Psychology is a complex profession, demanding personal strength to respond to the patient’s needs. If psychology demands less academic studies than regular medical studies, it required more to be confronted with the psychological diseases. I have asked a psychological student L. Valls to respond so important questions about her daily professional life. She is an intern at the Saint-Anne medical center (CHSA – Paris, France), and student in clinical psychology, psychopathology, and psychoanalysis Master 1 degree in Paris V Descartes university.
How did you get interested in the psychological field of studies?
“It’s all an interest for health issues. The world would be a better place if everyone cared about physical and mental health, hence other health. I choose the studying area of psychological health, although it remains complex. This area is often left behind. To my mind, we can’t dissociate the body and the spirit, and society tends to abandon the psyche. It’s a pity! We see more and more people suffering psychologically (depression, breakdown, with an associated psychosomatic illness like ulcer for example) while I think we should emphasise more on this type of issues.
Moreover, psychology is very wide. As we can work with children, we can also help teenagers, adults, or the elderly. As students, we can specialise in a particular pathology or work with several problematics. There are a thousand places to practice psychology: nursery, maternity, psychiatric hospital, various segments inside the hospital, associations, schools, prisons, business management and so on … We never stop from learning from human beings. It’s a complicated profession because, at the end, a human being conscience is a deep complex subject.
The richness of my psychoanalytic approach is to consider each person on all his subjectivity and complexity! Psychology misuse would be to go to the opposite of our own principles, that is to say, to lock our patients according to particular issues and not think about a broader analysis. It’s easier for us to fill a form and prescribe some medication than to think in a dynamic way at the patient resources and his flaws. We have to analyse an individual in his entire complexity. It’s not “black or white”, it’s a dynamic analysis.
I truly care that mental health should be seen as a matter of public safety, and should be better considered equally compared to other diseases.
That’s all about ethical issues, and I also would say existential issues that led me to choose this profession field. I always felt personally psychological issues coming from the evolution of social norms, the insane swirl of “hyper-productivity”, mass consumption culture, the perpetual search for power, a wealth that we are both victims and responsible.
I then decided to work on me, to analyse my resources and flaws in order to be confident in my abilities, deal with the issues of our societies to help the ones who have not enough resources to deal with their own psyche.”
How does the medical system work in order to respond to the patients need?
“The medical system is very complex. There is a multitude of various medical facilities offering key treatments. In France, we have the privilege of receiving free psychological treatments, although the hospital is often overcrowded.
Patients can meet with different specialists like psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists, psychometrists, social workers …
The tasks in the field of psychic health rely on teamwork. The team aims to offer a great variety of approaches in order to adapt to every patient and their singular needs.
My job is to help patients to think, to reconsider, usually to contain them, in order to support their rhetoric. We need to understand how they think.This profession doesn’t require us to judge patients: that would be put a stop to the discussion and prevent us from formulating a proper analysis.”
What issues do you face?
“The main difficulty we face is the lack of resources. Patients would need that we could take care of them in emergency situations, are put on waiting lists resulting from the lack of hospital rooms availability.
The other main issue is more concerning ethics: “thought abolition” in a lot of psychic care facilities. A paradox don’t you think? Labelling patients according to the psychic disease is not only the easy way out for some professionals, it’s also dangerous. Psychic diseases are infinitely complex and require more to determine what the patient is really harmed by. Some general practitioners have taken the right to prescribe painkillers way to easily. A lot of people use anxiolytics and painkillers without undergoing counselling specialists. This represents an important obstacle for us.
Also, this point of view leads to spread misconceptions among the public sphere concerning these awful diseases (and their effects). You could often hear some people say “I’m bipolar “, “I’m depressed”, “I have a mental break-down”, which implies that this condition, this pathology would be a way to define their identity.”
What is the best reward for you as a psychologist?
“It’s above all about meeting new people in all their complexity. I’m carrying out an internship in a psychiatric hospital, in the adult division. I am led to meet a lot of patients and I start to realise how complex each problematic is. I can also soak up the institutional functioning with a fresh eye and start to train me to the psychologist profession within a team. To be in internship twice a week, with readings and the academic studies is really challenging, or stimulating. It’s a real luck!”
How do you cope with your profession regarding your daily personal life?
“Personally speaking, I’m really cheerful to have chosen this profession. These studies are psychically costly though. The psyche is the only weapon psychologists possess. The early days are really overwhelming because I wasn’t ready to embrace so much pain and suffering. At the beginning I had trouble coming back home light hearted, I often thought about these patients due to the fact that I’ve absorbed so much of their emotions.
Besides, I wasn’t ready to be confronted with the psychological crisis wandering among society nowadays: labour workers crisis, hospitable workers and sometimes rejection of the psychologist profession. This profession is the victim of quite demeaning prejudice, even within medical facilities. Like many medical workers, psychologists have low wages despite years of studies and work.
With our personal daily life, we must be able to distinguish clearly our work and our private personal life, without splitting it too rigidly. In this profession, as in life, everything is a matter of balance.”