For some people, what they want to be when they grow up comes in one big “ah-ha moment.” For others, it’s a series of “ah-ha moments” that lead the way to their preferred profession.
Below, psychologists share in their own words the moment or moments they realized what their life’s work would be.
Elizabeth M. Davis, PsyD, clinical director of child and adolescent services for Eating Recovery Center.
“I knew I wanted to be in this field since my first course in psychology, which was junior year of high school. I was always interested in science and the arts, so it was exciting to see that there is a field that honors both. As I continued into my college academic career, I was drawn to every psychology and sociology course I could find. I guess people just amaze and interest me.
On a more personal note, I have watched how mental health diagnoses, comprehensive assessments and therapy have greatly improved the lives of my loved ones. I’ve been witness to various people in my life exploring their psychological worlds and seeking greater awareness of themselves. This has inspired me to do the same, and then help others see how a better understanding of oneself can lead to stronger, more fruitful relationships and futures.”
Chad LeJeune, Ph.D, anxiety specialist and author of The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
“I realized that I wanted to be a psychologist the summer after 8th grade. I found a (in retrospect very hokey) psychology book at the library called Return to Bedlam that described all of the mood and anxiety disorders. I was just fascinated that there was a discipline focused on understanding and alleviating human suffering. I couldn’t think of anything more important that I could study. I abandoned my dreams of designing better shopping malls, and a psychologist was born.”
Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D, attention expert and author of Dreamers, Discoverers, and Dynamos: How to Help the Child Who is Bright, Bored, and Having Problems at School and Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload.
“After college, I taught in an inner-city school where behavior problems were a challenge every day. Of what use were the pedagogical techniques I’d learned to teach high school mathematics if students weren’t paying attention? I began to apply principles of psychology, such as intermittent reinforcement schedules in the form of weekly raffles, with tickets earned by good behavior. I was impressed that gang members would sit quietly in their seats for a chance to win a hit record album each Friday. I decided to learn more about psychology and the good it could do in the world.”
“My ‘ah-ha moment’ was really way back in high school. My first psychology class was in high school and I loved it from the beginning. I found it to be the most interesting, most exciting class that I had taken in my four years there. Plus, I had another class that focused on self-esteem development and was very positive about change and the impact we have on one another, and that just took the root of wanting to be a psychologist that much deeper. (Thanks Mr. Taft and Mr. Boehmke!)”
Jeffrey Sumber, M.A., psychotherapist, author and teacher.
“I was studying Theology at Harvard Divinity School on my way toward a very different life when I realized that there was somehow more flexibility in our modern age to facilitate interpersonal change and transformation through Psychology than Religion. Both paths are conduits for personal development, however, I felt there to be less dogma attached to transpersonal psychotherapy than religion, so I got the Masters in Theology and then applied for Psychology programs.”
Ari Tuckman, Ph.D, ADHD specialist and author of More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD.
“This was easy for me because my father is a psychologist. He enjoyed his work and would talk occasionally about interesting situations (without breaking confidentiality). It seemed like interesting work and I enjoy helping people and getting to know them. As much as I enjoy my therapy sessions, I feel that psychologists have a lot to share with members of the public who may not seek out therapy. So I mix it up by writing and presenting as a way to spread the word and hopefully have a positive impact on people’s lives.”
Photo by Eric Schmuttenmaer, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.