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How to Know if I Want to Be a Psychologist

by Ashley Miller, studioD

If you enjoy working closely with others and want to help people solve problems in their lives, you might be attracted to a career in psychology. Psychologists help people from all walks of life with a wide range of psychosocial problems, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and addictions. To be an effective psychologist, you'll need to have the right temperament and possess specific personal and professional qualities. If you think you have what it takes, then psychology can be a rewarding and exciting career path.

Do You Like Solving Problems?

Psychologists need to have excellent problem-solving skills to help people find the right treatment or to help them discover solutions to life problems, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you find that your friends or family often come to you for help with problems, you might be a natural problem-solver. Insight is another important component of solving problems. As a psychologist, you need to have a deep understanding of why people act the way they do, even when it makes them unhappy. But even more importantly, you have to understand and have insight into your own issues before you'll be able to successfully help others.

Do You Like Listening to Others?

Much of a psychologist's time is spent listening to the problems and complaints of others. While many patients also share their joys and successes, most people mainly seek the help of a psychologist because they feel unhappy or dissatisfied in some way. You should be able to tolerate listening to others talk about potentially serious or upsetting problems for extended periods of time. At the same time, you'll need to be able to set boundaries with your patients and deal with neediness. In a post for his blog, ShrinkTalk.net, psychologist Rob Dobrenski reports that psychologists need to be able to manage needy patients and be able to set professional boundaries.

Do You Want to Complete Extensive Schooling and Training?

Becoming a psychologist is not an easy undertaking. In addition to a bachelor's degree, which usually takes around four years if completed on a full-time basis, you'll also need to complete a doctoral degree in psychology, which can take an additional five to six years, says the American Psychological Association. To complete a doctorate, you'll need to participate in supervised clinical internships and write a dissertation. If you choose a specialization, you'll also need to complete additional training in your chosen field. It's also important to take into account the financial burden you may incur if you stay in school for such a lengthy period of time.

Do You Want to Save the World?

If you want to save everyone and you won't be satisfied with anything less, then a career in psychology might not be the right choice for you. Psychologists need to be able to accept limitations and realize that part of a patient's recovery or "cure" lies within the patient himself. Psychologists can only do so much before handing the reigns back to their patients. And sometimes, there's no "cure" for patients who have serious problems or personality disorders, says Dobrenksi. You'll work with people who are in extreme suffering and pain, and you'll want to do everything and more to help. But you'll need to face the facts -- you won't be able to help everyone, even those who desperately need your assistance.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

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