Feeling the Call to Clinical Psychology
Michael T. Flaherty, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with a specialty in addiction recovery, shares his story and why he chose that particular field. It is daily rewarding work for him and he encourages people from all walks of life to consider working with those who hope to make a better life.
Michael T. Flaherty: Each day when you wake up in this field, you feel a certain calling to go at your task. You don’t think of it as a job, you think of it as something of a mission to go back to and relate to. You need to have the best training an intellect and skills you can possibly bring to the issues. But, when you get to work and you get to see the people, many of the times the most forlorn or forgotten or neglected, discriminated against that our society can possibly do, but you work with them and you find that underneath all of this are human beings wanting to become better – regain their spirit to take back their lives. And, in the end, even give things back to you in the form of gratitude and wellness.
This is the beauty of working in this field. It is not just a science, it is an art. You are still a healer. You have to face all of the challenges that this field brings to it with the illness that’s presented, the misunderstanding of the illness that is around it and the opportunity to offer to bring people into recovery daily with the gratitude that comes with doing that kind of good, healing work.
There are many ways to enter this field. We need all of the workforce that we have working in it. It is really an interdisciplinary workforce when you think about it. We need researchers, we need physicians and we need psychologists, social workers and nurses. These are the backbone of what bring treatment and recovery to an individual.
Most of all, we need the addiction counselors. This is a group of people that really, really because of their interests, their passions, and their knowledge, want to relate day by day with the people who are trying to find recovery and trying to understand why these drugs have control over their life. Many paths can be made available to come into the field if you are interested in being an addiction counselor. I certainly would hope that you can do it from your experience. If you are in recovery, with several years of recovery time, and want to come back into the field, [we have] high regard for your experience and knowledge. We can get the training to you and the skills necessary so that you can become a professional in this workforce.
If you are already further along in your education, perhaps a college degree or master’s, you are welcome in this field because this is a field in which you have to learn by doing. You can’t really learn to work with this illness in a classroom. You have to apply yourself. So, coming into the field with that background is perfectly welcome.
Perhaps you are a second career person, somebody who’s recently retired and saying, “Now, what can I really do with my life that has meaning and purpose? I’ve flown airplanes” or “I’ve worked in a company for so long and now I want to really help people.” What better place to come than in this world and this field where you can learn everyday from the work you do and feel everyday some gratitude for the work that you do. Really, are you needed and wanted in this field with the professional degrees and experience that will be afforded to you as you go along.
All of us in an interdisciplinary workforce bring together for the first time the one science, the one field and the one vision that is going to bring recovery to this country, the communities, families and individuals in it as we remove the drugs from our life.