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Thread: On the fence

  1. #1
    i love skylights's Avatar
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    Default On the fence

    So I've had this ongoing career search struggle that most of you guys have probably been unfortunate enough to hear about. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately and I've really narrowed myself down to two paths that I could take, but I'm so very torn. There are pluses and minuses to both, I was hoping maybe others would be willing to voice any input on these thoughts. My family doesn't really talk about this kind of stuff.

    I. Counseling / psychotherapy

    Pros:
    - I really enjoy talking to people through their problems and helping them find motivation.
    - Helping inspire people is definitely a passion for me.
    - Whenever I have free time I'm on this psych website, so I think that's fairly telling.
    - I've already done my BA in Psychology, and enjoyed many of my classes, particularly the "softer" ones.
    - School is only 2-3 years and I already have the prerequisites. I can do a doctorate later or a PsyD if I want more depth.
    - I like to think that I have some degree of native talent in terms of relating to people, taking with them, motivating them, and helping them develop plans to improve their lives.
    Cons:
    - I wonder if I would always wish I had become a doctor.
    - Not particularly well-paid where I live.
    - Not much international transferability.
    - Sometimes I think I am too harsh to be a counselor!

    II. Dermatology / medicine

    Pros:
    - I have always been interested in medicine, and becoming a doctor would fulfill a lifelong aspiration.
    - I would be a real "healer", which is an archetype I have always aspired to.
    - I jump at the opportunity to help people I know with minor trauma - I love talking to them and cleaning up their wounds, bandaging them up and sending them along. I like the medical part and I like the personal part.
    - Well-respected and well paid.
    - I have always had a fascination with skin and skin wounds.
    - I would really enjoy helping adolescents and people with image issues.

    Cons:
    - Very long educational path, and very expensive (I would need to take a few premed classes, and then do med school). I'm not opposed to this in terms of workload, but I am opposed to doing it half-heartedly. I'm not one of those crazy type A kids anymore (used to be!).
    - The biggest problem with this is going to be maintaining interest and dedication through the parts of medical education I wouldn't be as interested in. I feel like inertia has already crept in for me, and I'm only a couple years out of college. I now understand why people say don't wait. It's because you've had a taste of "real life" and readjusting to the student life - in particular a very demanding one for many years - is daunting.
    - I wonder if I would spend my whole time daydreaming about being able to talk to patients about their personal issues in more depth.
    - I'm not sure how much native medical talent I actually possess.

    Thanks for any input

  2. #2
    Don't pet me. JAVO's Avatar
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    I considered similar career possibilities. I changed my majors a few times, and did a pre-med bio major for about a year. I then switched to psych and finished with that. I also did one distance ed graduate class in psych. I'm also not a type A person.

    I was considering an MD to work in psychiatry, neuropsychiatry, or neurology. In college, I worked briefly as a volunteer in the ER. Right before graduating with my BA, I was able to get an amazingly relevant paid job as an EEG tech, which involved working directly with neurology and neurosurgery patients who often had psychiatric conditions too. Often, it wasn't clear whether the condition was psychiatric or neurological, and I was dramatically instrumental in determining that in a few patients. I interacted directly with neurologists, some who were also psychiatrists. Epileptic seizures were a routine part of the job. I still remember the time that the patient with surgically-implanted subdural electrodes had a seizure and started pulling the wires out of his skull! I knew this job would convince me to either go into medicine or to avoid it. After about a year, I knew medicine probably wasn't the career I wanted.

    I already knew that I would enjoy a career in neuropsychology or social psychology, doing both research and teaching. But, I also knew that I would not enjoy graduate school very much. I would enjoy the courses and the research, but not the pedantics, politics, and egos. I decided to take a brief detour to find out if there was another possibility. There was, and I went with that--medical-related software development.

    My point is that the only way to know which one you'll like better is to do a little of each. Unpaid volunteer time is time well spent in this situation.

    Edit: Counseling/psychotherapy will be challenging to do volunteer work due to confidentiality and invading the therapist/client relationship. One possible solution is an internship in a group therapy setting, possibly in a hospital. You could also network and see if anyone doing group therapy will let you participate or be a student observer.

    Why aren't you considering psychiatry? Is it because you'd rather help people than write prescriptions?

    Of the two careers, my guess is that you'll be happier going the counseling/psychotherapy route. Your self-described harshness is really an asset. You can learn to tone it down if necessary, but often people seeing a counselor need to face reality more than they need a hug. Plus, a blunt approach is well suited for cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is effective for a wide variety of issues.

  3. #3
    i love skylights's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAVO View Post
    I considered similar career possibilities. I changed my majors a few times, and did a pre-med bio major for about a year. I then switched to psych and finished with that. I also did one distance ed graduate class in psych. I'm also not a type A person.

    I was considering an MD to work in psychiatry, neuropsychiatry, or neurology. In college, I worked briefly as a volunteer in the ER. Right before graduating with my BA, I was able to get an amazingly relevant paid job as an EEG tech, which involved working directly with neurology and neurosurgery patients who often had psychiatric conditions too. Often, it wasn't clear whether the condition was psychiatric or neurological, and I was dramatically instrumental in determining that in a few patients. I interacted directly with neurologists, some who were also psychiatrists. Epileptic seizures were a routine part of the job. I still remember the time that the patient with surgically-implanted subdural electrodes had a seizure and started pulling the wires out of his skull! I knew this job would convince me to either go into medicine or to avoid it. After about a year, I knew medicine probably wasn't the career I wanted.

    I already knew that I would enjoy a career in neuropsychology or social psychology, doing both research and teaching. But, I also knew that I would not enjoy graduate school very much. I would enjoy the courses and the research, but not the pedantics, politics, and egos. I decided to take a brief detour to find out if there was another possibility. There was, and I went with that--medical-related software development.

    My point is that the only way to know which one you'll like better is to do a little of each. Unpaid volunteer time is time well spent in this situation.

    Edit: Counseling/psychotherapy will be challenging to do volunteer work due to confidentiality and invading the therapist/client relationship. One possible solution is an internship in a group therapy setting, possibly in a hospital. You could also network and see if anyone doing group therapy will let you participate or be a student observer.

    Why aren't you considering psychiatry? Is it because you'd rather help people than write prescriptions?

    Of the two careers, my guess is that you'll be happier going the counseling/psychotherapy route. Your self-described harshness is really an asset. You can learn to tone it down if necessary, but often people seeing a counselor need to face reality more than they need a hug. Plus, a blunt approach is well suited for cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is effective for a wide variety of issues.
    Thanks, JAVO. This is a great answer.

    You're right, I do need to try them both out. To be honest, I think I would just go into the counseling if not for the siren call of medicine. Maybe I can just narrow it down to volunteering in medicine and seeing how it goes.

    Psychiatry I'm not really interested in because, oddly enough I suppose, I'm not really interested in abnormal psych and clinical-level mental health problems. My dad's a psychiatrist and while his work is interesting, I'm not really into the issues that he is - and yes, exactly, because I'd rather help people than write prescriptions. I prefer the everyday stuff. I wonder if I wouldn't enjoy school counseling, though I hear it's a tough job market.

    I'll look into volunteering. Thank you

    Maybe I could just be a counselor and volunteer in the NICU every once in a while.

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    Senior Member SubtleFighter's Avatar
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    I would recommend reading this book before you commit to a medical path:

    Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine by John Abramson.

    It was written by a family doctor who loved his job but decided to quit because of what he was seeing happening in the medical system.
    "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."--Ambrose Redmoon

    . . . metamorphosing . . .

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    royal member Rasofy's Avatar
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    Fwiw, I think you'd make a pretty good counselor/psychotherapist.

    You seem to have a great level of empathy, combined with desire to help, and these strengths wouldn't be nearly as useful for a dermatologist, as the job relies much more in technical knowledge than in interpersonal skills.
    -----------------

    A man builds. A parasite asks 'Where is my share?'
    A man creates. A parasite says, 'What will the neighbors think?'
    A man invents. A parasite says, 'Watch out, or you might tread on the toes of God... '


    -----------------

  6. #6
    i love skylights's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasofy View Post
    Fwiw, I think you'd make a pretty good counselor/psychotherapist.

    You seem to have a great level of empathy, combined with desire to help, and these strengths wouldn't be nearly as useful for a dermatologist, as the job relies much more in technical knowledge than in interpersonal skills.
    Thank you for the insight and the compliments.

    Quote Originally Posted by SubtleFighter View Post
    I would recommend reading this book before you commit to a medical path:

    Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine by John Abramson.

    It was written by a family doctor who loved his job but decided to quit because of what he was seeing happening in the medical system.
    Thanks! I'll definitely check it out. I'm sadly already in tune with how the American medical system has a lot of cracks - the subspecialty my dad practices is essentially collapsing in our state, and it's horrible to watch how doctors are so pressed for time and demands from their healthcare companies and insurance providers that it becomes very difficult for them to help people heal in the best way possible.

    I just don't know what to do about my drive for the hands-on healing. Part of me is very drawn to the physical, the chemical, the tangible alchemy of healing, as well as a latent draw to the the reassurance of such a huge knowledge base and skillset.

    I want to heal ALL THE THINGS.

  7. #7
    reborn PeaceBaby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skylights View Post
    I want to heal ALL THE THINGS.
    I know.

    I have a relevant question for you before I share my thoughts.

    Do you hope to have a family / children of your own some day?
    "Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one."
    Eleanor Roosevelt


    "When people see some things as beautiful,
    other things become ugly.
    When people see some things as good,
    other things become bad."
    Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

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    I think the answer is pretty clear

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    i love skylights's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceBaby View Post
    I know.

    I have a relevant question for you before I share my thoughts.

    Do you hope to have a family / children of your own some day?
    Yes, absolutely. I also tend to be a workaholic, but the one area I will drop everything for is my SO and family.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zarathustra View Post
    I think the answer is pretty clear

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    I actually want to clarify my thoughts a bit (something I hadn't originally expected to do): I think you would make a phenomenal dermatologist/doctor. In those areas, and especially in dermatology, as you pointed to, you'd be able to use your excellent empathic abilities to really help people out psychologically. So, in that sense, you'd get at least a decent dose of that particular satisfaction from it -- the psychological healing aspect that you seem naturally disposed to. But, when I read what you wrote for each option, it reads like you want to do the counselor/psychotherapist route more. It seems like the dermatologist route might be more a relic of the past, potentially even a route that was intended to impress/gain approval from/prove wrong a certain somebody. I surely don't want to push you in the wrong direction, which is why, in addition to my rep, I posted the above: you may not think you know which route to take, but, deep down, you do. Both seem like realistic, doable options. But one speaks to you more. The time may not yet have come where the answer definitively reveals itself, but it will. Keep searching. Keep grinding. Keep working out which way is right. And when the right moment comes, the right path will reveal itself. (just don't use that as an excuse to simply put off searching/grinding/making a decision.)

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