Stage 12: Reflections of an experienced practicing psychologist

In the course of my work as a developmental psychologist and counsellor, I meet families who are finding it hard to cope in one way or another and have come to me for support.  Often they need advice on supporting the behavioural, educational or psycho-emotional needs of their children.  Sometimes parents suspect their child has a disability and they approach me for a diagnosis.  The difficulties my patients face range from extreme anxiety, anger management issues to learning disabilities.  In order to successfully work with a child, it is critical that as a psychologist I understand the family environment and dynamics that the child lives in.  Working closely with the children and their families inevitably leads to the development of a strong bond between me and the entire family.

However, as a psychologist I need to be professional and maintain a clear boundary between my own emotions and the emotions of the child and his/her family.  Being too emotionally attached to the child may cloud my professional perspective on things resulting in decisions made and the advice given not necessarily being in the best interest of the child and family.  In reality though, when working with families who are struggling, maintaining such a distance is not always easy.
A piece of advice a professor of mine shared with me years ago is that is important to draw an emotional boundary between work and personal life.  I make it a point to try to remember that valuable advice. In many of the cases I work with the family is experiencing very trying times.  An inability to emotionally detach from my patients after work is crucial in ensuring that my patient’s problems do not end up impacting my own mental health.  I am only effective when I can think with a clear head.

I have been in this field for over 15 years and not one day has passed that I have regretted entering this field.  Knowing that I have the potential to help a fellow human being makes the long hours at work feel very worthwhile.  I believe that a successful child psychologist requires a love for working with people and in particular with children.  It is definitely a rewarding job!  Throughout my years, I have learnt to let the experience of working with others enrich my own life and to help me become a better person. I am still growing and learning every single day.

Penny Tok, PhD
Chartered Psychologist (UK)
Dr Penny Tok Psychology Practice