Therapists Spill: Why I Do What I Do
Why did they pick this field? Why do they conduct therapy?
Being a therapist is hard work. It’s emotionally exhausting. It’s challenging. It involves helping clients detach from deeply entrenched, damaging patterns of behavior and thought.
It involves helping clients manage serious psychiatric illnesses. It usually requires donning different hats, everything from marketer to billing specialist to secretary.
For many the initial motivation to pursue a career in psychology was personal.
Clinical psychologist and women’s mental health expert Christina G. Hibbert, PsyD, happened to be taking a psychology class when her youngest sister, age 8, died from cancer.
“Everything I learned seemed to help me heal. I wanted to help others do the same.” She also wanted to fix her family. Today, however, Hibbert’s reasons have evolved.
I went on to graduate school, and, in my final year, we had a class where we each had to present our “life’s story” in a 2-hour class. At the end of the class, the teacher asked questions and gave feedback.
I’d already experienced so much heartache and loss — my sister’s death, the subsequent complete change of my family, my mom’s cancer, family mental illness, postpartum depression — all of which I presented to my class.
When I was done, the teacher asked, “You know why you really went into this field, don’t you?”
“Yes,” I said. “I’ve learned the real reason over the years: To fix my family. But,” I continued, “I know now that I can’t fix them. Now, I just want to understand them, and myself.” He liked that answer, and so did I.
I do what I do not just because I love helping others; I do what I do because it helps me grow.
Deborah Serani, PsyD, became a psychologist after witnessing firsthand the power of psychotherapy. Serani, author of two books on depression, personally survived the disorder and was inspired to help others.