A university student recently asked me some questions that pertain to my profession. I’m publishing the interview here.
How many years have you worked in the field?
Since 1988 upon completion of my Master’s degree, when I began working in private practice (initially a psychologist’s, later my own).
What population do you work with?
General population—mostly ‘worried well,’ people with life problems involving relationships, self-esteem, career issues, ethical dilemmas. Some of the people I work with are considered mentally ill in the sense of having severe depression or bipolar disorder. However, I work with everyone the same way, utilizing a solution-focused and ‘life coaching’ approach to help individuals look at problems rationally and find sensible solutions.
What are the advantages of working in the human services field?
Personally? To me, no two hours are the same. It’s an opportunity to be self-employed and integrate my passion for writing and ideas with readers, some of whom want my services. Not all therapists or life coaches are writers, so this won’t be true for everyone, but it is true in my case. Also, like some other therapists, I have a special interest in philosophy and theoretical psychology. Working with people in this way helps me increase my understanding of these subjects, and in turn develop better and better ideas and methods for helping people that I can both write about and pass on to actual clients.
What are the disadvantages of working in the human services field?
Government has ruined it, because of its essential control of third-party payments. Also, government programs such as Medicaid are increasingly monopolizing the payment for therapy services in some regions, and they are dropping reimbursement rates by the moment, in order to finance the federal debt and to enable more and more people to get on the government insurance rolls. It’s more of a mess than people want to realize, and I’m only seeing a corner of it in the mental health area—imagine what it’s doing to medicine! However, I saw this coming years ago, and that’s one reason why I branched off into life coaching, to pull away from that oppressive government system as much as possible.
Do you think there are enough resources in the field?
I don’t know what you mean by resources—sorry. If you mean what most people mean by that word—government money—there’s clearly not enough government ‘paper money’ to cover the trillions of debt growing by the minute. That’s a mess for economists to fix, but the ones in power will not fix it; they will simply keep expanding the debt, and raising taxes as much as they can (although that won’t even put a dent in it.)
How would you rate your job stress?
Low, because I love what I do. It’s the perfect integration of ivory tower (research, thinking, writing) and actual real-live people (clients in psychotherapy and life coaching). It’s better than I had imagined or ever could have planned for.
What ways would you recommend to cope with work-related stress?
Start by choosing what you want to do, and research it. Ask others what they like or dislike about their careers, and listen carefully to their reasons. If their reasons for either liking or disliking their career are YOUR reasons as well, then their opinion potentially matters. Visualize yourself in the field and what you think an actual day will be like. If you’re in a field you now hate—not just a job, but the field itself—then don’t be afraid to contemplate change. Staying in a bad career is like being trapped in a bad, hopeless marriage. Even if it takes 2, 3 or 5 years to make the change, it beats condemning yourself to the life imprisonment of a bad career.
How satisfied are you with your current position?
Immensely. I attract my kind of clients because virtually everyone who comes to me does so because of my online or local newspaper columns. It couldn’t be any better.
If you could choose another career, what would it be?
Meteorology. I’m a scientist at heart and I love studying the weather. I’d rather watch the Weather Channel than the depressing depravity to be found on the news every day. I think I’d also enjoy being a secret agent for the government—if the government did what it was supposed to do, that is, which in most eras (today included) it does not. I’d love to use my mind to catch bad guys, utilizing what I know about human nature. Unfortunately, there are as many (or more) bad guys to be found in the government than the criminal world, and at least the criminals are not pretentious about it. But I’m not going to change what I’m doing, so that’s that.
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