In This Issue

From the Early Career Committee

A psychologist reflects upon the challenges of accepting the past and embracing the future

This submission features the writing of Paul Martin, PsyD, who is a graduate of the Chicago Professional School of Psychology and a member of the Early Career Committee of Division 39.

For the past eight months, I have been building a private practice in Chicago at The Center for Grief Recovery. My work specializes in individual and group psychotherapy for those struggling with loss and grief. I have also begun teaching graduate level coursework in psychology and have recently become involved with Division 39 as a member of both the Early Career Committee and the Education and Training Committee. Life as an early career psychologist feels dramatically removed from life as a student. My daily work helping patients traverse the losses and subsequent changes in their lives increasingly resonates with parallels from the changes in my own.

My mornings begin with a commute north on the red line to my practice. Standing on the train platform, I can see an old apartment building in which I once resided, towering from a distance. It seems incredibly far away and I find myself wondering, in my early morning haze, "Did I actually live and study in that dank studio apartment six years ago?" Many of my patients come in to grieve what has passed, to contemplate what lies ahead, and most poignantly, to wade through the disorienting memories of the lives and relationships they no longer know. A mother and father who lost their 6 year old son to a draining battle with leukemia struggle to reclaim any memories of their son prior to his illness. "Was he ever healthy?" they wonder. A young man who watched his father's body deteriorate just as they were beginning to form the relationship he had longed for throughout childhood speaks of his foggy, grief-stricken attempts at self-definition and the confusing differences between who he was before his father died and who he might now become. A widowed woman repeatedly questions whether life is worth living without her once aweinspiring husband who served as the all-encompassing guide in her life. She turns to me and demands that I now be the source of inspiration and wisdom that her husband once provided. It dawns on me that I, too, grapple with many of these questions as a fledgling psychologist. Who now will teach me? How must I shape my professional identity moving forward? Will this chapter in my life eventually succumb to the same blurry faults of memory?

Twice a week, I rush back to the train and head downtown to teach at my alma mater. As I prepare to lecture, I take notice of how similar my students' behaviors are to those of my cohort a mere six years ago. They are going to the same bars, talking about the same practicum sites, displaying the same degree of naiveté about how life will surely be easier once their education is complete. That chapter of my life certainly feels closed, unlikely to ever be reopened.

My lectures aim to impart wisdom about clinical experience, insights that I perhaps fail to heed for myself at times. The blurring of time can be quite confusing, but we need not wrestle with whether the past or the present lived experience is the real one; they are both valid. New roles demand that those of old not be forgotten, but gracefully relinquished so as to free up energy for new experiences and relationships that can be equally rewarding and enjoyed if only we allow ourselves to mourn and accept that certain realities are truly gone. Moving forward is understandably frightening, but that fear must be overcome if one hopes to live a fulfilling life.

I return to my practice in the evening to see one more patient, a 40 year-old woman who struggles to mourn the loss of her father's physical presence. Now painfully bewildered in her loneliness, she is tempted to maintain internalized object relations of his aggravating brand of criticism and debasement. She says, "It's scary to let go of that familiarity and do something new, even if that new thing is good for me." I listen intently, make eye contact, nod my head, and with sincerity I say, "I think I understand what you mean."

-Paul Martin, PsyD

The Early Career Committee of Division 39 is currently focused on increasing opportunities for engagement in the division. Our mission is to broaden the scope, depth and breadth, of experiences and opportunities that early career clinicians are able to find within our organization. We encourage inquiry and provide support in a variety of ways, i.e., mentorship, professional guidance, and connections to seasoned clinicians and analysts in our division. Please contact our chairs if you have any questions or need any additional information.

Check out our website for further details and ways to get involved.

Committee Co-chairs:

  • Marilyn Charles

  • Heather-Ayn Indelicato