(As seen on Huff Post)
If you’re considering a career as a psychologist AND you plan to practice in New York City, you’re in luck.
Serving the mental health needs of New Yorkers as a psychologist in private practice is more than just great…it’s the most rewarding career path available. Of course, I’m just a tiny bit biased, but I stand by my assertion and you’ll learn why I feel so strongly about it.
Keep in mind that I’m generally referring to what it’s like to be a New York City psychologist in private practice as opposed to working in a hospital, school or clinic setting. You can also have a rewarding career as a psychologist outside of the private practice setting, but running your own show takes the experience a hundred levels higher. And even if you want to be in private practice, you almost always have to train and work in other settings before you can practice independently
All I will say to qualify my bold statement is that a career as a psychologist can only be so profoundly amazing if the following are true:
- You can handle the uncertainty of lacking a regular, predictable paycheck.
- You don’t worship money.
- You have exceptional listening skills, you tend to root for the underdog, you have the humility to take responsibility for your actions in interpersonal conflict and you don’t unravel when you hear about extreme mental suffering.
Yes, this is a gross oversimplification of what makes a solid psychologist, but it will have to do for now.
The Life of the NYC Psychologist
- First and foremost, you get to meet the most intelligent, dynamic and talented group of people in the world. Can you imagine how enjoyable it would be to spend your day enhancing the lives of the movers and shakers of the world? It’s wildly exciting to help younger generations who have the drive, talent, creativity and mental ability to change the world. A typical day may involve working with an ambitious student, then a programmer, then a talented finance or professional, then an entertainer, then a C-suite executive. It’s amazing! I learn as much from my patients as they do from me.
- You learn how to mix art with science to enhance the lives of people who are the world’s best artists and scientists. The best therapy is one that mixes objectively proven techniques with artful, interpersonal maneuvers. Psychologists, especially skilled ones, take mental health care to the next level by offering much than what a book or manual can teach. They mix art into their approach, which adds an intangible element that promotes personal transformation.
- You feel like you’re making a difference in the world on a daily basis. Since New York attracts such a unique type of individual, it can feel like you’re having a profound effect on society by improving the lives of people who make things happen for the world. As your skillset grows, so will your ability to create significant changes for your patients, which in turn, will make them more effective in their influence on the world.
- You become an expert in New York City culture without trying. Imagine being constantly taught about the subtleties of city life, the latest trends, memes, metaphors, fashion, art and everything that makes NYC so unique. It gives you the sense that you have your finger on the pulse of the Center of the Universe, the world’s largest think tank. Clients will incorporate their vast array of cultural opportunities into their therapy. For example, you will get to talk with clients about Hamilton after they see the show, or an art installation, gala or tech convention.
- Investing in self-improvement becomes a thunderclap of wellness that spreads across the city. If you read about an interesting concept, you’re suddenly equipped with a powerful metaphor to use with certain clients. Take on the task of reading a self-help book or attending a seminar and your clients will indirectly benefit from what you personally reap.
- You make your own hours which gives you a invigorating sense of freedom.While everyone else is counting vacation days, imprisoned within a cube city and reporting to a boss, you get to do whatever you feel like. Even with a full roster of patients, there’s still tons of time to play in the city. This can be problematic if you’re undisciplined or you crave the structure offered by a regular paycheck. To be honest, I would give up the predictability of a regular paycheck in a heartbeat for the freedom to walk outside on a two-hour break between sessions to sit in a wonderful coffee shop and write a blog post, take an hour-long stroll and soak in the city’s spirit and beauty, schmooze with New Yorkers or casually browse through a magic shop or a used book store.
- You’re exposed to the most diverse group of people and ideas on the planet. In a single day, you might work with people from six different countries, or help someone manage the stress of the inner city right after assisting someone with managing the stress of running a large company. You get to talk with people with high aspirations, people from backgrounds unlike your own who care about the world and want to make it a better place.
Something is very wrong. You’re suddenly flushed with intense anxiety and you didn’t see it coming. The anxiety is so strong that it feels like you’re going crazy.
You could just be momentarily freaking out or it could be a panic attack.
Telling the Difference Between a Panic Attack and a Freak Out
If it’s panic, you’re likely to feel a strong need to escape, but not always, as some wake up in the night with a panic attack.
Common symptoms of a panic attack are trembling, rapid heart rate, a sense of impending doom, chest pain, a sense of choking or suffocating, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, hyperventilating and tunnel vision.
Panic attacks are commonly associated with tight spaces, crowded places or gatherings where you perceive judgment or failure can take place.
The fear is often irrational, such as the idea that you’ll run out of air on the subway or crash on a plane.
Unfortunately panic attacks tend to repeat and they can come out of nowhere, but the sensations are often familiar (“Huh, I’ve had that feeling before last time I was this anxious.”)
The irrational element present when panicking allows many people to also say to themselves, “I totally know that there’s nothing to fear but I can’t help it.”
Panic attacks are often followed by a depressive experience, even a day later. There’s a strong correlation between panic disorder and depression, especially panic that is accompanied by agoraphobia, which is an anxiety disorder involving the fear of situations in which you might panic, such as a theater or on a bridge. Agoraphobia leads people to avoid these contexts to avoid potential panic attacks. A severe manifestation of agoraphobia is when you avoid leaving home in fear of having panic attacks.
Amanda Chatel, a wonderful writer for Bustle, interviewed me about the distinction between panic disorder and freaking out.