Human behavior is a fascinating thing and many people enjoy studying it. Whether it’s how to turn negative customer interactions around or the latest findings of neuroscience, multitudes read up on it and seek to apply their knowledge.
It’s also common for people to pursue a job that helps people with their mental health. Perhaps you are considering becoming a psychologist, but are wondering what it would require of you. If that’s the case read on, because this article discusses 6 key qualities you would need in order to succeed.
What Is A Psychologist?
Clinical psychologists are interested in the psychological factors that influence human behavior, experience, and thought. They work with individuals to help them deal with stress, live healthier lives and cope better with difficulties.
Psychologists use a variety of methods during the process of therapy such as counseling sessions and conducting neuropsychological assessments. They investigate brain activity using techniques like fMRI scans and take medical histories from patients. They also prescribe medication if necessary, and conduct behavior therapy to help clients overcome their fears or anxieties.
1. Learning Skills
Psychologists study everything from memory loss, depression, bereavement, abuse, bullying, addiction, eating disorders, OCD, psychosis/schizophrenia, and phobias in order to find out why we behave the way we do. Some psychologists also carry out research into basic cognitive processes such as attention spans to help scientists develop new technologies. As a result, there is a significant amount of study required in order to qualify as a psychologist.
A person would need to consider taking a psychology degree course, completing a bachelor’s and masters in clinical and counseling psychology (or related areas of study). There may be an internship or further research opportunities as well as the need to sit professional exams in order to qualify. Some people are interested in taking mental health courses online, and it’s possible to download course guides, view the fees, and see the entry requirements. They can also read student reviews and related articles, or speak to an enrollment officer.
2. Listening Skills
One of the most important qualities you must have as a psychologist is good listening skills. If your patient feels like they aren’t being heard or that you’re not understanding their needs, they won’t feel comfortable opening up to you and sharing their thoughts. In turn, this will prevent them from getting any help.
Some key listening skills involve summarizing (repeating what they have just told you to ensure you have understood them correctly), listening without judgment, and hearing with your full attention (e.g. eye contact, no distractions). There’s also reflecting, clarifying, and sharing.
Some specialists work in schools with children who have learning disabilities while others focus on helping patients deal with life-changing illnesses like cancer. Because of these scenarios and more, empathy is essential for any psychologist. It is the ability to understand and share another person’s experiences or feelings.
Although empathy can be learned, it may come naturally for some people. To improve your empathy skills, practice active listening (e.g. summarizing) and also try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. When possible ask open-ended questions about how a certain situation made them feel, without judging them based on their response. You must also be able to understand body language, facial expressions, and other non-verbal communication. Without these skills, you won’t know if someone is being honest or understanding what they are really trying to say.
4. The Ability To Work Alone And As Part Of A Team
At certain times psychologists have a high degree of autonomy. They need to be able to make choices (and often quickly) and take responsibility for those choices, without other people being around to tell them what they think should happen next. You may be working alone, or in the company of other people – it depends on what type of therapy you are practicing and where your office is located.
If you have other colleagues there will probably be times when they (and you) will expect assistance or require input into decisions. Some matters will involve individual patients whilst others will relate to the practice in general. It’s important for psychologists to know how to collaborate well within their profession. They will be dealing with patients and their families – and places like hospitals, clinics, and other organizations.
5. Problem-Solving And Decision-Making Skills
The skills you need to have include:
- the ability to think logically and creatively
- attention to detail
- critical thinking skills
- problem identification skills
- brainstorming abilities
Decision-making is very important in psychology, especially during the therapy process. The therapist helps their clients using tools such as cognitive behavioral therapy. This is where they help their clients make decisions about how they can change unhelpful thought patterns (which lead them down unhealthy behaviors or actions) and instead focus on healthy alternatives. Psychologists also need good judgment skills, which include being able to analyze information carefully and thoroughly before deciding on a course of action or response.
6. The Ability To Cope With Stress
Being a psychologist requires you to deal with people who are in stressful situations. You must be able to help them cope, which is why it’s important for psychologists to manage their own stress levels. You need the ability to empathize with people who suffer from suicidal thoughts because you may be working closely with them. You’d also need to be able to handle people who are mentally ill, distressed, or physically unwell.
There may also be things like tragedy, abuse and injustice to cope with on a daily basis. It takes an incredible amount of strength and emotional stability to listen and understand another person’s story without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated by what they have gone through or are still going through.
As you can see, being a psychologist will require much of you and there will be lots of work needed in order to qualify. Having said that, you’ll have the joy of entering people’s lives and making a positive difference. The impact you make will also benefit your client’s friends and family, and the wider world in general.