Becoming a counselling psychologist was never my dream. I had always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my father and become a doctor. Maybe not a cardiologist like him but, I had thought about cardio-thoracic surgery or paediatric oncology. But it was always about medical school.

That was before I realised that: A) I suck at all things science related and B) there are other jobs in the world than fixing people with a scalpel. Those realisations came in my first year at university. I was all set to fly out to Alberta and do a degree in hard sciences. But then my acceptance came from the University of Toronto for psychology and I stopped to think.

It's not like I was never interested in psychology. I always was. Having been a constant user of tumblr and other blogging sites and all other social media through secondary school, I saw it all. The people with eating disorders, the ones with borderline personality disorder, the stigma around mental health. I saw the posts about bullying and about not fitting in and about wanting to hurt themselves. I was one of those people. So it turned out to be more of a hidden dream.

I ended up choosing psychology. But, there were more reasons than just the realisation that through secondary I struggled so hard to even pass my science classes. My psychology 100 class was incredible. I immediately fell in love. My professor was all kinds of smart, my soon-to-be-best-friend was in my module and I was actually interested in learning.

I looked forward to my next class. I looked forward to getting a copy of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders one day. I looked forward to learning the theories. I looked forward to everything about it.

I also realised that people didn't just need help physically. There was something so much more interesting about understanding a person's mind. The parts of the body are pretty similar across the board. Your heart does the same thing as mine, as do your legs and muscles and nerves. The same chemicals run through our brains and the same electrons fire.

And yet, the mind is full of creativity. People think differently and react differently. We're capable of innovation, new thoughts, fantastic ideas. The mind became more fascinating to me than the mechanics of the body. And so, it turns out, psychology was my dream. I just didn't know it until I began to learn about it.

Now, here I am. I'm one year in to a three year Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology and it feels right. I got nervous around the time of my acceptance that I'd chosen wrong. That I should have pushed myself to study more and to not have given up those hard science classes the minute I faltered. But then I rallied. Because I knew that psychology meant more to me.

Learning to be a counselling psychologist is tough and scary. I won't lie about that. I'm still trying to figure out my theoretical orientation. I'm still trying different techniques to see what fits for me. I still don't always know the right thing to say to my clients. I still get overwhelmed on a weekly basis.

But, when I see progress, that's when I know I'm in the right place. And when I get a client to open up about something they were scared to tell me ten weeks ago, I know I'm in the right place. In two years, I'll be a counselling psychologist and hopefully, I'll be good at my job. And hopefully, I'll be helping people better themselves without ever having to tell them not to eat McDonald's.

Dreams evolve and spring up out of nowhere at just the right time. And I think that's kind of cool.

 

Published by Michelle Teo