As a clinical psychologist, I get asked all the time by people, “are you analyzing me?” Whether it be with a new acquaintance at a dinner party or the stranger next to me on a plane, I can always count on being asked that question the instant I disclose my chosen profession. Once upon a time I used to have such a visceral reaction to being asked this that I would immediately default to my defensive mode. I felt compelled to passionately dispel this misconception and offer a lengthy summary of what us psychologists really do, ignorantly and rather arrogantly assuming they were genuinely uninformed about my profession. Not surprisingly, my words were often met with glazed over eyes and deaf ears.
Recently, however, I’ve reflected on why people ask this question in the first place? What are people really asking? It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure it out. People want to know, “are you a self-righteous jerk who is going to make judgments about my entire personhood based on this minuscule social interaction we are having right now?” Whether I want to admit it or not, there is a sense of uneasiness people have toward the field of psychology, and the “are you analyzing me?” question reflects it perfectly. What do we think of when we hear the word “psychology” or “psychologist”? If you’re like most people, you may imagine yourself walking into an office, frugally decorated with a couch, a chair, and maybe an awkwardly placed Zen garden. You lie down on the couch while an older person, most likely a white male with a beard wearing a Mr. Rogers-esque sweater, sits down, clipboard in hand, saying few words as he….analyzes you. Let me be clear, this is obviously hyperbole and the vast majority of folks who seek psychological services have a positive experience (although can we just agree that we all once wished Mr. Rogers was our psychologist?). Nonetheless, is it possible that psychologists and other mental health professionals have become too opaque over the years? While having professional boundaries is a crucial part of our ethos, maybe we’ve gone too far along spectrum with this. Maybe we, as mental health professionals, have made it really hard for people to see us as… well, human. And by doing so, maybe we’ve also made it hard for people to trust the power of evidence-based psychology to positively transform lives like few other disciplines can.
The Human Shrink is a blog to help make psychology and the people behind it more transparent, more practical, and more human. Mental health professionals have used evidence-based psychology to help countless others with their stories. This is a blog for mental health professionals to share their stories, and how they themselves have benefited from the awesomeness of evidence-based psychology. This is a blog featuring real shrinks, with real problems, using real psychology. This is The Human Shrink.