Yes, I’m a psychologist but don’t freak out…I actually cannot read your mind.
I love telling my students in my Psychology 101 class the kind of reception I get at parties when people find out that I’m a licensed psychologist. People usually have one of two reactions. They either, a) talk my ear off and ask me abajillion questions about their boyfriends and kids or b) avoid me like the plague. For those who opt for the latter, let me clarify a few issues. Here are three things psychologists are NOT doing in their free time.
Psychologists are not reading your mind.
Psychologists are not wizards and/or mutants equipped with the powerful ability to see people’s thoughts. We do not have access to your deepest and darkest secrets unless you choose to tell us and make them a part of our therapeutic work. Contrary to what you might believe, you are actually in control of how your therapy sessions play out. We must follow your lead.
Outside of their offices, psychologists are not analyzing you.
Ok, I’d be lying if I said that I don’t (sometimes) pick up on people’s patterns when I’m outside of the office. But, I can tell you that I do not casually analyze people for fun. First of all, to “analyze” anyone, I’d have to ask questions that are not appropriate for casual conversation and trust me, you’d know what I was doing. Second, I have so much going on in my personal life that I cannot and will not practice my work, on top of everything else. When I leave the office, I leave my role as a psychologist. If I didn’t, I’d be in big trouble. I’d be tending to everyone under the sun whilst forgoing my needs and wants in the process. This would be a bad scene. My colleagues and I agree that the last thing we want to do when we leave the office is care take for everyone. As a matter of fact, some of us are pretty chill and to-ourselves after a day of work.
Psychologists cannot add or remove anything from your brain.
One of my clients told me that her father did not want to see a psychologist because he was worried that the psychologist would subconsciously exercise power over his behaviours, compromising his free will. Well, it is obviously impossible for a psychologist (or any human being for that matter) to open your brain and manipulate its structure and function as they see fit. But, what I really want to address is the fact that transparency and honesty is a huge part of a psychologist’s work. We must give all clients clear and transparent information about the definition of therapy, the (potential positive and/or negative) consequences of therapy, and the type of therapy and interventions in which we engage. Ethically, we have to disclose our treatment plan and, only with your consent and collaboration, can we start therapy. Now, if your psychologist has provided you with all of the necessary information but you are still unsure of him/her…do some research. Google your psychologist’s therapeutic techniques. Google the clinic. Heck, google your psychologist him/herself and read the reviews. If you are still untrusting of your psychologist, a) find another psychologist or b) work on those trust issues.
In sum, if you are one of those skeptics, give psychology a try. At the very least, most psychologists are very nice people who are simply fascinated with human behaviour and who plainly want to help.