Despite deciding on an intensive career path at a young age of 19, Kristen knew she wanted to surpass the odds against her. She is determined to grow regardless of the difficulties she faces while she progresses through her clinical psychology degree. Her goals are to continue to advocate and support individuals within her community and beyond. Having to overcome her own experiences and struggles, she is empowered to take stances to ensure light is shed on various topics, including a future where therapy is normalized and additional support is provided to those in need.
My job includes supporting others through difficult times. They are doing all the work and I am there to support them through it. If I am able to make it easier by providing them with a skill, then that’s rewarding for me because I am doing my job. I am supporting them in their time of need.
MS: Do you have advice for people interested in the same field?
KP: Life doesn’t stop. It’s important to remember that. I had to learn how to manage my time to the best of my ability and juggle a lot of responsibilities at the same time. I knew the program was going to take around 7 years, but I don’t think I fully understood how much of a time commitment it was when I started. I had the opportunity to wear different hats in school, specifically I learned how to be a researcher, professor, and therapist, but I also had to make sure I could juggle it along with my daily life. It was difficult. I made a lot of mistakes, both in school and in my personal life, but I grew so much in such a short time.
My supervisor said to me this past year, “You tried your best using the skills you had in this moment, and while you made a mistake, it is okay. The next time something like this happens you will have the skills equipped to handle a similar situation. You will continue to learn from these experiences and learn throughout your life so that you don’t make this mistake again.”
In other words, “you’re trying your best with the skills you have right now and you’re always growing.”
I really took that moving forward and continue to use that within my daily life. We are always growing as individuals, as a human race, taking the time to think about your mistakes and how you’ve grown from these experiences is only going to benefit you in the long run.
MS: What is something you wish people learned or knew more about in your industry?
KP: Whether you are dealing with relationship difficulties, figuring out your major, having difficulty falling asleep, trying to get out of your bed in the morning or processing something traumatic; if you feel like the skills you have to deal with the situation are not enough then you should seek out a therapist. People come to meet with me for a variety of different reasons. They felt like they needed additional support given the situation that they are in and decided to reach out. It’s a common misconception that people only see a therapist when they are severely struggling. However, that’s not the case, they reached out because they felt like the way they were dealing with it wasn’t enough. We should normalize reaching out for help when we need it. While it may be scary at first to go see a therapist, it can be immeasurably helpful, and incredibly empowering. Even in school they encourage us to be on the other side of the chair/table to understand that perspective. Therapists have skills to help. They are there waiting to answer your call.
Also, therapists are humans as much as everyone else. Therapists see therapists too, and it’s common. As therapist, I may struggle with something and seek out support from another therapist and that’s normalized in my profession. It’s okay and it’s important to seek out additional support if you need it. It’s also important to communicate with your coworkers and supervisors about what you’re going through because we all have a life outside of the office.
For example, imagine if you only sleep 4 hours and your expected to go into your job the following day. Your lack of sleep may cause you to make a mistake or miss something you otherwise wouldn’t have if you got enough rest. Now imagine that person is a therapist who is lacking energy because something is going on in their personal life that is impacting them in some way. If they don’t seek out support that person could impact their clients. It ends up having a domino effect, so its important to make sure one factors in self-care days, which is essential in this field. Some jobs are undeniably intense, work load, stress, and over-working are factors that add up to emotional and mental exhaustion, which can impact an individual’s performance. Making sure to take days where you are able to do something you enjoy and doesn’t cause you stress is imperative.
Mental capability is important. Time to turn off is important. Learning how to balance different things and be okay with not being able to do it all, at 100%, was not easy. But I learned what was right and what was less beneficial for me. Everyone is different so knowing what my limits are and using those appropriately was something I had to develop throughout my life. Being patient with yourself and allowing yourself to make mistakes is important for one’s growth.
On another topic, it is okay to move to another therapist that works better for you. You can say, “I don’t think this is working can I have a new therapist?” Or “do you have recommendations for a new therapist?” Again, we are all human and we all have different personalities. We all gravitate towards certain type of personalities which again, is normal and okay. I want to encourage people to advocate for what’s best for themselves, so they get what they need out of therapy. If it doesn’t work out the first time, give yourself some time and try again. Maybe you weren’t ready, or you didn’t match well with the therapist. Take your time to figuring out what you want out of therapy, so that you are getting the care you need.
MS: What is your definition of success?
KP: To be happy. I think it’s changed a lot throughout the course of my life. When I was younger, I used to think being successful meant doing well in college, in grad school, and then earning various degrees. However, after going through and overcoming difficult moments in my life, I realized my goal has shifted and I’ve started to focus on what makes me happy. There are things that I’m still discovering I want out of life and that’s okay. I realized throughout the course of my life that I don’t need to have everything figured out at the age of 21. If you have it figured out that’s great but I personally don’t need too.
In regard to my romantic relationship, I feel very successful. I married a person I’ve been with for 11 years. It’s a relationship where I will always feel supported and loved. I hope that everyone can find that kind of relationship, whether it be with a romantic partner, friend or family member. I’m so thankful that I found that in my spouse and that we are going to continue to support each other throughout our lives.
I would say I am pretty successful regard to my family and friends. I love the family I have whether they are related to me through blood or not. There are different people who come into your life for various reasons. Some are meant to be there for a short time or over the long haul. I notice when I am able to pinpoint these moments with people, it’s an amazing feeling. These people become more than friends, they become family. Whether or not we are biologically related, knowing that if I need to go to them for something, that they have my back and I have theirs.
Overall, I am successful. I am happy within my romantic relationship. I am happy with my family, friends and my support system. I may be still learning about what I want out of my career, however, I have time to figure it out and an amazing support system that will continue to help me through that decision. I still have more growing to do and that’s okay.