This year I switched to the combined PhD program- clinical masters and PhD. My first year in the clinical program was the most enlightening, testing, rewarding, challenging, busy, enjoyable, and awful year of my life. But, having lived through it, and now being able to take a breather from the fast pace of the clinical program and complete it at a slower pace whilst starting my research, I can look back and see how much I learned and how far I’ve come!
It is nerve-wracking starting the program, organizing registration, college membership, blue cards, text-books, etc. and over coming your anxiety about actually seeing your first REAL client- “what forms do they need to sign?” “Do I tell them about the limits of confidentiality first, or after I’ve made polite chit-chat?”, “what if they tell me they are suicidal?”, “what if my pen runs out?”, “where can I sit so I can see the clock?”, “How do I stop them talking off topic without seeming rude?”, “what if I haven’t ticked all the boxes on my intake form?”, “what if I forget how to speak?”, “Have I asked a double-barrelled question?”, “Is my posture making me look warm and engaged?” “what if they don’t like me?” etc. etc.
Then once that’s all sorted out, you find yourself juggling 5 classes, case presentations, 8 clients, research projects, supervision requirements, MSATs, exams, assignments, board paper-work requirements, client reports, progress notes, and discharge summaries, plus trying to have a life, and make a living somehow. Actually the last 2 tend to not happen very often- you find yourself having a chocolate bar and a diet coke for lunch, and then by the time you get home at 11pm, you’re too tired to make dinner, you have had no time or money to go to the supermarket, and you know you have to be in there at uni again by 7 am anyway so you just collapse into bed (after a shower- although sometimes personal hygiene slips a bit as well) !
Ok, so maybe it’s a little bit of an exaggeration, some weeks are better than others, but this story was true for too high a number of my weeks last year for my liking.
But you do learn a lot about organization, time management, the importance of work-life balance (through learning first hand what happens when it’s absent), psychopathology (again, through first-hand experience with anxiety, mood disorders, stress, and sometimes a little psychosis), and of course a little bit about interpersonal skills, psychological treatments, and about the field in general.
I was asked at lunch today, why I felt I needed a lanyard with all of my keys, swipe cards etc on it. And I would like to clarify this for everyone, so that you don’t think it’s just the clinical psychs being pretentious. When you are in the situation as described above, it is very easy to forget things, leave things places, forget your clients’ names, write the wrong names in reports, be disorganized, lose things, AND lock yourself out of places at 7am or 11pm when there’s no-one around to let you in.
SO, the purpose of a lanyard is to decrease the chance of this happening, or even just to decrease the chance of having to walk back to where you came from to get your photocopy card because you forgot it (these things tend to be enough to tip you over the edge when you’re in this situation). You only have to remember one thing and you have instant access to your St Lucia clinic key, Herston clinic key, computer lab swipe card, photocopy card, locker key, and USB. The importance of this was demonstrated one morning last year when I didn’t have my lanyard for whatever reason. It was 7am and I had a presentation on “Theory of Mind and the Frontal Lobes” for neuroanatomy class at 9am (Which was barely started), I arrived at the computer labs, put my stuff down and went to make a cup of tea. Without my swipe card. I had to wait about 40 minutes for someone to arrive and let me in and my presentation suffered greatly!
This year, although I am finding myself with a much better work-life balance ( I actually get weekends and the occasional evening off!), I am still juggling clients, coursework, therapy research projects, supervision, board requirements, reports, paperwork, a folio, and that little thing called a PhD. So my lanyard now has:
Swipe card for UQ
Swipe card for Royal Children’s where I have a desk
Key for office at UQ
UQ clinic key
Herston clinic key
Filing cabinet key
It is not because I like to look important- it is because my brain is so scattered and in about 10 thousand places at once, so my lanyard is my safety blanket that keeps me slightly sane and with everything in the right spot.