So, why did I decide to be a therapist?

Believe it or not, I used to dislike being asked this question. Not because I didn’t know my answer, but because I thought my response was going to discredit the passion that I felt when compared to other people’s inspirations. You see, I didn’t want to be a therapist because of a specific hardship in my life or because it was what I saw for myself at age 5. (Let’s face it, at that age, all I wanted to be was a home designer or a celebrity stylist. True Story.) But as time passed, I learned to embrace my story because honestly- I know being a therapist is my calling!

My journey towards becoming a therapist began with my interest in Psychology. Ever since I can remember I loved learning about the brain, psychological studies, and the history behind the famous pioneers like Freud, Jung, Pavlov, & Piaget. I loved it so much that I knew I wanted to study Psychology when I started my undergraduate education at the University of Houston. Go Coogs!

But although the interest in Psychology was there, I didn’t exactly know what my options were with this career path. I vividly remember having an “Oh, shit” moment during orientation. I thought to myself, “Well, what does one do with a Psychology degree when they graduate?” I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t second guess my choice. I then thought to myself, “Well, I have to finish my basics before I take courses related to my major. Let’s do that first and then make a change if needed.” Looking back, I very much would call this “a plan without a plan” haha.

I took sociology and philosophy courses because they fit my required curriculum for Psychology. The classes were very interesting but it didn’t spark anything for me. Another semester I ended up taking a communication course and explored the possibility of becoming a speech therapist. I think at this point in my life, I knew that I wanted to help people but I didn’t know in what capacity. I remember thinking long and hard about making the switch, but my love for psychology didn’t allow me to be 100% sure of that decision. So I didn’t make the switch and stayed with my original choice.

Then came the fun part. I learned about social psychology, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, forensic psychology, neuropsychology, etc. Man oh man, was I grateful that I didn’t impulsively act when I second-guessed myself back in orientation. At this point in my journey, I was convinced that I was going to study clinical psychology. I had it all planned out. I was going to apply to the Clinical Psychology program that U of H offered and become a psychologist. In my mind, I was going to help bring awareness to mental health with the help of research. So the logical thing for me at the time was to begin this career path already! I was so excited. I started working as a research assistant with the Clinical Psychology Program. Soon after that I also began working at the Medical Center as a data collector and assisted with a couple of research studies. I was literally preparing for something I just knew was going to happen.

I kind of laugh at myself sometimes. I wish I could portray how convinced I was that this was going to be my path. The research experiences were fun and very interesting. I learned a lot, but deep down I found myself not connecting to the people I was interacting with. I realized that my favorite part of gathering data was the times when I was able to have authentic interactions with the participants. I could live without the data entry, the scripts, the protocols. After all, I wanted to help people, not study them. And while research does help people, I wanted to do it in a way that was meaningful to me. I wish I could say that this was the point in my journey where I decided therapy was my calling. But it’s not. I struggled with finding how I was going to use psychology to help people. There was a point where I even considered forensic psychology, but that lasted about 5 minutes.

I’m a big believer in the power of timing. As fate would have it, one of my school projects was to volunteer somewhere and write about psychological aspects. I ended up choosing to volunteer at a foster home. The children absolutely stole my heart. I wasn’t licensed at the time, and while I did not attempt to do therapy, I saw the benefits that meaningful conversations can have in someone’s life. I enjoyed myself so much that I stayed to become a volunteer even after my project was completed. In my time there, I saw the growth in these children. I saw the impact. I saw the change. I loved the connection building aspect of it. I loved the interactions. I was sold. I knew that I was making an impact on someone’s life and that feeling for me, is irreplaceable. This was the moment in my life where I knew that being a therapist is what I wanted to do. I had found the spark I was looking for. Most importantly, I found the manner in which I could help people that brought meaning to my life. 

Although the stories they would share with me were tough, it never overpowered the feeling of being helpful to someone in need. I have a helping nature, and I thought that having a career that enhanced this characteristic of mine would make me happy. I was right. I will always be thankful for them. I still remember their names, faces, and from time to time I wonder how they are. I wish they knew that it was through my connection with them that I found my calling.

I once read an article that brought up the idea of how we sometimes try to force creative ideas, sparks of interest, or inspirations by making ourselves be in that mental space. But if you think about it, the best ideas come randomly. Inspirations cannot be forced. Genuine passion for something cannot be forced. Looking back I think I tried to force my career path. I tried to make myself feel the feeling that I felt while volunteering at the foster home. Being a therapist is something that makes my heart happy and I didn’t try looking for it. The career found me.

And that is how I decided to be a therapist. I probably don’t have the most inspirational story, but I am proud of it because it says a lot about who I am as a person. I explored and experimented until I found my passion. I didn’t settle for a career path that didn’t feel right for me. There were moments where I was lost and it was tempting to stay in my comfort zone but I stayed true to myself and now, I am living the absolute dream. I get to have the honor of being invited to someone’s life to help them find what they are looking for. I’m seriously lucky to do what I love, and there is not a day that I take it for granted.

I hope that my story helps anyone who is confused or stressed about their current career path to find comfort in the unknown. My career path wasn’t well thought out and I started off with a plan that didn’t even come close to what I actually did. And that’s okay. It can be scary out there. But don’t give up, and keep exploring until you find something that you connect with. It’s a beautiful feeling and you WILL KNOW once you find it. 

Peace and love

-Jessica

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