My Grandmother, the Psychologist

December 24, 2019
Everyone thinks they're psychologists - or that they have some psychology abilities - due to their accumulated years of experience. However, this profession goes far beyond common knowledge and professional intrusism is highly damaging to it.

My grandmother is almost ninety years old and she sits in her favorite chair. Her gaze inspires the peace of those who know that everything will be alright. The passing of time speaks of family, about enjoying every year together and being able to sit at the same table. She’s my grandmother and she claims to also be a psychologist.

The walls of the house she’s so proud of have no hanging diplomas. Framed pictures of her children are there, and also some paintings of uncertain origins. Not to mention an aerial photograph of the town where she grew up.

While her attention is on the novel she’s reading, I think about psychology. I wonder what her reasons for thinking she has and can apply the knowledge from this field are. I picture her as a young woman in college and I smile. My grandmother, the psychologist.

My grandmother, the psychologist – Beyond a degree

Many people think they know about psychology without having attended college. They’re either good at listening, or think they are, and also quite supportive and great at giving advice. They don’t see themselves treating someone with depression. But they can encourage a person after a strong emotional shock or another one who’s grieving. Yes, they can calm a person down as they go through a moment of anxiety.

They have many accumulated experiences. Also, they faced crossroads and resolved them successfully. Thus, they have many tips that worked at least once. Not only that, they believe they know everything about emotions because they’ve experienced them at some point. They’ve had to negotiate with them on many occasions and have done so successfully. But somehow, they think they can condense it all into one recipe. One solution based on the conclusions they’ve drawn based on their collection of individual experiences. They see others and can appreciate familiar territory.

In other words, this article is about people who, perhaps, have what it takes to be a good psychologist. But they can’t complete the professional puzzle due to the lack of missing pieces.

This is an important concept because this kind of thinking isn’t harmless. Well, it might be in the case of my grandmother, as she’s not trying to profit from it. But it’s definitely harmful in the case of others. In fact, if you turn your gaze to the professional world, you’ll soon discover the many different pseudo-professionals there. Some of them hide, as in a costume ball, people without training. They show themselves as a valid alternative to professional psychologists. These people are love counselors and life coaches. Anyway, I would need an entire article to name all the pseudo-psychological forms.

Training as a professional path

So what’s missing? Why aren’t they psychologists? Well, it’s because they don’t have the necessary training. They don’t have the support of the studies carried out under the scientific method. In other words, a psychologist should propose a type of intervention that best fits a patient’s specific circumstances. They must maximize their probability of success and take into account the relationship between the investment of resources and results.

To do this, a therapist must know a few things along with the best means to update them. Thus, research would be of no use if the professionals who have to project and design interventions weren’t sensitive. If they weren’t skilled enough to extrapolate their conclusions in their daily professional practice.

Yes, the experience is necessary. In other words, a psychologist is born but it’s also made. It’s the practice that sharpens intuition and outlines that unconscious clinical practice. The one in which the potential of what I mentioned takes shape: the ability to make decisions, to listen, to put oneself in the place of the others, etc.

Conclusion

To say that any person can be a psychologist outside this framework is like thinking that someone is a bit of a doctor because they once had a cold and cured it. Psychology, like medicine, goes beyond simple problems with a quick solution that time itself can heal.

Thus, my dearest grandmother isn’t a psychologist. She’s experienced and endowed with the kind of wisdom that makes you remember her many successful solutions and proposals. But she lacks knowledge in regard to what research has to say about disorders such as generalized stress and depression. A true psychologist is more sensitive to the fact that a professional shouldn’t propose an intervention in the form of advice.

Vera, Isabel (2001). El perfil del psicólogo en la intervención inmediata. Revista de Protección Civil. 8.