Photo credit: http://acsweb.ucsd.edu/~ireyes/
Like all Psych majors in Malaysia, I was always amused with the number of seemingly intrigued individuals who begged the question – “Can you read my mind?”. To most of their dismay, I would respond with a friendly shrug and proceed to explaining just a little on what Psychology really encompasses.
So, what is Psychology?
Simply put, Psychology is, within itself, a school of collective thoughts and theories that focuses on human behaviour.
It is a multifaceted discipline that aims to understand how humans interact, develop, behave, think and feel, be it in a controlled or natural environment.
As Psychology students, we are presented with numerous theories and how they can serve as hindsight in explaining human behaviour.
Psychology is also seen as Behavioural Science; a science that delves deep into the human mind, exploring subjects such as consciousness and memory, and how it affects our functioning and adaptability.
Uncovering Common Stereotypes
# 1 – Psychologists can read minds
This seems to be the most popular of them all! I suppose it is easy to conclude so. Media depictions of what therapists do (or say) really exalt these psycho-abilities, ultimately leaving people with a false sense of belief.
TV series like Lie to Me and Criminal Minds often portray psychologists as being able to solve enigmatic cases using little to no cues. Psychologists are trained professionals who use different approaches to address your problems and sadly, mind reading isn’t one of them.
# 2- Psychology and Psychiatry are interchangeable terms
Psychology is often misconstrued with Psychiatry, probably because both professions are seen as doctors of the mind. While psychologists work with clients, psychiatrists work with patients.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. Psychologists on the other hand, are individuals that have completed their postgraduate studies in Clinical Psychology.
While psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication, psychologists can only refer their clients to the former, if the need arises.
# 3 – A degree is enough in order to be a practitioner
After the completion of my degree, I was immediately thought to be a legit, full-pledged, therapist and practitioner by some relatives and friends. Remarks such as “Wow, you’re a psychologist now, I can come to you if I have troubles – free of charge!” loomed ever so often.
A degree in psychology offers a wide spectrum of subjects for students to dabble in for the purpose of exposure. However, to be a practitioner in psychology, one would have to complete a Master’s Degree, or specialisation.
Approximately 2 to 3 years in duration, students can choose to specialise in Forensic, Education, Counselling, Clinical or Child Psychology, to name a few.
# 4 – There are no job opportunities in psychology
If playing professional-client in a controlled setting doesn’t interest you, there are many other fields to venture into after your degree. For starters, many psychology undergrads join large organizations as consultants, human resource managers and public relation executives.
Other occupations can include journalists, customer service officers, education and life coaches, motivational speakers and just about any role that can benefit from your knowledge in behaviour.
# 5 – Psychology is not a real degree
Psychology is sometimes viewed as too easy or not worth studying. I once came across a lawyer who halted me mid-way (while sharing what I majored in back in college), and asserted that I could have just purchased a self-help book rather than pay my way through a degree such as psychology.
To many, psychology is not a high-paying profession and its concepts are not exactly rocket science. So why waste 3 years in college?
I suppose it takes a certain category of individuals to follow through with such a choice. Often times, these people are passionate not only about uncovering the complexities of human nature to further aid them in their plight toward helping others, but also seek to better understand themselves.
Besides providing them with all the necessary tools and knowledge to pursue their dreams, psychology serves as a platform toward self-discovery, and that, is the best take-away of all.