"My feelings at the end of the day will be almost entirely dependent on how the sessions went. When I feel I could have done more for someone it is amazing how strongly my own sense of self-worth can become momentarily entangled in the day’s therapy"
On paper, the structure of my day as a clinical psychologist is reliable enough that I rarely write it down. In reality, though, it’s highly unpredictable; its true nature dependent on the lives, experiences, ambitions-realised and challenges faced by my clients since I last saw them. I travel to work hoping that the people I am due to see have had positive weeks.
Appointments are weekly, for six to nine months and I generally see four clients per day. Afternoon slots are popular so I might spend part of the morning catching up on notes and correspondence, planning sessions, or in discussion with other team members: psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and vocational workers.
The unpredictability of a psychologist’s day is bound up in the challenge of being with the person as they are in that hour, on that day, in that week, but in tying this to a principle that the person can take with them into their week ahead, and ultimately beyond a time-limited course of therapy.
During gaps in the afternoon I will complete my therapy notes. I prefer not to write much during sessions – unless the person and I are mapping something together – so it is important to write up a summary while things are still fresh in my mind.
My feelings at the end of the day will be almost entirely dependent on how the sessions went. When I feel I could have done more for someone it is amazing how strongly my own sense of self-worth can become momentarily entangled in the day’s therapy. When I feel that I have played a part in helping someone move closer to the life they value and deserve, it is the most rewarding work I can imagine.
Before leaving I will text or call the people I am due to see the next day, to catch up briefly or just to give a reminder. I quite enjoy these more informal contacts. It is lovely to hear if a person is out with friends, has had a good day at college, or has put a piece of our work into practice, and I am immediately struck by the efforts and energies that must have gone into facing such challenges.
I work with people able to draw from a seemingly unending well of courage and resilience. I genuinely have no idea what makes such strength possible, but I learn an enormous amount from my clients about what it is to be human.
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