I am new to the profession of clinical psychology. I love working with patients, but I don’t always love to be in contact with other clinical psychologists. Don’t get me wrong, most colleagues I met are kind and I got along well with them on a professional level.
Yet what I learned very quickly working in this profession is that vulnerability and ‘weakness’ are a no-go. There is this unspoken ‘law’ that mental health issues are for everyone – but never ‘us’. Never the psychologists. It used to make me angry, when I heard colleagues talk badly about their patients. I kinda got used to it now and just ignore it as I can’t always respond (and thereby threaten my reputation) with ‘I don’t do that and I think that’s horrible’.
I’ve worked in places where older colleagues behaved somehow “odd” and patients complained about them every few months – but no one dared to address it or has addressed it in the last 20 years. I paid for supervisions that I needed for work, where the supervising psychologist talked about herself 3 hours straight. I felt so exhausted after these 3 hours, I was knocked out the whole day. The last colleague I worked for used to tell me most private details about her own life, vented to me about patients and colleagues and refused to continue working with patients because other colleagues of hers had called her up and “warned” her how difficult these patients were. I wonder why her colleagues even knew that these patients had consulted her as this is confidential information. I wonder if she talks badly about me too behind my back.
When I told my boss about a project I was working on because I was hoping for some feedback, she started talking about her own projects and experiences and showed little interest in my work. A few weeks later, she started a similar project to mine. I feel like she doesn’t see her role as a mentor to young professionals but is quickly intimidated when they are ambitious and smart. I now stopped talking about my ideas and projects to colleagues, if I don’t know them really well.
I am not perfect myself, as no one is. This is why I consult a dear colleague of mine myself whenever I need to talk so that I don’t put it on people that are much younger than me or my patients. I am proud of taking care of myself. I am proud of not putting myself on a pedestal and I am proud to be vulnerable. I wish it was easier in psychology to see and treat each other as capable, yet vulnerable humans that are in no way more immune to mental health issued or issues of any other kind just as everyone else. I wish it was less competition, envy, playing small and suspicion and more of the beautiful qualities that my colleagues have – trust, kindness, support and the courage to talk about difficult things.