10 things I’ve learned as a psychologist

I have always been interested in anything to do with psychology; from the way people lived thousands of years ago, to how we deal with modern society, psychopathology, social dillemas and the ways we give meaning to our lives. I chose to study psychology instead of the arts and for my masters I decided to study clinical psychology. Now, after twelve years of working as a psychologist, I am a certified ‘generalist’ and I will be starting my own practice soon.

There are 10 things I have learned along the way:

1. There is no quick fix. Books and therapists who promise a solution within a short time will not bring long-term solutions. Most problems have built up over many years and will need time to be solved. In some cases a few converstations can have a great effect in short term but they won’t address the essence of a problem. It is also important to mention that we need to re-learn how to deal with life problems. These days everything needs to be ‘fixed’ and there is not much room for giving yourself time. Acceptance is important since  not every problem can be eliminated.
2. The human mind is very complex. We don’t know everything about the brain and its connection with the rest of the body. I think that our minds have a big influence on our bodies and a lot of somatic ilnesses have their roots in psychological problems.
3. No person is the same. It can be difficult to adress problems with protocols and I think for every individual I search for an approach that fits. That being said, most people have more in common than you would think, we all have the same basic needs.
4. Self care is important. And with self care I do not just mean ‘spoiling yourself’. It is important to sleep regularly, eat healthy and exercise. It also includes mindfulness and meditation for stress management and taking the time to look within oursleves. Without this base it is difficult to work on underlying issues.
5. Relationships are the key. The way we grow into adulthood has a lot to do with our first relationships in life. The relationships with parents, caregivers, siblings and friends make us into who we are. As adults our outer world reflects our inner world; if you have a lot of conflicts with others you should work on the conflicts you have with yourself first.
6. Looking back is necessary. It is good to have some future plans and to look ahead at things that are coming. But without looking into our pasts and dealing with the pain, it is difficult to achieve our goals and dreams.
7. Joy, laughter and creativity are essential. As children we all knew what we liked and what brought us joy and this does not change much as we grow. Still, we do not think these are priorities as adults.  Next to working and taking care of our daily lives and the others we should never forget to enjoy the small things, to seek the humor in everything and do what brings us joy. These are often things that don’t seem ‘useful’, but they are essential for our wellbeing.
8. You can’t help someone if they don’t want to help themselves.  As a therapist I find it frustrating when I cannot help someone, but a person has to be ready for change. Maybe it’s not the right time yet. But every small step taken in psychoilogical healing is bringing a person a bit further on her/his path.
9. We need meaning in our lives. In Western society there is often not much space for religion or spirituality. But I believe that we have to have a defined world view, to know what is important for us and what our values are. This gives us meaning and can be one of the ways to happiness.
10. I will never stop learning. I have read hunderds of books about psychology, spirituality, philosophy etc. and I’ve seen hundereds of clients over the years but I keep learning every day. Helping others, solving puzzles of the mind an challenging myself in this way is what I love about my work as a psychologist 🙂