Research Professional Investigation Project: Career in Forensic Psychology

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Investigation

For my research professional investigation project, I was able to interview a clinical counselor who owns her own private practice in Gilbert, Arizona. She was referred to me through my sister-in-law, as her mother had graduated high school with Dr. Wyman and has maintained a friendship with her over time. Ideally, I would have loved to buy Dr. Wyman a coffee and sit down and chat with her, however, due to circumstances such as her busy schedule and my immobility from recent knee reconstruction surgery, we ultimately conducted the interview over a phone call one afternoon where she graciously made time to chat with me between appointments. Dr. Heidi Wyman has her own practice in Gilbert, Arizona, with over 17 years of experience in the field of psychology. She’s a marriage and family therapist foremost with an obtained Ph.D., however, she also specializes in a wide variety of sociopsychological disorders, such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, and PTSD, to name a few. Her contact information which I used to conduct the interview is (480) 409-2383.

I was incredibly thankful for the opportunity to chat with her as it gave me an insider look into the world of private psychology practice, something that I strongly consider a developmental goal for my future career.

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One of the more surprising things that I learned from Dr. Wyman was that if she could go back and repeat her education, she isn’t confident that she’d obtain her Ph.D. She noted that it was more of a personal achievement for her, however, she couldn’t pinpoint whether or not it highly benefited her career-wise. I was interested in her path as obtaining a Ph.D. is something that I’ve been thinking more recently about, however, I’m not wondering whether or not it would be worth, as Dr. Wyman would put it, the stress that comes along with it. It’s certainly something that I’ll continue to consider as I move forward with my graduate degree, perhaps more cautiously now.

I was also intrigued about how Dr. Wyman handles appointments when she herself isn’t having the best day or week. I think that at times, we forget that counselors or psychologists are in fact people too with lives and families outside of our own personal issues. She admitted to me that there have been times when she’s found herself spacing out during a session, deciphering when a patient is discussing something with her that’s vital to their treatment, or simply touching base on a preexisting problem. I imagine that’s not the answer that people would want to hear, considering that they may believe that their counselor is listening intently to 100% of their time together, however, I truly appreciated her honesty and bluntness because at the end of the day, counselors and psychologists are not immune to personal stress and worries. In actuality, it reinforced my confidence in the career that it’s genuine and not fabricated, that I’m allowed to have a life full of anxieties and worries, something even as simple as the grocery list that Dr. Wyman pointed out, but that doesn’t make someone any less of a counselor or psychologist, or threaten their ability to successfully perform their job. The way I see it now, it simply makes them more human and relatable, something that I’ve always thought to be important for me as I enter into the field.

A few of the questions that I thought to be important to ask Dr. Wyman are as follows:

1. How would you describe your work/life balance?

Dr. Wyman felt that her work/life balance was evenly distributed, however, not without a little effort and planning accordingly. She prefers to work longer, twelve-hour days and has the flexibility to take several days off during the week to have the opportunity to meet her children at school for lunch or be able to attend any important games, performances, or ceremonies. Having three children and a husband, she makes it a priority to be around for them to maintain a healthy marriage and relationship with her children. She told me that it’s important to look into what direction you want to take your career path based on what you want for your future, such as what paths make it easier for you to have a family and what paths demand more of your time, despite how you manipulate your schedule. (Wyman 2019)

2. How many patients or sessions do you typically schedule during the day?

On average, Dr. Wyman schedules anywhere from 15-20 patients a week, sometimes 30, depending on the demand. She’s quick to open up her schedule if a patient contacts her last minute and would like to get in to see her, as her primary focus has been and always will be on the well-being of her clients, something that I found very noble and inspirational. She likes to maintain a flexible schedule not only for her own sake but also for her patients, to be there when her clients need her most. (Wyman 2019)

3. What are some of the greatest challenges that you’ve faced when working so intimately with people’s vulnerabilities?

This question was an important one for me to get answered because it’s something that I often think about from my own perspective, as I tend to feel very deeply for other people and am concerned whether or not that will create a bias for me in my working relationships. Dr. Wyman admitted that there are some cases that absolutely break her heart and that’s simply a part of the career, however, she likes to think of turning it into something positive toward her own life, focusing on the blessings that she has and even teaching her children about perspective. Ultimately, she’ll ask herself, “What can I do with the time I have with this patient?” This allows her to maintain a clear plan of action to give her patients the most when she’s able to be with them, but, also ensure that they have other resources outside of her practice when she’s unavailable. (Wyman 2019)

4. What were your initial plans during the early development stages of your education? As in, did you always want to be a therapist?

Dr. Wyman always knew that she wanted to be a practicing therapist of some kind, but more importantly, she knew in what matter she wanted to do it. She knew that she was the kind of person that would rather work underneath her own belt than have to report to someone, other than her patients, every day. I found solace in listening to her discuss this component of her ultimate plan, as I’m very much the same way, where I thrive best in situations where I have the flexibility and freedom to move in whichever direction drives me. She gave me several different opportunities to consider when going into my career field post-graduate school, such as considering working for an agency to start out and get experience in the field, as well as working with the idea of contract work for a mobile crisis unit which gives you the flexibility to pick up shifts when your schedule permits and to handle issues on a smaller scale over a very short period of time to get the most variety in what kind of cases may come your way when or if you choose to go private practice. (Wyman 2019)

5. Do you often find yourself taking your work home with you or do you have a strategy for leaving it at the door?

With Dr. Wyman’s careful plan to leave her patients with outside resources once they leave her office, it gives her a sense of relief that if something were to happen between their scheduled appointments, they won’t feel as if they were alone. With that being said, having a family at home and a very busy life outside of her career, Dr. Wyman noted that she doesn’t find a whole lot of time to relax and that she tends to find herself in the dark when it comes to pop culture and what’s trending on the media circuit. It’s simply something that she doesn’t prioritize, finding her best time spent is either with her patients or doing activities with her busy family. (Wyman 2019)

As I continued my own individual research, I did a bit of digging into the path of a counseling psychologist and what that looks like in a broader format. The work styles very much lined up with the information that I gathered from my interview with Dr. Wyman, such as the deep concern for others and the need for sensitivity to others' needs and feelings, as it’s a vital component of the job to be successful not only for your patient but also for yourself. There was also the factor of self-control which is required for maintaining and regulating your own personal emotions and thoughts on a matter to stay vigilant and neutral when discussing sensitive topics. This brings me to, I’ve also learned that it’s perhaps best to stay away from an area of expertise if you find yourself being personally triggered by it, as it has no benefit on you or your patient. It’s important to take cautionary measures with yourself to be the best that you can be while in session. One of the biggest complaints that Dr. Wyman told me that she hears about psychologists is that some tend to discuss their own private issues while in therapy with a client, rather than letting the client be the focal point. (Wyman 2019; Nicholas & Stern 2011)

Another career development that I’ve recently been introduced to through discussions with fellow classmates is the idea of forensic psychology. Before beginning my master's, I hadn’t known that such a title existed. It’s intriguing to me as I find the law system quite interesting and the thought of a correlation between the two piques my interest. I think that it could be an exciting career path to go down by assisting in the courtroom with the justice system. I learned that their roles are primarily involved in the prison system, police work, as well as conducting research on criminal behavior. If I were to go down this career path, I think earning a PsyD would be the most beneficial, as my focus would primarily be on the treatment of subjects.

To be quite honest, I was very impressed with the lack of inconsistencies between my research and my interview with Dr. Wyman. The information that I gathered between both sources was something that I had a vague understanding of, however, it ended up lining up with my initial thoughts which created a sense of validity and confidence that I understand the career path I’ve chosen to pursue and am excited to continue moving forward with it. (Wyman 2019; Murdoch, Gregory, & Eggleton 2015)

A career in counseling psychology lines up with my natural instinct to help people, in any form or matter. I’ve stated before in conversations among peers that I’m at my best when I’m helping. It fuels a fire within me that leads to contentment and overall satisfaction with what I’m doing with my time. They also closely fall in line with my knowledge about myself that I’m the type of person who finds their job to feel less like work and more like a calling when I’m able to hold the ropes. A work/life balance is high on my radar and to be able to control my own schedule makes a world of difference.

A career in forensic psychology would challenge me in a way that I didn’t know was accessible until recently. I’ve notably become more interested in true crime over the last several years, watching documentaries that follow crime as well as prisoners and listening to daily podcasts about crime throughout history. I’ve thought it to be more so of a hobby, but am now considering turning that hobby into a pinpointed career in forensic psychology. (Degrees and Careers in Forensic Psychology 2019)

I’ve learned that although a doctoral degree is highly accredited and a major accomplishment to have under one’s belt, it isn’t necessary to fulfill the task of counseling. On one hand, it’s nice to know that going forward with a Ph.D. is completely up to me and won’t hinder my career goals, however, it’s still something that I’d love to have underneath my belt, perhaps for personal reasons alone, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. If I ultimately choose to go down the career path of forensic psychology, I believe that a Ph.D. might become more prevalent for me to consider.

The most important thing that I’ve learned is that going into this field takes sacrifice on more than one hand in terms of mental and emotional regulations. I think it’s important that you have a passion for not only helping others but also the drive and sustainability to go beyond your judgment and open yourself up to a wider world of issues that you may have to navigate along the way. As long as you’re willing to give this professional your entirety, you’ll make the impact that you’re looking for, at least in my case.

References

  1. Wyman, H. (2019, September 10th). Phone interview.
  2. Nicholas, D. R., & Stern, M. (2011). Counseling psychology in clinical health psychology: The impact of specialty perspective. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42(4), 331-337. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/10.1037/a0024197
  3. Murdoch, D. D., Gregory, A., & Eggleton, J. M. (2015). Why psychology? An investigation of the training in psychological literacy in nursing, medicine, social work, counseling psychology, and clinical psychology. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 56(1), 136-146. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/10.1037/a0038191
  4. Writers, S. (2019). Degrees & careers in forensic psychology: How to become a forensic psychologist. Learn How to Become. Retrieved from https://www.learnhowtobecome.org/psychologist/forensic-psychologist/
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Research Professional Investigation Project: Career in Forensic Psychology. (2023, July 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/research-professional-investigation-project-career-in-forensic-psychology/
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