A friend and colleague, who happens to be an 86 year old Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, is soon to retire. Dr. P has practiced for over 55 years and, as he says, started in a time where psychiatrists did more than write prescriptions (his words, don't shoot the messenger). During a recent conversation, he shared his laugh-till-I-cried perspective on the Life Cycle of a Therapist and gave me permission to rewrite and share. To put this into perspective, Dr. P is incredibly cynical but compassionate, still smokes, and keeps liquor in his office. In fact, his office looks like one from Mad Men. When asked if I could post this on LinkedIn he said, "I don't care where you link it or chain it, honey". I paused, and considering explaining LinkedIn, but decided against it. As Dr. P said, "if you don't relate to it, or don't like it, I don't care".
The First Week: Scared Shitless- So, you have a license to practice independently. You are probably scared to death that you now have to go at it solo and may not have many people to rely on. Get over it....you have another 40 years ahead of you.
6 Months In: Getting Comfortable- By now, you should be able to string together some coherent sentences. Hopefully, while you may not be helping everyone, surely you aren't hurting anyone either. You probably got a placard for door displaying the 19 initials after your name...maybe some business cards too. Good for you hot shot!
2 Years In: IMPOSTOR SYNDROME!!- Your practice is doing well, your schedule is full and you are feeling good....kind of. You are worried that your colleagues and even your patients may find out that you are indeed a fraud...you aren't as good as everyone thinks you are. Are you? I'm not sure. (of note, Dr. P thought it was HILARIOUS that there is now a term is used frequently)
7 Years In: The Know It All- You don't mean to...it happens innocently enough, but somehow you got to the point that you know it all! I can say at 86 years of age...avoid this at all costs. You don't know everything in your field and never will! This really happens to those with an area of expertise. Therapists in other areas of the field try to chat you up about YOUR specialty and you internally roll your eyes..maybe externally if you are an asshole.
10 Years In: Plymouth Rock- You've completely settled in your colony now...whether satisfied or not...this is where you will likely stay. Maybe you are supervising students who hope to be in your position one day. Some are brilliant... while others have you wondering how they even found their way to work today.
25 Years In: The Burn Out- Where did the time go? You've seen at least 9.5 million patients and the therapeutic process is becoming rote. There is a whole new generation of providers behind you now. Drinking increases and you question your life choices....but still go to work the next day.
35 Years In: Run Towards the Cruise Ship!- If you are smart, unlike me, you should be seriously considering your retirement now. You have at least 14 cruises or other vacations planned with your family, significant other, or ideally alone. You've worked your ass off for 35 years and helped thousands of people along the way. You deserve a cold cocktail on a beautiful veranda in Antigua or other exotic location.
As cynical as he is, Dr. P (who preferred I don't give his full name) has literally helped thousands of young people over the years and is a well respected expert in his field. When I sent him this draft for approval, he proudly shared that 9/29/17 was his last day on the job and his is indeed headed for Antigua.