Beware Psychology Students: Why Everyone Wants to Talk to You

For some this is not a big revelation, but others might have not known until now: I majored in psychology when I completed my Bachelor of Science a few years back. Psychology is one of those few matters that have drawn me into its realm and kept me there for the past 6 years already. When I was first in college, I was a rather confused human being, not knowing exactly where my strengths lie and what to flow with. After taking a few courses here and there in boring technical areas, I lost my interest for some professors and, unfortunately, also for some topics completely. Languages have always attracted me, but my school did not offer anything resembling translational studies or other language careers at this point in time.

Then I took my first course in sociology and immediately liked the areas that were covered. Out of pure coincidence I decided to take Intro into Psych only two months after this, although I thought I had decided on what to major in. After an initial course in the study of human beings, a decision came easily to me: Psychology it would be, from now until the next two years. And with every course I took from then on, no matter how difficult the teacher and how dry the themes, I kept remembering that one class I had in the very beginning: Taught by a young professor who was eager to show us how interesting the study of human behavior can be and what areas you could apply your knowledge in.
Fortunately for me, I had more inspiring professor than uninspiring ones, and yes, most of these were psychology professors. So when I graduated with a Bachelor’s in this subject area, I was able to say: I learned a lot in school. I most certainly have to go back to get a graduate degree one day!

A bit of time has passed from now until then. But one sentence that has still remained to be very true and which my first professor told me is the following: “People don’t care if you are a professional therapist or if you have close to zero experience in psychology. As soon as they hear that you majored in it they will want to talk to you.”

Little did I know how right she was…

Every time I tell friends or freshly made acquaintances that I majored in psych, an “oh” look appears in their faces. Usually I get a nice story presented right away, but sometimes I have to wait until the second or third encounter. A good example of this is a friend whom I just met a few weeks ago. We were sporadically talking about our Bachelor degrees outside of a bar. Then she told me about her boyfriend who had been depressed and described a few instances of his dis-ease (in case you haven’t noticed: we call it exactly this because it makes the person feel not at ease. Makes sense, right?!). I patiently listened and secretly thought: How did I get myself into this again?

Then a coworker and I came to speak about our pasts not too long ago. She also was rather pleased by my major and immediately started a lengthy conversation about someone she knew who had developmental problems as a child and teenager. I patiently listened, nodded a few times, and then phrased out a few questions in just the right moments. The truth in both instances was: My perplexity was only overwhelmed by my curiosity and my urge to not interrupt these people for fear of hurting their feelings.

Sometimes I don’t know what triggers people to think that psychology students are almighty and must know every single fact about this disease or another. It’s just a study area! We are no experts. Not even a licensed psychologist is an untouchable entity, just so you know. Psych is one of those lovely gray area matters and that is precisely why I have come to like it so much. My teacher’s favorite phrase has quickly become mine, as well: It depends!

No one can say for sure why your boyfriend became bipolar. Or why you experienced difficulties with your parents when you turned 30. Or how your partner developed into an uncaring lover from one day to another. Sure, we know more than the average college student. We even know more about it than a Colonel in the Army would (an example my professor used so frequently). But there are too many factors involved and frankly, as much as I am interested in hearing stories, I consider these way too personal to be discussed during a first encounter. Save them for later. Save them for your best friend. Heck, save them for Internet forums!

I get it! It feels good to relieve your worries and doubts onto someone who you think knows a bit more about them than the average American. But at the same time, you are still talking to a complete stranger. And this stranger is about as helpless as you are. And perhaps he does not deserve your blind trust yet. Not even psych students are interested in listening to problems 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’ve had enough case examples throughout that clinical psych and counseling psych course we were required to take at some point in time. Believe me, when we are out drinking a beer, we want to do just that: chitchat, have fun, enjoy ourselves. Not think about all the troubles this world has to offer.

I thought this post to be interesting for current psych students. I also thought it to be interesting for everyone else. Please don’t take my opinioned writing too personal! After all – it does depend!