There are many oddities associated with being an (almost) psychologist.
The responsibilities are tremendous. Not only are you expected to have an eye on the people you treat and their lives outside your one hour a week, but you also have an assumed responsibility to the people around them. There is an assumed almost psychical power to what we do, as though we are to be able to predict with utter certainty what our clients might do. The consequences for mistakes in either way, overestimation or underestimation of risk, are devastating.
Your job title also carries a lot of weight in your every day interactions. People look for the signs that you are secretly reading them. They ask you for advice, be it at a dinner party or in a bar, leaving you wondering if plumbers are approached by their drunk friends with frantic requests for advice on a rusty drain.
You are also expected by some to have a certain infallibility to you. It is assumed that in order to be a psychologist, your personal life must be thoroughly in order. (I have many times beat myself up by believing that ridiculous stereotype.) You worry about being seen by your clients in a non-professional environments, and the effect that might have on their image of you. I once found out I was at a beer gardens, in a tank top and shorts, at the very same Canada Day celebrations as a client. I was extremely thankful for the lack of paths crossing that day.
One of the most underestimated responsibilities, though, is that of confidentiality.
I take confidentiality very seriously. I view it as fundamental to what I do, and as something I cannot compromise. Sadly, there are a few of my peers who are a little more lax in their interpretation of the term.
It is an odd quirk of the job to have to hold a lot of charged information in your own head. My own capacities in being able to handle this weight have increased a lot since I've begun training, to the point where I am reasonable proficient at being able to leave it behind when I walk in the front door of my apartment.
Still, I do work in a forensic setting, which often makes for a lot of heavy information being thrown my way, from trauma to violence to insane tragedy. In all honesty, I never believed I'd have the capacity to do this kind of work, and I sometimes sit back and reflect on the fact that I am much stronger than I gave myself credit for.
I've worked in this particular job for over a year and a half now, and still some friends don't know about it, because I choose not to speak about it very much. People are a little greedy for details, and I don't blame them, because it is fascinating stuff, especially in this era of criminal fascination, of multiple CSIs and talk of criminal profiling. I can't give them these details, though, just a generic job description and vague generalities, no matter how many good party stories I may have floating around in my head. It's just something I have to be black and white about.
Still, some days, it is a lot to take in. Some days, the details of it all just dawn on me. And in those times, I just have to do a lot of thinking. Because (although I can always talk to others at my workplace) keeping quiet is just a part of the package deal I signed up for when I decided to take this path.
I'm a 27 year old lady working on my PhD. I am a self-proclaimed geek. I love neologisms (bonus points if you can find the one on this blog! In fact, bonus points if you know what a neologism is!), find vitamin deficiencies and dogs with cones on their heads exceedingly comical, lack nearly all physical coordination, rely on self-deprecating humour to defuse tense situation, and have a tendency towards overanalyzing everyday situations to a ridiculous extent. I'm a tremendous stress case. I love making up stories about the people I see on the street and look inside people's windows when walking by (but just for the purposes of making my stories more informed, I swear!).