Reflection on Personal and Professional Direction

Abstract

The paper provides the reflection on the personal interest and motivation in obtaining the doctoral degree in psychology. The reflection on the associated professional goals is also included in the paper. The reflective discussion aims at answering the questions on the reasons to pursue the doctoral degree, the ideas, and visions regarding the professional identity and objectives for future professional growth, as well as the strategy to achieve the set goals. This reflection is important to provide the personal considerations regarding the certain course and areas for further development in association with obtaining the doctoral degree.

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Introduction

The decision to pursue a doctoral degree in the field of psychology is usually caused by the person’s interest in the area and motivation to become a professional in this challenging sphere. Therefore, it is important for a person to answer the questions regarding the inner motives, aspirations, and beliefs that can lead an individual to choose the career of a doctoral-level psychologist. The process of obtaining the doctoral degree is connected with the development of critical thinking skills that are related to both practical and theoretical areas (Ruscio, 2006). This aspect needs to be discussed in detail while focusing on the important skills and abilities that were improved during the course. The purpose of this reflection paper is to provide the answers to the important questions related to the person’s motives to obtain the doctoral degree, the visions of the professional identity, and the strategy to achieve the set personal and professional goals.

Reasons to Participate in the Doctoral Program in Psychology

The first important questions to answer are why I participate in this program and why I focus on obtaining the doctoral degree in psychology. The answer to these questions is closely connected with my personal and professional interests, abilities, and intrinsic motivation to practice as a doctoral-level psychologist. I believe that the primary interest that led me to obtain the doctoral degree in psychology is my concentration on finding ways of helping people in situations when they need professional assistance. Moreover, I am particularly interested in the research related to the field of psychology because I always thought about the possibilities of conducting a range of new studies in order to answer the theoretical and practical questions that aim to cover the gap in the existing knowledge in those areas of psychology that are rather controversial. The motivation to develop as both a practitioner and a researcher-made me focus on the doctoral program in psychology and its advantages. I think about the participation in the program as a good chance to combine my interest in the research field with my intention to assist people in the practical area.

While I assess the future value of a doctoral degree for my community and me, I choose to see myself as a professional having the private practice and collaborating with research centers in order to be focused on both areas of interest. I am inclined to think that my doctoral degree will be the value to the community if I succeed in developing my potential as a practitioner and a researcher because I view these roles as two dimensions representing one professional identity (Sales, 2013). Thus, in about ten years, I hope to have actively developed a private practice that addresses the needs of the community, complete several research projects, and continue the collaboration with the state and local research centers while developing professional networks. My confidence regarding continuing research in the field to support my practice is directly associated with this course and the doctoral program as I succeeded in the development of critical thinking and research skills, improved my abilities in writing and reporting, became more focused and goal-oriented (Ruscio, 2006). These positive changes are important in order to guarantee that I can further develop as a professional and achieve the set goals.

The Professional Identity

The desire to pursue the doctoral degree is associated with the intention to develop a professional identity of a certain kind and to respond to the question of what I am trying to become after completing the program. Moreover, the development of the identity is related not only to the period after obtaining the degree but also to the period of study, and it is possible to identify changes in my behavior that indicate the development of my professional identity according to the image that I try to achieve. My ideal doctoral-level psychologist is a professional who is good not only in practice but also in researching, who refers to the evidence-based practice daily, and who contributes significantly to the existing research in the field (Kitchener & Anderson, 2011). Still, while thinking about an image of a psychologist, I try to become, I focus more on my contribution to the field of practice rather than research. My professional goal is to polish my skills in adapting the theoretical models and principles to actual cases in order to provide the support and assistance that address the needs of each individual. Thus, I regard myself as a practitioner in the field of psychology who has a high level of interest in research.

I noticed that my vision of the professional identity changed when I started to think about persons who inspire me, whom I can choose as role models, and whose positions are similar to those ones that I would like to take in the future. When I was at the beginning of my path to becoming a psychologist, I thought that the area of practice was more interesting for me than research, and now I understand that I could fear the ethical challenges of the psychologist’s research, and I was not sure regarding my abilities, but the desire to follow this path was strong. This course demonstrated how I grew in relation to my professionalism as a psychologist and how I can combine working in the areas of my interest without comprising my desire to continue researching and practicing (Nagy, 2011). Thus, the main change in my thinking caused by this course is that I learned how to benefit from the research in order to contribute to the practice, analyze models and approaches, choose strategies, and address the patients’ needs while developing professionally.

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There is also a change in my behavior. Course readings and some additional articles and cases that I reviewed provided me with insights regarding the behaviors typical of professionals and high-class psychologists. I have found that all my fears regarding the lack of knowledge and professionalism can be easily addressed if I develop a behavioral strategy that can help me to react to challenging cases, diverse populations, and ethical problems among other issues (American Psychological Association, 2014; Nagy, 2011). The aspects of the professional relationship between a psychologist and a patient became clearly explained to me, and the doctoral program added to my development of skills typical of effective psychologists (Teo, 2009). Focusing on the valuable sources, I have learned how to conduct the research in order to propose theory-based solutions to cases and effective strategies, how to develop professional relationships, and how to organize the work with patients in order to combine the research and practical activities (American Psychological Association, 2014; Kitchener & Anderson, 2011; Nagy, 2011). Thus, I can state that at the current stage, I am trying to become a high-class professional in the field of psychology who is an experienced practitioner with developed critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills and a highly motivated researcher.

The Strategy to Achieve the Goal

However, in spite of having a clear goal and the image in relation to the professional identity, a person needs to develop an effective strategy in order to achieve the goal. Therefore, the other important question to answer is how I can achieve my professional goal while using the knowledge received during this course. I should state that the course helped me understand the principles of interacting at different levels, including the level of communication with instructors, the level of communication with professors, the level of cooperation with peers and colleagues, and the level of communication with clients and their relatives. This knowledge influenced changes in my approach to discussing the role of communication, formulating and sharing effective messages, and building the team for cooperation in the research and clinical settings. While obtaining my first degree in the field of psychology, I was oriented to demonstrate my skills as an effective independent learner, but I underestimated the role of interaction and cooperation in achieving goals. As a result, I failed to build effective relationships with other students and colleagues. I failed to value the advice of my colleagues regarding different cases, and I was focused on developing my own potential. There was a situation when my focus on cooperation with other practitioners could provide the client with better outcomes, but I failed to use that opportunity.

This course accentuated the role of interactions with professionals in order to resolve issues and develop strategic behavior. It is important to note that the course helped me understand the significance of professional networks and collaboration between practitioners (Kitchener & Anderson, 2011). Several years ago, I thought that my personal intention to find the answers to professional questions would contribute to my development as a specialist. However, my approach changed, and now I recognize the role of referring to other people’s expertise. My attitude to receiving the knowledge is different today, and I refer to the literature, articles in psychology and research, specialists’ advice, and colleagues’ opinions as important sources of information and inspiration for me to develop as a professional. I am aware of the fact that my responsibility is to provide the client with high-quality advice and assistance, and I can develop the most effective solution to the problem only after thinking about it critically and referring to the experts’ opinions in the field (Nagy, 2011). In addition, my approach to discussing professional relationships and the role of interaction in professional growth changed in terms of recognizing the importance of professional networks for licensing. Moreover, I can fully address the licensure expectations only now, when I focus on developing as part of the community of doctoral-level psychologists and researchers.

Therefore, my current strategy to develop the professional identity includes such points as the improvement of my professional knowledge and expansion of my experience, the development of required practical skills and abilities, the improvement of critical thinking and research skills, and the development of communication skills in order to improve my cooperation with colleagues and representatives of the scholar community.

Conclusion

The doctoral program and the discussed course provided me with the important background knowledge regarding the development of critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills important for a psychologist. In addition, I improved my abilities in providing explanations of observed practical and research cases and choosing the most appropriate treatment and solution. Furthermore, I went beyond the general application of principles and concepts to practical situations, and I also developed my skills in evaluating researches, theories, and hypotheses. As a result, my behavior and approach regarding daily practice, communication with colleagues and clients changed, and today I am more conscious of the results of my actions, the role of cooperation in the field, the improvement of knowledge, and research. From this point, I should state that my performance as a practitioner and my professionalism as a researcher improved significantly due to this course and my participation in the doctoral program.

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References

American Psychological Association. (2014). Guidelines for psychological practice with older adults. The American Psychologist, 69(1), 34-38.

Kitchener, K. S., & Anderson, S. K. (2011). Foundations of ethical practice, research, and teaching in psychology and counseling. New York, NY: Routledge.

Nagy, T. F. (2011). Essential ethics for psychologists: A primer for understanding and mastering core issues. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Ruscio, J. (2006). Critical thinking in psychology: Separating sense from nonsense. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Sales, B. D. (2013). The professional psychologist’s handbook. New York, NY: Springer Science.

Teo, T. (2009). Philosophical concerns in critical psychology. Critical Psychology: An Introduction, 2(1), 36-54.

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