Hi, my name is […] and I’m a psychologist.

That’s what I get to say at least once a week, during the first round in the group therapy. We have a red ball that is tossed around – everyone says who they are, what a hobby of theirs is and what was nice during the week-end. I always felt like I was lying the first several times I introduced myself as such. Like: wait – those people on TV, who get interviewed when something went wrong and have “diplomed psychologists” written under their names, I’m like them? I’m supposed to know stuff? Where did that come from?! Needless to say, it took some getting used to. As if I had to practice it at all times: Hi, I’m a psychologist, and I’d like a side of fries with that. Here’s a copy of my diploma.

My second week at the clinic wasn’t much about doing psych-stuff anyway, since I had to take three days off. Exactly the three days I would usually work on. See, next to the work at the clinic and the theory hours on evenings and week-ends, my class also has what is called “self-experience” courses. It’s much less esoteric than it sounds: on those three days we drove out to some hick town in the middle of nowhere (literally, it had about 700 residents) to stay at a lodge (we had to pay ourselves) to get to know each other, form some group cohesion and practice different therapeutic techniques on each other. Until next gathering we also have to think about and send in what our “topic” could be: a personal problem or reoccurring theme that could hinder us in our role as therapists. It gets pretty personal and I felt completely empty at the end of those three days. We did get to bond real well, though. I have a great group: everybody is empathetic and non-judgemental, we all get along, but everyone still has a distinct and different personality.

Back at the psychiatry, I was having a much harder time integrating. It’s not like we had rounds where we would gather and talk about ourselves. Slowly, one after the other, I tried to remember all the names of the shift-changing nurses, the ward doctors, the assistants, etc. Luckily, there’s another psychologist on ward who’s in the same situation as I am, only much further in his formation. So I stuck by him in the first time and tried to learn the ropes. In my head I was just counting the days till the week after, when we were finally supposed to get some time in an office. We’d have to share it with a third person, but at least it’s a place to put our stuff down and have some computer access. I didn’t have many therapy sessions yet, but I did take over the relaxation group. First I have to round up the patients, then I explain what the progressive muscle relaxation technique is about and how it works, then the relaxing begins. At least for them. I have to keep a steady voice and weed out the disruptive ones – quietly. At the end of the group I always do a feedback round, where everyone gets to say how they experienced it and what bothered them. I got so much positive response that I was totally pumped up when I left. The BF later asked me, while we were at the gym, what happened, because I seemed so aggressive. I wasn’t angry – my job is just so exciting!

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