Some professions have the power to change lives. For me being a writer has had a pivotal effect on every part of my life. Being a writer has helped me express my creativity and share my voice. It’s helped me better understand myself and even learn to cope effectively with stress. It’s opened up worlds of knowledge. And it reminds me daily to marvel at the beauty all around us.
This month we were curious about how clinicians felt their work has affected their lives. Here’s what they said.
For Ryan Howes, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist in Pasadena, California, being a clinician has changed his perspective on people. He realized that regardless of our successes, all of us have stuff to work through.
Before becoming a therapist I assumed there were two types of people: people who needed help and those who had it all together. But early on I learned a valuable lesson: Everyone has their baggage. I knew I had issues and was intimidated by those who seemed to have everything figured out. As a therapist I soon learned that this wasn’t true.
Everyone, from the most broken to the most apparently successful standout, has their baggage. It took a few rounds of therapy with successful professionals, social dynamos, and even mental health experts to realize that the apparently “successful” people had their own issues they needed to overcome, and sometimes these problems were one reason they had so much visible success.
My job as a therapist was to help them accept and work through their baggage, despite the apparent success in other areas of their life.
As a result, I now find that I’m rarely intimidated by outwardly successful people. I know that most of us are either limited by, coping with, compensating for, or the product of some pain and failure. We all have this in common – pain that we’ve chosen to deal with in our own way. I like how this perspective helps me to see others as equals, yet incredibly unique.
Clinical work has helped Christina G. Hibbert, PsyD, a psychologist and postpartum mental health expert, become a better person and parent.
I chose the field of psychology because everything I learn applies to my own life too. Whether it be tools to overcome mental illness, facts about the mind-body connection, or skills for self-improvement, strengthening relationships, or being a better parent—I love what I do because it makes me a better person.
Being a clinician allows me to utilize the tools that have benefitted my life to help others become “better” too, and that is very rewarding to me. But even more rewarding is learning from my clients. As I listen to their stories, see their strengths, and witness the life changes they make, I am inspired. I get the benefit of receiving their wisdom and learning what works and what doesn’t work for them, and that helps me in my personal and family life too.
It also reminds me I am not alone in my mistakes, and that I can change if I choose to. It keeps me evaluating and improving myself, and that helps me be a better wife, mother, friend, and person. It’s a perfect cycle—as I learn and improve, I help others learn and improve, and they help me learn and improve in return, and so on, and so on.
John Duffy, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and author of the book The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens, also believes that being a clinician has helped him become a better person thanks to learning from his clients.
We clinicians, I would argue, think about the nature of our lives, and the way we live them, more than most people do as a direct result of their work. I know this is true of me. I have the privilege of learning from the processes of change my clients go through.
One client, for example, devised an affirming mantra for himself in session. He decided that, within each decision each day, he would “write the better story.” I have adopted this nearly daily in my life since then, along with countless other lessons I have learned from my clients.
I think I am a better, more aware person than I ever would have been without this profession. Couple this with the fact that I left a profession I felt particularly poorly matched with, and the work is a bonus!
Joyce Marter, LCPC, a psychotherapist and owner of Urban Balance, has gained greater insight into herself and become a better mom, too.
Being a clinician has touched my personal life in just about every way imaginable because I have had the honor to learn about life, relationships and the human experience through a deep, empathic connection with my clients. This has blessed me with cumulative wisdom and a much more open and broad understanding of life and the mind, body, spirit connection.
I am able to apply this wisdom as I move through my own journey of self-healing, discovery and self-actualization. It helps me to have the compassion for myself that I extend to my clients and understand that we are all human and works in progress.
Being a therapist also allows me to be of service to others, which is not only deeply meaningful and rewarding, but allows me to get out of my own head and see things from a larger perspective.
My work as a clinician has deepened my understanding of myself and my ability to be present, connected and authentic in my relationships. I am most grateful for how this knowledge has helped me to be a better mother and to promote psychological development between my generation and my children’s in the context of our family.
I believe that if we all work on ourselves psychologically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually, we will not only heal and grow personally, but as families, communities and a global society. I have my work as a therapist to thank for that awareness.
Being invited into the delicate layers of a person’s life has always moved me. It takes great courage to allow another into such vulnerable and fragile spaces, and sharing those experiences has lengthened and broadened my sense of compassion. I’ve always been sensitive to others, but working as a clinician has deepened the textures of my own inner world – which in turn, has given me a passion for life I don’t think I’d have found in another profession.