One question I get asked regularly, is why I chose to detour and not continue on my path as a clinical psychologist. I’m going to try and answer that question here, because the answer is important in people understanding more about me and what I do.
I can tell by the look on people’s faces when I tell them that I chose not to continue with my post graduate studies in clinical psychology (after years of study and hard work) that they are probably thinking I am crazy/stupid – or both!
And I get that! I really do. From the outside I can see that it might seem like a weird thing to do to change direction into positive psychology when I was so close to the finish.
Becoming a clinical psych was the safe, secure option that I thought I wanted.
Except turns out it wasn’t. Not for now anyway.
It’s not like I’ve completely gone off track from my original plans, I like to think of it as a slight detour. ↩
The thing is, that sometimes we don’t know if something is for us until we give it a go…
And sometimes we learn more about ourselves as we go, which leads us to evolve and change with each little discovery.
My struggle with illness was a pretty big catalyst for me in reassessing what exactly I wanted…
It called into question what I wanted to do – who I wanted to serve, and most importantly who I wanted to be.
Now anyone who knows me, knows that I am a bit of a nerd 🤓 So all the research and science in psychology was super attractive to me. I actually wanted to be a neuropsychologist, but those dreams were quickly shattered one night at a careers evening in my second year, when a guest neuropsychologist told us all about the 98%+ grade requirement. 🤦♀️😜
I love learning about the brain, neuroscience and human behaviour. And that hasn’t changed one bit.
So what’s the difference between clinical psychology and my new positive psychology degree that I am about to graduate from this June?
It’s all about the focus as a practitioner.
Now as a disclaimer, I want to clarify here that there is absolutely 100% the need for clinical psychologists in this world to help those in need. I respect and admire my colleagues in this amazing field. There is a very important place for their work.
It’s just that I realised that it wasn’t supposed to be my work.
See when I was learning to become a clinical psychologist, there was a lot of focus upon illness, and learning all about the different mental illnesses and their presentations. There was a lot of focus upon treatments, and taking people from being very unwell – to being ‘OK’ again.
What I discovered was that I wasn’t going to be happy just taking people from unwell to just ‘OK’. I wanted to see people flourish, I wanted to see them move beyond OK – and to thrive.
And that is exactly why I am doing positive psychology. I wanted to study the latest science and research around what makes us humans truly happy. What makes us flourish.
The field of positive psychology is not intended to replace traditional psychology. It doesn’t ignore the importance of studying how things go wrong, but it also looks at what is right with people, focusing on when and how people are at their best.
It is not all butterflies and rainbows! Positive psychology acknowledges the importance of negative emotions, behaviours and problems that are all a part of our life as humans! It’s unrealistic to think that we can be happy all of the time. It just doesn’t work that way!
But it’s all about how we deal with our fluctuating emotions, and what we can do to work on our “mental fitness”, in the same way that we work on our physical fitness. 💪
Positive psychology is a science first and foremost. But it is an applied science, where positive interventions are designed to encourage people to move from surviving – to thriving. Or as they say in positive psychology, helping clients go from a “+3 to a +5.”
I love the saying that “health isn’t the absence of disease“, and I want to be a part of discovering how we can move from existing, to flourishing in our day to day lives.
Life is short, and beautiful!
So that is why I made the change.
And I’m sure it won’t be the last one! If you’re not changing, then you’re not learning I say.