“Before The Search”
“So now let us talk about the upcoming I-Search paper”. When Ms. Pavlecic released these words from her mouth, every face in the room flushed to white. I mean typically, any student would feel a sense of dread come on when they hear about an upcoming term paper that determines whether or not you pass your English class. But instead, I was very excited to hear about this news. Writing and researching for papers can be pretty dumb and boring in the eyes of a student, but it’s a whole different situation when they get to revolve around you. There might not be an “I” in term paper, but there is an “I” in I-Search.
The idea of being a psychologist has always infatuated me. Psychological and mental health problems have always intrigued me and drawn me in to want to know more. I have been around many people, including my own family members, who have had mental problems or disorders and I have always been urged to help them and see what makes their brain think the way it does. Being around people so close to me who had a strange mental stigma opened my eyes to see and feel how agonizing it is to watch somebody go through with that sort of pain. I have always just wanted help everybody in any way that I can.
I have been interested in psychology for quite some time now. I would constantly go on the computer and look various things up about the profession. This where I decided which kind of psychology I would take an interest in. Clinical psychology is what stood out to me the most. Clinical psychology focuses completely on the assessment, treatment, diagnosis, and prevention of mental illness just like your typical counseling psychologist but they do this in a hospital environment. I learned on an average that a professional psychologist generally makes around $72,540. The educational requirements in most states is that a clinical psychologist must have a doctorate degree in psychology, complete a one to two year supervised residency, and pass state licensing exams in order to practice.
I am hoping to find a psychologist to meet with that works in a mental hospital setting, who has dealt with the worst case scenarios with the profession, and see why they’ve still stuck with their job. I want them to tell me about the long trouble they went through with school to get where they are now. I want to learn about how they deal with devoting their life to help cure a person that is mentally ill and the effects that it has on them as well. I want them to tell me how they feel after they talk to a depressed teenager that self-harms, a child dealing with schizophrenia, etc. I want them to tell me about the whole nine yards about their career and the toll it takes on them but how they still wanted to go through with it after all the trouble it puts them through. I want to learn about being a clinical mental health psychologist.
“The Paper Trail”
A psychologist is someone who studies the mind and behavior. While people often think of talk therapy when they hear the word psychologist, this profession actually encompasses a wide range of specialty areas including such things as animal research and organizational behavior. (“Psychology”) While there are many different types of psychologists, they typically fall into one of three different areas: Applied Psychologists, Research Psychologists, and Mental Health Psychologists. Applied Psychologists utilize psychological principles and research to solve real-world problems. Examples include aviation psychologists, engineering psychologists, industrial-organizational psychologists and human factors psychologists. Research psychologists conduct studies and experiments with human or animal participants. Research psychologists often work for universities, private businesses or government entities. Their research may focus on a wide range of specialty areas within psychology, including cognition, neuroscience, personality, development and social behavior. Mental Health Psychologists work with people suffering from mental disorders or psychological distress. They often work in hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, government offices or private practices. Examples of mental health psychologists include clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists and school psychologists. (“Psychology”) The salary for these psychologists all ranges from $58,360 to $97,820. (“Psychologist”) Many people believe that psychologists and psychiatrists do just about the same exact job. I myself thought this. Both do in fact; conduct the practice of psychotherapy and research. But, there is a distinct amount of differences between the two. A psychiatrist has a degree in medicine while a psychologist has a doctoral-level degree in psychology. Psychologists receive graduate training in psychology and pursue either a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in clinical or counseling psychology. (“Psychologist”) Doctorate programs typically take five to seven years to complete and most states require an additional one or two yearlong internship in order to gain licensure. Other states require an additional year or two of supervised practice before granting full licensure. The title of "psychologist" can only be used by an individual who has completed this education, training, and state licensure. (“Psychology”) Psychiatrists are physicians that have specific training in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses. In order to become a psychiatrist, students first earn an undergraduate degree before they attend medical school and receive an M.D. After finishing their medical training, they also complete an additional four years of residency training in mental health. Some also receive additional training in a specific area of interest such as geriatric psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, addictions, and other areas. (“Psychology”)
“On The Job” #1
For my very first interview, I got very lucky to have been able to conduct a personal interview so I could get up close and personal. Since my job choice is a psychologist, I could not perform an observation due to the law. But I was able to have sat down in her office so I could be present in the environment she works in every day. I have to give a very big ‘thank you’ to Ms. Pavlecic for being so lucky to have run into Denise at Chipotle. I very much appreciate her help, and I would like to thank her once again. My interview went very well and encouraged me for my other ones, because I was having such a difficult time trying to find people who would be willing to give me just a bit of their time to sit down with me and let me interview them. I called Denise right away and she was very prompt and more than willing to sit down and talk to me. So Tuesday, after school, I headed down to F.A.M.E Charter School to go sit down and interview Denise. Right as we sat down, I asked her if she would be willing to let me record her so I could make sure I could have a word by word description of her responses and feelings towards any questions I asked. When we started, I began to ask her about what made her want to get into psychology, the college she attended, and what classes she took while she attended it. She attended Chatman University in Orange, California and while she was there her studies focused on becoming a child and marriage counselor, so her classes focused on psychology, child development, social skills, communication, sociology, and mental health theories. She said that not all branches in psychology require a master, but you do need to go straight into your earning your doctorate. (Zuckerman, interview) She told me that she had originally been a teacher for fine arts, and she had a girl in one of her classes that she had been rather close with. This girl had been looking at a rather prestigious job that she had wanted to apply for but Denise told her that because of her bad grades and the fact that the girl didn’t have the proper clothes for interviews or the job itself, she didn’t believe she would be suited for it. This upset the girl very much so the following day the girl and her friends ganged up on her in the halls while she was walking to her classroom and proceeded to physically assault her. She soon learned that the girl’s mom had been in jail and Denise not believing in her just truly set her off the edge. Soon after that, she quit her job as a fine arts teacher and went back to university to study and earn her doctorate as a child, school, and marriage psychologist. (Zuckerman, interview) I thought that was just such an interesting and riveting story of how she got into the field. I can’t imagine the way she felt after such an incident like that could have happened. The tables were turned once she got curious and asked me why I had wanted to get into psychology. After explaining to her my views and beliefs towards mental health and how I ache to be a clinical psychologist, she was astounded that I had wanted to join such a tough and sketchy field. With wide, shocked eyes she told me that it really is a disturbing field. (Zuckerman, interview) I found this to be the perfect chance to ask her what the most frightening case she has ever dealt with was, without revealing to me the patient. Her whole body tensed up as an uncomfortable look washed up on her face. “After Columbine, there were many copycat situations, one of which I dealt with. I once worked for a junior high as the school psychologist. I had dealt with a boy who had been bullied a lot in his school years. He put up with the harassment every day, until he finally couldn’t take it anymore and snapped. He wrote up every name of every bully on a list and vowed to shoot and kill each and every one of them. This wasn’t just a list though; he proceeded to take action by bringing a rifle to school. Might I add this boy was only in the seventh grade… Luckily, I discovered the list and had him stopped before it was too late. Only a handful of people knew. We did not want to notify the entire school of this. They sent the boy away for about four years to an asylum, and when they finally let him out, he still had his mind set on slaughtering the bullies, and just like that, he was sent back, but this time to solitary confinement. I made sure to change jobs right away, which led me to this one. I still do not know to this day whether they let him out. I’ll never know if he’s finally better or if he actually followed through with it or if he is actually in there for the rest of his life.” (Zuckerman, interview) I really wanted to quote that entire story word by word because I fell completely silent after she let it all out. The only word I could manage to squeal out was a faint “wow”. I did not know what you’re supposed to say to something like that, and I still do not. I felt like I had actually taken on the role of a psychologist for a moment, and she was my patient that was talking about horrible repressed memories. Her inner fear had just broken out of its shell and had consumed the entire room, and even me. In that very moment, I just realized that I do not think I could take on being a clinical mental health psychologist. I did not even know what to say to a situation like that, let alone come face to face with one. I came right out with that as well, and she somehow found a way to crack a smile and say with a nervous tone that mental health isn’t easy. She could say that again.
“On The Job” #2
When it came time for my second interview, I interviewed as well as partially observed Washington High School’s school psychologist, Ms. Guzman. When I say “observed” I don’t mean that I had sat in her office with her while she was with a patient, but I mean I actually got to witness the busyness that she deals with every day in her career. It took me a while to finally get a hold of her and then sit down to schedule an appointment with her, but after all the trouble that I went through to meet with her. I am quite happy that I did. When I had walked into the office at the start of husky period, she wasn’t anywhere to be found. I stared up at the clock to see that ten minutes had passed, I was getting anxious. I let five more minutes pass and I was just about to get up and leave, when finally, I saw her run down the hall and tell me to wait. She had been in the middle of a meeting with a family whose son suffers from anger issues and they were trying to get counseling for him because of it. Once she finished up, she led me to her office, and apologized for the inconvenience, her days usually are this busy if not busier. (Guzman, interview) I found it to be no problem once I understood the situation; it actually gave me the perfect opportunity to observe her in her daily work environment. Before, I met with her, I assumed that being a school psychologist, you were classified as a general, licensed psychologist. But Ms. Guzman proved to me that I was wrong. A psychologist is able to conduct assessments and undergo treatment on any person that is asked of them because they are licensed to do so, but a school psychologist is considered a teacher that is able to conduct assessment on any student attending the school that is either asking or has a parental figure asking to perform assessment on them. (Guzman, interview) So although school psychologists do take the title of being a “psychologists”, they do not fully have all the rights that come along with this title. As a school psychologist, it does not require a master’s degree in psychology, but instead, a master in teaching along with a credential. (Guzman, interview) Studying at the University of Laverne for four years for under graduate studying in basic psychology and sociology, she then went on to earn her masters in teaching at Asuza Pacific University. (Guzman, interview) After asking and discussing what made her want to get into the study of psychology and into the field of being a school psychologist, she explained to me the safety of it all. At first, criminology was a big interest of hers, but after thinking about the risks you are handed and how dangerous of a position you are put in, it just really turned her off. (Guzman, interview) When she opened up her choices to school psychology, she realized how much of a variety you are given with the profession. It is still helping people figure things out and help lead them in the right direction, but you are helping children the most. Teenagers and children are so underestimated when it comes to them figuring out life. They are expected to know what direction or path to take at all times, but they don’t know. It’s hard to cope with watching kids go through that sort of trauma of not knowing when you just want to help them all. (Guzman, interview) After sitting with Ms. Guzman for half an hour, I learned a lot in that short time span. School psychology appealed to me more and more as she broke it down to me. I had the same views as her about children and teenagers, and whenever I see a child struggling, I just want to take their hand and sit down with them so I can do whatever I can to help them up from their troubles and lead them to the right path. I had explained to Ms. Guzman that I had been looking into the darker side of psychology (clinical mental health) but after learning and hearing more about her opinions towards that, I have opened my psychology variety up towards school psychology.
“After The Search”
Even after the struggle and stress I went through to gain my interviews, meet my deadlines, and write the best paper I could to my ability; I overall enjoyed doing the I-Search. I have learned many skill tactics, preferable colleges to study at, and even tips on mental health and assessment when I finally do get to pursue my career in the psychology field. When we first started looking into the I-Search, I was really not sure what exact field of psychology I wanted to engage in. There is no such thing as being just a “psychologist”. I had the idea in my head of being a clinical mental health psychologist, but that proved to be too much for me once talking with Denise and hearing the stories she had to tell me. All I knew was that I just wanted to help anybody in my path that is troubled by any sort of issue. It makes my heart ache to no end to see somebody suffering from something that they never got the choice to have or the chance to change it. At first, I was leaning towards more of the clinical field to deal with the really severe mental illnesses of sorts but working with children or teenagers in particular, i.e., working in a mental health clinic or hospital. But after learning that it truly is the darkest field you can get yourself into, I don’t think I could endure that amount of stress given from a job. Besides that, the amount of school required is just the same as a standard doctor. I would practically be forty by the time I’d finally get to work in the hospital. When I did both my interviews and observations, the psychologists I both met with worked in the school psychology field. No psychologist working in the clinical field was willing to meet with me at all, and now looking back on that, I believe it was a sign. The first woman I met with, Denise was able to show me part of her diagnosis and assessment that she was currently dealing with one of her students. The child she was dealing with was coping with family issues and anger from it. Denise showed me her white board that she used to draw images, diagrams, and notes to calm her students mind and work with them. I got lucky in my second observation with Washington’s school psychologist too. Ms. Guzman came late to our appointment I had scheduled, which I was somewhat annoyed about at first, but then it actually worked to my advantage. She was late because she was at a meeting dealing with a student going through family troubles. She explained to me that her daily work routine is just as busy as I saw. Even sometimes as on top of her work as she is, she has to take some of her work that she has to do for her students home because there is not nearly enough time in the school day for her to get it done. Both interviews though, were exactly what I wanted to learn and to experience. Both taught me that being a school psychologist is not just working with students to make them feel better by making them push their problems to the side to get them through the day. You are working with young people to help guide them in the right path so they do not have to face even bigger troubles in the near future. Children and teenagers are so underestimated; they are expected to know what to do at any given situation or whenever they are told to do a task. They are young and careless, and they do not always know what is best or what to do. Sometimes, they really need somebody to help them and tell them it won’t be this bad in the future. I want to be that someone. To conclude my I-Search, I would like to give it a big ‘thank you’ to it for opening my eyes to the psychology field I want to pursue, and that field is school psychology.