I went to a really great liberal arts school for undergrad. At first, I appreciated how much they made us think and question, and then question thinking and question questioning. However, after four years of it, I was kind of done with all the philosophical fluff talk of exploring morality and history and questioning everything. I was ready for practical learning in grad school where I learned how to really help people. All the questioning and fluff is nice and important, but I thought that it was getting in the way of learning how to simply treat people in the field of psychology.
When I got to MSPP, I was thrown directly into the practical part, whether I was ready for it or not, and the faculty were there to gently guide me along the way. I immediately thought, “this is great! I’m finally in real life!” And then I realized, it’s just not that simple. You can’t avoid profound questioning and moral reasoning in graduate school, just like you can’t avoid it in real life. All of my “real” and “practical” experiences I had craved so badly in undergrad were raising even deeper philosophical and moral issues inside me. I recognized that you can’t “just treat people,” you really have to question everything you do along the way, and question the systems you are a part of.
Yesterday in my Psychopathology of Childhood and Adolescence class, Dr. Moncata handed out an article from the NY Times entitled, “Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School.” I’ll let you read it for yourself and form your own opinion, but basically it talks about the rate at which stimulants are prescribed to adolescents to enhance their performance in schools, even if they may not necessarily have a true diagnosis of ADHD by DSM-IV-TR criteria.
This raised a major moral discussion/debate in class on whether or not it is OK to prescribe these “quick fixes” in situations where schools can’t afford to fix the learning environments. Dr. Moncata made us question whether or not “a better life through chemistry” is really the direction we want to continue driving society. I started questioning my own behavior, both as a clinician and a client. I recommend that my clients at my practicum site see the psychiatrist, and I personally take an SSRI and have a PRN benzodiazepine. My psychiatrist whom I saw for the first time a few weeks ago asked me why I had chosen medication this time instead of traditional therapy to cope with my anxiety. I told her, “I’m a graduate student. I just don’t have time. I need something fast.” I was seeking out the “quick fix,” but I had never really thought of the implications of that until yesterday. This is how our society has us programmed. We want the best, fastest, and most efficient results in the most cost-effective manner. If that means medicating an entire population- is that acceptable? Is that something we are all willing to live with? Is it even a problem if we are helping people learn better and feel happier?
I haven’t quite figured out the answer to those questions yet, but I am finally learning to embrace the questioning and the discourse. It’s not just liberal arts fluff; these are real issues we live with every day. I realized yesterday that in order to be good clinicians and active participants in society, we can never stop questioning.