Am I to messed up for this field:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

I am a psychology intern and as such I get to sit in on patient interviews. What I have found distressing and a tad overwhelming is that I see myself in many, if not all, of the clients’ struggles. I am left to wonder- am I too messed up for this field?




Dear TFU,

The single greatest predictor that you will be an excellent therapist is the fact that you can relate to the personal struggles of your clients. Too often in our culture people cling to a paradigm or prescription remedy and view a person from only that truth.

Because of your empathy, you are far less likely to miss the big picture; it is part of human nature to be conflicted. If you can see that at some level they are just like you, it gives you a deep sense of presence. Your presence matters because it is the connection, and not the answers, that will make the biggest difference in another person’s life.

Don’t let the system take that away from you.


Dr. Brilliant Cliché

P.S.  a person with absolute conviction and no inner conflict is likely either delusional or developmentally impaired in some way.


Granny says: empathy is good. There is nothing more awful than some “shrink” who sits behind a desk and observes clients as if they were laboratory animals.

Just make sure that you continue to practice empathy and do not lapse into projection or identification. No matter how many similarities there are between people, we are still all very individual. The help that your clients seek demands a certain impartiality as well. When you think you already know what you are looking at, you can miss some of the things that aren’t so obvious.


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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3 Responses to Am I to messed up for this field:

  1. Question yourself says:

    I am sorry TFU. I believe empathy may play a strong role in your career success, but how can you help people when you don’t have your own solutions? You can fake it and maybe while helping your clients, you may find your own answers. Regardless, my fear is that you may empathize too much with your patients and be too involved, and then there will be no separation between a doctor and a patient. And, empathy itself is not a sufficient base to counsel anyone.

    I am not trying to discourage you from going into the psychology field. Think about why you want to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist? If you have the passion, pursue it, but if you are questioning it, then you should explore other fields.

    • Dear question yourself,
      As always balance is the answer. Empathy without intent and a discipline can just make matters worse. But answers without empathy becomes inflexible and unlivable thus isn’t any good to anyone either. Thank you for your excellent input.

      Dr. B.C.

  2. CG, LMHC-to-be says:

    Dear TFU,

    As a psychology intern myself, I can relate to your seeing parts of yourself in your patients because I have experienced this too. I agree with Dr. Cliche that your greater empathy for your patients can help you to be a better clinician, but Granny is also right that you must be careful not to over identify with your patients and project your own thoughts and feelings onto them. As she says, we must always remember that “we are still all very individual.”

    Therefore, I recommend that you use your connection to your patients and their symptoms to help you empathize with their struggles, but always balance this with your knowledge and training of human behavior and methods of counseling. It is also important to always allow the patient to find his/her own solutions to their troubles, rather than impose upon them solutions that have worked for us.

    In my experience, self-reflection is a healthy and necessary part of this field. Therefore, keep up the good work and good luck with your studies!!

    CG, LMHC-to-be

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