplines before we move on to graduate school or whatever unrelated job we take on. This summer I decided to take my third required class, in cross-cultural psychology, and I didn’t know what I was getting into. Professors often post their syllabi, or at least their basic outline for the class, ahead of time, but this particular professor didn’t. I walked in on my first day with no idea of what it was going to be like.

My professor began the class by pointing out that most clinicians will go on to see patients without ever taking a class in cross-cultural psychology, and he decided to devote the action-packed summer quarter to explaining to us why that’s a problem. Basically, the gist is this: When you have a therapist and a client from different cultural backgrounds, particularly if the therapist is from a more dominant cultural group than the client, the therapeutic relationship is impaired. And in research, which lately has become the guiding influence in the practice of psychology, cultural unawareness can produce evidence-based practice that only has an evidence basis for a small portion of the population.

All this is true and right and good, and it seems self-explanatory when you hear about it in a classroom setting. But when you’re confronted with the fact that, as a well-meaning person from a dominant cultural group, you might be uniquely unsuited to guide people from certain groups through the therapeutic process, it gets a bit harder to process. I see myself as a basically good person. I try to go out of my way to do the right thing, even if I feel like an idiot in the process. And to hear that even my best intentions can harm someone I want to help is a hard thing.

This class and this particular professor has had me on the defensive since day one, because I feel like at the same time as I’m being asked to fix my own biases towards other cultural groups, I’m being forced to accept biases about my own identities. I feel like I can’t become a good and compassionate clinician unless I let go of parts of my own identity, that I can’t use my own experiences to inform my interactions with future clients.

It hasn’t made me question my desire to be a clinical psychologist. It hasn’t made me think that I wouldn’t be good at it. But it has made me think that I need to use the next few years of my life to become stronger in my own identities, to not feel threatened every time someone fails to acknowledge my own culture and history. I’m a senior in college, and even if I went straight to graduate school to become a certified mental health counselor, I still have another two years before I’ll be seeing patients.

Cultural psychology hasn’t changed my worldview that drastically. But it has showed me what I need to do in order to succeed in my chosen career. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, and it doesn’t always leave me feeling warm and fuzzy – and that’s OK. Change isn’t supposed to be easy.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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10 Things I Learned When My Best Friend Got Pregnant In High School

In this world where you can be anything: be a friend (and be a good one).

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Life: full of amazing, unforeseen circumstances. How you roll with the punches only reveals your strength.
True friends are like diamonds: bright, beautiful, valuable, and always in style." -Nicole Richie

I remember when I first heard the big news. I didn't want to believe it. My heart dropped. I was worried for you. What would happen? How would you get through this? Nothing we knew would ever be the same. Our world was about to change forever. I recalled the verse Isaiah 41:10, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you." I knew God was with you and would always be. I knew God needed me to be here for you, no matter what.

Turns out, you had this all in the bag. You handled everything with grace and dignity. You were strong even on your hardest days. You were overwhelmed with faith and you inspired me with your perseverance through the hardest times. I could not be more proud of who you became because of the cards you were dealt.

To Meaghan: I love you. I'm always here, no matter where. Hudson is so lucky to have you.

Here's what I learned from you and your sweet baby boy:

1. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT the end of the world

Start making plans for the future. Pick out clothes, decorations, and toys. Help with all the madness and preparation. She would do the same for you. Plus, 9 p.m. runs to Toys-R-Us just to buy the baby some socks (because you do not know the gender yet) is always a good idea. You have to focus on the big picture. Life doesn't stop even when you want to.

2. No matter how much you want to freak out, remain calm

Getting unexpected news is never easy to hear. If needed, cry. Cry until you cannot anymore. Then, get up and be strong, she needs you. Be flexible (You want to come over to hang out? Right now? No, I'm not in the middle of ten thousand things, come on over). Be available (yes, even for her 3 a.m. insomnia calls just to see "what's up?") "Meaghan, why are you even awake right now?"

3. Radiate positivity. Always. 

This is an emotional time. The LAST thing she needs is someone bringing her down. "No, honey, you're glowing!" "You do not look fat in that bikini!!" "You are rocking that baby bump!" "Oh, that's your the third day in a row you're eating a Sonic burger for lunch? You go girl!"

4. Be ready for all the times: happy, confusing, stressful, sad, (but mostly) exciting

Mixed emotions are so hard, but look for the silver lining. With your support, she will be strong.

"Who knew picking out the brand of diapers to buy was so stressful?"

5. This world is a scary place. You never want to be all alone, so don't be. 

Like the song says, we, really do, all need someone to lean on. Just being there for someone goes a long way. "Meaghan what the heck are you doing in MY bed? How long have you been here?"

6. Lean on God. His plan is greater than we could ever imagine. 

When you don't know where to go, or who to turn to, pray! Pray for the burdens you feel. Pray for the future. Pray for patience. Pray for the ability to not grow weary. Pray for a heart of compassion. Pray. Pray. Pray.

7. Something we never knew we needed. 

Some of the best things in life are things we never knew we needed. Who knows where we would be without this sweet face?

"Hudson say Lib. Libby. L-- Come ON!" "CAT!" "Okay, that works too."

8. "Mother knows best"...is accurate, whether you believe it or not

Turns out, seventeen-year-olds don't know how to plan baby showers. Our moms have been there, done that. They want to be involved just as much as we do, so let them! Listen to their guidance. After all, they're professionals.

9. There will *almost always* be a "better way" of doing something...but, be a cheerleader, not a critic 

This is something many people struggle with in general, but it is not your DNA, it is not your place to be a critic. Let her raise her own baby. You are there to be a friend, not a mentor. ****Unless she's about to name the baby something absolutely terrible -- for the love of that baby, don't let her name that kid something everyone hates.

10.  At the end of the day, it's not what you have or what you know; rather, it is all about who you love and those who love you

Life has adapted, but for the better. We grew up, learned, and became stronger. All the while, we stayed friends every step of the way. We still have the same fun and most definitely, the same laughs.

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