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1) What do you do now, and what did you do before?
I’m a journalist and author just starting a psychotherapy practice. I don’t look at it as “now” and “before” because I wear both hats, depending on the day. The transition was additive, rather than leaving one thing for another.
2) So, why the change?
I’d gone to medical school over a decade ago, and when my first book was published during the spring of my first year, I struggled for a bit trying to balance the two, but ultimately decided to focus on the writing. I made a career as a writer, but after more than a decade of that, I really craved the patient interaction and relationships that drew me to medical school. I didn’t want to give up writing; I wanted to add something completely different to it. As it turns out, they aren’t as different as I imagined. As a journalist, I ask people about very personal subjects, and then try to find the meaning in their stories. Therapy is similar in many ways — it involves curiosity, analytic thought, perspective-taking — so the skills I use as a journalist translate very well to the therapy room.
3) How did you pitch yourself to the desired industry/role? What worked well? In hindsight, what would you have done differently?
I didn’t pitch myself; I just did the training and internships and stayed down in the trenches. Later, when it came to marketing my private practice, I kept the two careers very separate until I realized that most patients Google their therapists and knew about my writing career anyway. So I put my relevant books and articles on my therapy website and that brings in people who might want help with, say, their marriages and relationships, or parenting issues, or fertility or eating disorders.
4) What was the most valuable thing you did in preparation for the new industry/role?
I tried not to think about how much time and money it would require! I kept focused on why this was important to me, so that when it did get overwhelming, I had something specific to hold on to.
5) What other advice or insight do you have for readers seeking the same career transition?
I think for any career transition, it’s important to be clear about the reality of the new situation and to do the research beforehand. No matter which career you choose, it’s going to be challenging and less than ideal in certain ways. So I believe it’s important to spend time with people in the new field, to really understand the day-to-day, the aspects of their jobs that they don’t like so much, the hardest things about what they do — whether it’s lifestyle of the work itself. And then be really clear with yourself about what draws you to this kind of work, and realistic about whether it’s the right fit for you. Do you have the interest and the talent and what are you going to have to give up in order to get there? Are you willing to do that, knowing that like your current career, it will also have its drawbacks and frustrations? It’s kind of like being in a relationship and wondering if there’s something “better” out there. Maybe there is. Or maybe you’d just be trading in one set of problems for another. Is the field you’re in the issue, or is the specific job you’re doing the thing that might be improved upon by switching to another company or a different role within the same field? All questions to consider, not just theoretically, but by actually shadowing people in the potential new career to get a strong sense of what you might be getting yourself into.