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A Mentally Ill Psychologist? Nursing? HEELLP!!

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by brightness, Feb 22, 2007.

  1. brightness

    7+ Year Member

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    Hi all,
    I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder recently. Previously I was diagnosed with anxiety, OCD, and depression, and I continue to struggle with binge eating. However, in some ways, I do want to be a psychologist, specifically, a clinical psychologist. I thought that instead of doing this I would be a nurse, because then I wouldn't be a mentally ill person working with the mentally ill or those with developmental difficulties, ect. My boyfriend tells me very often that he doesn't see how someone with a mental illness, or mental difficulties,could be a therapist trying to counsel people. He contends that I would be a better nurse. Still, I've wanted to do this for a long time, though, and I'm already in my junior year of my psychology major. I could switch over to nursing if I wanted to, though.
    However, nursing is attractive to me, too. I feel like maybe NOT working the mentally ill would be easier for me, or more straightforward. And maybe that job would be better for my disposition, as I am very prone to stress. I'm also worried about the stress level of dealing with people's problems on a daily basis, which I wouldn't do as a nurse. Plus, nursing is a quicker path, and I do have an interest in medicine.
    I just don't know what decision I want to make...and I need to make this decision soon. I really want to do both, I guess, but I DON'T feel that psychiatric NPs have the depth of knowledge I am looking for.
    Does anyone have any ideas?
     
  2. irish80122

    irish80122 DCT at Miss State U.
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    I unfortunately don't have all that much insight, but maybe this will help you some. I strongly encourage you to follow your greatest passion, which it sounds like it may be Psychology but it is hard to tell. It is going to be hard either way, and both jobs will carry plenty of stress. You will have to fight some stigmas with going into psychology, there is no doubt about it, but I think you would also bring with you valuable experience and insight, you know?

    One thing you may want to think about is what about other types of psychology specialties, especially social? It sounds like one of your big worries is the counseling aspect, but not all psychologists are therapists. If you went into social psychology you could research these or other illnesses if that is interesting to you at all. I also think you would face fewer questions when applying just because you wouldn't be doing therapy.

    Again, I don't have much experience with this and I don't know what challenges you will face with wanting to be a psychologist. However, I do know there are psychologists who struggle with mental illness, so it is possible and again you may have greater insight into a lot of these illnesses due to your experience.

    I hope that helps some and I hope that this post wasn't offensive in any way. I apologize in advance if it was. I wish you the best of luck with your decision.
     
  3. Sorg1123

    Sorg1123 Member
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    In case you haven't read it yet, this book might provide some inspiration:


    An Unquiet Mind (Paperback)
    by Kay Redfield Jamison
     
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  4. psychanon

    7+ Year Member

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    You should not think that having a mental illness precludes from treating mental difficulties. Mental disorders have all sorts of connotations and stigma attached to them, leading many to honestly believe that they affect functioning in many ways that they do not. Also, bipolar disorder is something that, if medicated, can be managed. I think doing therapy is in many ways like any other job. It's not magic, it's a skill set. It's stressful, so if you have difficulties managing stress it's probably not for you. If dealing with the issues that you have coped with yourself would hit too close to home, then you should probably avoid having those types of clients. You may also think about things like counseling psychology, where you deal more with life stress issues rather than psychopathology.

    The bottom line that I'm trying to express is that there certainly isn't anything magic about the bipolar diagnosis that make you unable to be a therapist, but if you feel like your symptoms will get in the way of your ability to do therapy, then maybe it's not the best route for you. Best of luck.
     
  5. hrd123

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    I agree, however I would argue that Redfield is quite possibly above the norm, so to speak. As Irish pointed out, if you are passionate about something then go for it. This is a very optimistic view and of course I would agree, however you need to know your specific limitations (e.g. you mentioned you are prone to stress). Whether you suffer from bipolar disorder and wonder if you should enter in the psychology profession I feel is not really the issue. The issue is will you be able to perform all of your job responsibilities (as a psychologist) to the highest and most effective degree possible? Anyone who answers "no" to this question, bipolar or not, should NOT become a psychologist.

    Good luck.
     
  6. OP
    OP
    brightness

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    I would say that I am well equipped to be a psychologist and a nurse. Although I can break down under severe, quick moving stress, I can also thrive under stressful conditions as long as the situation isn't totally out of my control. I know that I can handle the many situations people will bring to me in therapy because I have faith in my ability to understand and be non judgemental about people's problems.
    I see both of these skills being useful in psychology AND nursing. Its difficult for me to decide; certainly stress is high in both jobs. I have done a lot of research and ultimatley, I feel that I would be a better therapist than nurse, but I think doing therapy might be sort of hard on me, in terms of stress.
    Still going back and forth- I'm afraid its not ever going to be clear to me.
     
  7. WaitingKills

    WaitingKills Rockstar
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    I would say to follow your heart.

    If you want to be a psychologist, then I would say do your best to become one. I would also say to be kind to yourself in the process (ie. try to take it at a pace that you feel comfortable with, within the limitations of your programs as they are highly demanding and stressful).

    I would also like to remind you that there are many job opportunities within the clinical psych field. You may find that certain settings work better for you, go with them. As well, there is no law that you have to work full time once you get your qualifications. If having a part time load allows you to have a lower stress level, working 3-4 days a week in a job that you love will be by far more beneficial than a full or part time job that you hate.

    There are many many many psychologists out there who suffer from various mental illnesses. The stats are in the favor for any one of us to have a fairly severe mental illness at some point in our lives (ie. anxiety, depression, alcohol/drug addiction, bipolar etc.). As long as you take care of yourself (ie. take breaks, take your medication, seek therapy), there is no reason why you wouldn't be able to be an effective psychologist. And hey, you can also look at it as you have a unique insight that many other psychologists do not/will not ever have.

    Just to keep in mind as well... If you are worried about stress, nursing may not be a great profession. I have had a couple roommates who were nurses and they were constantly on the go at work and responsible for some very sick people. With the nursing shortages and state of health care at the moment, it may not be a good alternative. Not that there is anything wrong with nursing, it's just a very high stress occupation...
     
  8. sunlioness

    sunlioness Fierce. Proud. Strong
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    There are SO MANY people in mental health who have mental health issues themselves. Sometimes I think not having them is the exception and not the rule. Now while I think that undiagnosed mental health issues could make you not very effective in treating others, I actually see having worked through and continuing to work through one's own issues is an ASSET. It gives you a greater insight into what your patients are dealing with. The one thing to really be careful of is to make sure that you are treating your clients and not unconsciously wanting your clients to treat you. That happens sometimes, but not if you are consciously aware of it and guard against it. In the end, follow your heart.

    Good luck!
     
  9. shock-me-sane

    shock-me-sane RN, PhD to come
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    This is actually rather interesting to see this post. I am currently a double major in nursing and psychology due to graduate next spring. My passion has always been psychology with a high interest in medicine. I decided on doing nursing because, with the difficult and uncertainty of graduate school acceptance/funding, I knew I could have a job that would keep me financially stable. But I do plan on applying for PhD programs in clinical psych for Fall 08. I want to teach and have a private practice.

    Anyway, the nursing degree has added 2 years onto my graduation date because of the pre-reqs. Another thing to consider is that in many states you will have to disclose bipolar disorder and show proof of treatment/maintence to be eligible to sit for the boards. You may want to check into that in your state.

    Best of luck in your decisions.
     
  10. Rapunzel

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    I also was afraid to pursue the career that I wanted because I was afraid of the stigma. In the late 80's I was in an intro psych class and the professor said to the class that they didn't want people who had their own issues in this field. I changed my major to communicative disorders, didn't get into the master's program in Speech Pathology because they said I had inadequate social skills (although I was an honors student - one of three honors students in my class), gave up on the whole thing and was a depressed SAHM for 13 years. When the depression got to the point I couldn't take any more, and I had gone over the edge, and was starting to recover, I found a book about a psychologist with treatment resistant depression. "Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface" by Martha Manning. She seemed to be as bad or worse in the depression department as I was, and was still managing to help patients, so I figured maybe I could try afterall. I finished my bachelor's degree in Psychology, and I'm on my second year of a master's in Mental Health Counseling. I'd like to apply to Clinical Psych programs in the Fall. I have had advice on making sure that I am centered before working with clients, and addressing my own problems first, and maintaining good supervision, but nobody is saying that I can't do this. I did have an interviewer for a doctoral program tell me that he wasn't sure I could handle full-time studies because I was a workaholic.

    There are studies that show that mental health professionals are more likely to have depression than the general population, and I have also become aquainted with several psychologists and therapists who have mental health problems, trauma histories, etc., and my honest opinion is that they are often the best helpers. The key is the ability to set your problems aside and focus on the client when you are working with a client. It has to be about them, not about you.
     
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  11. positivepsych

    positivepsych Member
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    While I don't think that a past history should preclude someone from entering the mental health field, I do think that the issues should be stable when you are actively doing clinical work. Therapy is emotionally evocative and you don't need to be complicating it with your countertransference or making it emotionally draining because of unresolved issues.

    I agree that people should not enter the field to 'resolve their own issues.' It does give the field a bad name. Seeing a psychologist would be a lot more effective than becoming one.

    While a psychologist who has been through what the client has been through might be more empathetic or be able to problem-solve better, I only think this is true if the psychologist's issue has been resolved or is stable. There's no point of "understanding what it's like" if you can't solve your own issues. Heal thyself before you strive to heal others. That's my take on it.
     
  12. Ollie123

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    Make sure you are mentally healthy first. Once you are stable, then go after what you love.

    I've suffered from depression in the past. Nothing to say I won't again in the future. It never once occurred to me to let that stop me from going into clinical psych. I WILL not let it affect my clients, and if it ever reaches a point where I am not emotionally stable I will stop seeing them until I reach a point where I am confident I can handle the stress of being a therapist without it having a negative effect on the client.

    I do think the fact that I have been depressed will make me both a better therapist and researcher. Its provided me with an insight to how the mind can work in that situation, I just have to be careful not to assume others are feeling the same thing I was at that time, something I am confident I can do. If you feel the same way, I say go for it.

    That being said, if we got rid of all the therapists who had a history of mental illness, or stopped these people from becoming therapists, I imagine there would soon be a MASSIVE shortage. Prevalence of psyhiatric illness is simply too high these days to set such limits.
     
  13. toby jones

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    It can be hard to find the balance between overestimating and underestimating your own abilities. It might be the case that either of those jobs could be too much stress for you to handle. It might be the case that either of those jobs would give you a sense of competence that would result in your being more able to handle stress. I agree with those who have said you should do what it is that you feel most passionate about.

    Are you in therapy at all? There are lots of techniques that can help people become more resistent to stressors (mindfulness meditation, PMR, visualisation, etc). You might find some benefit to that?

    I think it is impossible to say whether having had experience makes you a better or worse therapist similarly to how it is impossible to say whether having had experience with addiction makes you a better or worse addiction therapist. There can be stigma such that some people think that you shouldn't practice if you have a history. But there can be a stigma the other way too (such as in the addiction field) where some people think that you have some magical ability that is conferred on you by virtue of having been in a similar place yourself.

    I think it is up to the individual how they use their experiences to influence their treatment. Whether they will be limited by it or whether they can use it to their advantage.

    Good luck.
     

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