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The Debrief: Why I stopped chasing my dream to become a practicing psychologist

October 22, 2017

By Jaimi A’court

Before we begin I have a word of warning. This blog contains some real talk. Like some real for real serious real talk. As in no bullshit, unfiltered honesty about my very recent, raw and real experience. Well I think you get the picture by now, so if I haven’t totally put you off let’s dive in.

Today I quit my 4 + 2 psychology internship. Quite literally I pressed send to an email to my supervisor an hour ago. On a side note how can sending an email make you feel so horrifically nervous? Suddenly a very mundane task that I took for granted in my everyday life became the hardest thing I had ever had to do.

Please make no mistake; I absolutely loved every minute of my internship, the practical experience I gained and the professionals I had the pleasure of working with. I can whole heartily say I learnt more in three months than in my whole 4 years of University. This is the part that frustrates and disappoints me the most. After spending 4 years studying at University I was still grossly underprepared for the real world. I have a burning desire to finish my psychology training and a passion to guide people to reach their full potential. However, I did not like the person I was becoming during the past 3 months. A wise woman once told me that “in this field we need to be honest with ourselves and others about when we are not well equipped to take on particular roles, jobs or clients” and those words could not be truer for my current situation. There is no doubt in my mind that I can be a good psychologist but not at this time in my life.

During the time that I was undertaking my internship I was no longer enjoying things I had done my whole life, I began to resent my hobbies as they were taking up valuable work time and worst of all I began to emotionally hurt the people closest to me.

When I came to the realisation that I could not keep going like this I was faced with a sliding doors moment and I was shit scared – but sometimes the scariest decisions are the most rewarding. All of a sudden I no longer had a clear path to a career. All of a sudden seventeen years of education came to a screaming halt. I had convinced myself that I would flail around aimlessly in the world without the scaffolding of an educational institution. I had quite literally been brainwashed to think that I could not be a successful worthwhile person unless I was studying. Full disclosure, there was no outside pressure making me feel this way. I have always been and will always be my own biggest critique. Nevertheless, I was convinced that there was nothing else for me other than the path I had created. As if the decision I made as a seventeen year old in High School was the only decision that mattered. As if the pimply, temperamental, hormone driven year 12 student was given permission to set the coordinates for the expedition of my whole life.

The saddest part is I know what I am turning down. The opportunity I had was utterly incredible. The 4 + 2 pathway is so underrated by the majority of the psychology industry and I do not want to give the field the satisfaction of “I told you so”. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to see the career from a real life standpoint. To experience first hand, on the front line what it is like to so badly want to help a client and get told that the intervention your providing is useless; that you do not understand your clients situation because your life is so easy; that a client can not afford to continue an intervention that is helping them because their funding agency does not see the benefit for them any longer; that their families do not believe that what they are experiencing is real. I felt what it was like to be a professional in the field working as part of a clinical team yet feeling like you’re alone. I was lucky enough to have the biggest, widest and toughest support net to catch me as I was falling deeply and quickly into a future that I was not destined for. But others are not as lucky as me. This leads to another important discussion regarding the wellbeing of our health professionals that we should all be having. However, I am not able to do this topic justice right here and right now. This topic is ugly, heavy and confronting and deserves a whole book.

Back to my recent decision . . . . .

One night on my way home from a particularly tough day at my internship I got pulled over for speeding. At the time I was so bewildered at how this could happen to me. Why me? I had just spent my whole day at allied health clinic busting my guts to help others and better their lives and here I am being pulled over. Why wasn’t the policeman out catching the real bad guys? Why was he wasting his time and resources on me? It’s funny how the universe drops us little hints isn’t it? I had clearly ignored the previous fifteen hints so the universe decided to slap me in the face with a $450 fine, but truth be told it was the slap in the face that I needed. I was totally out of my depth but had convinced myself I wasn’t, as I so badly wanted to achieve a goal I thought I was destined for.

Rather than seeing this as a failure I am now able to shift my thinking and see it as an exciting new adventure. Three months ago I thought it was the external chatter that was stopping me from reaching my full potential when really the only thing stopping me from reaching my full potential was myself.

Maybe I’ll regret this decision in six months time but, do you know what? Allowing myself to be open to these thoughts, challenge the conventional pathway I had mapped out for myself and finally making this decision has been the most freeing experience of my life.

If there is one thing you can take from this let it be:

“Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that is the one that is going to lead you to the most growth.”

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