August 27, 2013 California Southern University Commencement Speech for Psychology Graduates
Hi, Dr. Laura Schlessinger here saying congratulations! Happy graduation! It is a wonderful day. Your parents are happy, your spouses and friends are happy and you're hysterical because you figure [makes exhaling "phew" sound] the worst is over now.
Well, no. I have some things that I want to warn you about so that you will be able to make great use of this incredibly wonderful education you've just had. And that is: don't get stuck in somebody else's way of thinking. "Let's see...I'm going to do Gestalt or something and that's where I'm going to be stuck." Because human life, human brains, human reactions, human emotions, human relationships are much more complex than any one theory. What you really are going to do now is learn on the job. You're going to spend the next 40, 50, 60 years going, "Oh my gosh. I didn't think of it that way. Oh my gosh. This is what they're telling me." I mean, I remember a couple that I was working so hard to fix...I was going to fix them. And the husband came in with the wife one day, patted me on the head and said, "You know, you've done a wonderful job but this is as intimate as we are comfortable with and wish to be." There was no neurotic defense mechanism there. Everybody's got their own comfort level. So you're going to sit there when such a client leaves and go, "Oh my gosh. I had an image of what I was supposed to create and I was going to force it on people."
So, one of the things I'm here to tell you is don't throw out everything you've learned but put it on the back burner and pick out things when you need them because you're really going to learn on the job. And it can't be about the money, it can't be about how many clients you have that you can compete with your friends with, it has to be the quality of the work that you do with each person and that requires something of you. You have to take care of you because you can only help people up to the point of your fears and discomforts. So it's going to be a lifelong project for you to be open to yourself, to know your limitations, to know the problems that you have inside your head because they are going to interfere with how helpful you can be (and I know you don't want that to be the case). So you constantly have to renew yourself, taking breaks, getting more education, talking to colleagues about situations you have in the therapy sessions. You've got to be constantly growing.
Graduation does not mean the end of your education. And one other thing I'd like to throw in: When you go to these seminars by these experts [purposefully clears throat], follow the money. They're not necessarily there to teach you a lot that you can use, they are there because it's a business and you have to approach it that way. So don't go in all awe-struck as though you know nothing and you're a vessel that has to be filled up by these so-called experts. Go to people that inspire you to think a new way, to expand how you approach people, to dig deeper inside yourself and to use each moment. I remember one time I went to a supervisor (brilliant guy) and I said, "You know, I don't think I'm cut out to be a therapist." (And he said) "Well, why not?" (So I said), "Well this woman I'm working with, she keeps crying and I don't feel anything - no compassion, no sympathy, no nothing. Obviously I'm not really made for this profession." And he said to me, looking deep into my eyes, "Maybe she's not crying." That opened me up. I went into the next session, sat back and realized that she wasn't crying. So I took a box of tissues and I kept handing her tissues and she said, "What are these for?" I said, "They're to build a monument of nose droppings on your lap." Now what an outrageous...have you had that in any book?! No! It stopped the crying and we finally got down to what she was using the crying to hide behind. That's what I mean by you have to be flexible and fluid, and open and fearless. Not irresponsible, but fearless.
So use your education well, make everybody who tried to help you and support you be proud of you. Do your best, be honest, do it because it's a calling and not a way to pay your bills. (I mean, it is too but do it because it's a calling.)
I'm Dr. Laura Schlessinger saying again, congratulations to you and everybody who cares about you and all the people whose lives you're going to change for the better. That's what you studied for. Happy graduation.