A day in the life of a psychologist
Many folks wonder—what does a psychologist do? So, I thought I would share a typical day with you, of course changing any identifying details of the many people I see. I consider myself fortunate. I have a great job! I get to come to work everyday and help both kids and adults become the individuals that they want to be. It’s very gratifying. I also have the opportunity to be the Director of the Behavioral Health Department at The Everett Clinic (TEC), which is also very meaningful. I enjoy mentoring many outstanding mental health clinicians and to participate, in some small way, in the growth of TEC.
So here we go!
4:45 a.m. Up, up and away we go. You must be thinking—“Is he kidding?” but I am an early bird and it’s just the way I’m wired. The birds and I have something in common.
4:45-5:45a.m. Meditation and breathing practice. I do an hour of meditation about 5-6 days a week. It helps keep me centered and calm. I didn’t start my practice this way—I started 25 years ago with 20 minutes a day and just kept adding time over the years.
5:45-6:30 a.m. Sit in front of my light box. During the fall and winter I have some symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder so while I’m eating breakfast and reading the New York Times I have my bright light on.
7-8:30 a.m. Gym. I either do an hour of weight lifting, exercise bike, yoga, or swimming at my neighborhood gym. It’s a habit (a good one) that I do 5 days a week. My reward—a 15-minute steam bath or hot tub at the end of the workout!
8:45 a.m.- 9:30 a.m. Drive to work. I splurged and got a subscription to Satellite Radio. I either listen to opera, the Grateful Dead, or Comedy Central. Sometimes, I am laughing so hard that tears are running down my eyes. What do the other commuters think!
10 a.m.- 1 p.m. Psychotherapy. I have seen Sarah, 25 years old, periodically since she was 8 years old. She struggles with poor social skills and loses her temper. When she was a little kid, she had challenges during recess. Since I have been a psychologist in Everett for 21 years, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of patients over the course of their lives. I see them intermittingly when they run into problems. They consider me their family psychologist. Sarah’s a mom now and she’s worried about her 4 year old daughter. She wants my input.
Joe, 34, is struggling with panic attacks. He has periods of intense anxiety where he is afraid that he’s having a heart attack or going crazy. I sent him to see one of our crackerjack nurse practitioners, Eliza, and she put on him an antidepressant, Zoloft, that works very well in reducing anxiety. (Many people don’t know that these medications are very effective for reducing anxiety!). I am helping him with cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is an evidence-based approach to help individuals with anxiety by teaching them how their thinking may trigger their sympathetic nervous system’s, fight or flight response.
Bill and Meg wants some advice on how to handle their 15-year-old son. He is a handful! He is smoking marijuana daily, doing poorly in school, and doesn’t want to listen to his parents. Sound familiar! I try to help them work together as a team, be consistent, and predictable—probably the three most important dimensions of effective parenting.
2 p.m.- 6 p.m. More patients, meet with staff, attend meetings, read and write emails. I meet with Nanette our department manager to review how our department is doing financially (we have to pay our bills too!), how our building project is going (we are adding space to our office at the Marina), and to talk about our new contract with Value Options to see Boeing employees and their dependents. Lots to talk about.
I meet with two of our clinicians for a weekly case conference where we discuss how we can do a better job with our patients. Today I am sharing a case where I feel stumped. I get some pretty great suggestions from Ben, Alicia, and Mary. All of our clinical staff receives regular clinical supervision from senior clinicians in our department. I think that it improves the quality of our care. I see a couple more patients in the late afternoon.
Evening. Drive home, eat dinner, help clean up, talk with Diane, read the newspaper, and chat with my youngest daughter. My youngest daughter shares with me the challenges of her busy day as a family nurse practitioner at a Community Health Center in New York. I enjoy listening to the trials and tribulations of her first job.
Phew! A long day! And off to bed..