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5 Annoying Things You’ll Constantly Hear Throughout Your Psychology Degree

"You study Psychology? Can you tell what I’m thinking right now?"

Welcome to the first year of your journey towards a career in mental health! It’s OK to be nervous; you’ll probably hear a few unfamiliar words during your first batch of lectures like “behaviourism”, “epigenetics” and “correlation coefficient” (OK, that last one was technically two words, but still).

There’s also gonna be some usual suspects you’ll hear throughout the entire three or four years of your course. So let’s get them out of the way now.

“You study Psychology? Can you tell what I’m thinking right now?”

This is, by a huge margin, the number one thing you’ll be asked by non-psychology students throughout the duration of your course. Sure, it sounds like a compliment at first, as if a massive amount of student debt somehow bequeathed super-powers. But then you’ll be asked it again. And again. And again, until the only super-power you wish you had was the ability to go deaf at will.

“Psychology huh, so do you read a lot about Freud?”

Ha. Hahahahaha. No. Well, yeah technically we do, insofar as to gain an understanding as to the school of psychoanalytics he pioneered and what his influence on modern-day psychology was. Which is to say, pretty minimal.

Freud’s theories on the superego, the unconscious, and psychosexual development don’t really have much of a place in modern-day cognitive-behavioural therapy, (mostly because of how inherently unscientific they were) but he nonetheless remains the go-to psychology stereotype.

“Can you test me on one of those ink blot things?”

Sure I can, but you should know that there isn’t much to be gained by doing one. Kind of like Freud and psychoanalysis, Rorschach tests were once considered a common determiner of an individual’s complex internal thought processes, but are nowadays much more likely to be lumped in the camp of pseudoscientific malarkey.

Also like Freud, the stereotype persists for non-psychologists. Rorschach tests are a fun thing as a party game, but trying to draw any lasting conclusions from them probably has the same success rate as going to see a palm reader.

“So, once you graduate, you’ll be able to prescribe whatever you want, right?”

Nope, that’s psychiatry. In probably your very first lecture, you’ll learn the differences between psychology and psychiatry. Psychiatry is a specialisation within the field of medicine, whereas psychology is a wholly independent scientific discipline.

Psychiatrists attempt to change behaviour through medication; psychologist do so with what’s called “the talking cure”. Both disciplines understand that problem behaviours have both biological and psychological causes, but no, I won’t be able to prescribe you Valium whenever you want once I finish my degree.

“Why am I so depressed/anxious/obsessive/moody?”

Similar to the mind-reading thing, when people find out that you’re studying psych, they’ll take it as carte blanche to spill their guts to you in the hopes that you can cure their anxiety or mood swings within a five-minute window of conversation.

It can be good practice for when you’ll be actually seeing a patient, and is legitimately handy for building up your communication skills as a psych (for example, learning how to ask open-ended questions rather than ones that can be answered with a  “yes” or “no”), but it can be a little tiresome.

You’ll be at a party, wanting to forget about schoolwork, and a complete stranger has backed you into a corner wanting to know why they’re so depressed. Most of the time, these people just want to be listened to rather than expectant of a cure, so just consider it a no-stakes practice run for when you’re a real deal mental health professional.

(Lead image: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt / Universal)

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