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“The reason I started studying psychology, and the reason I finished, are completely different.”

Monash Online
Thanks to our brand partner, Monash Online

As a 26-year-old with a Bachelor of Psychology degree, who started a Master of Research in Psychology in 2015, it might look a little odd on paper that I now work in the media.

Of course, it isn’t.

People who study psychology enter a diverse range of fields after they graduate. The peers who I studied with have gone on to pursue medicine, clinical psychology, academia, teaching, advertising, and law. Wherever they’ve gone, they’ve been highly valued, because psychology doesn’t just teach you about the brain and human behaviour. It teaches you how to write, how to think critically, how to problem solve, how to research, how to construct an argument, and how to think creatively – skills that ensure success in any professional environment.

My decision to study psychology, however, wasn’t based on these advantages.

I was always going to finish school with an interest in psychology.

I have an auntie and a cousin with intellectual disabilities, a cousin with schizophrenia, and a grandfather who struggles with anxiety and depression. I had seen mental health issues first hand my whole life, and more than anything, I wanted to understand them. Really, really understand them.

What drew me even closer to psychology, and ultimately convinced me to pursue it at university, was the type of understanding it promised.

Psychology is a science. It’s not airy-fairy. It’s not a discipline where you leisurely sit and reflect on issues and ways to solve them. You go out into the world with questions and you find real answers. Psychology is research-based and innovative. It’s exciting. And it’s a challenge.

It’s also unlike anything else you’ll ever study.

"No matter what, I was always going to finish school with an interest in psychology." Image: Supplied.
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I remember arriving at one psychology tutorial, and having our teacher take half of us outside. She explained that the people in the room had hidden a bomb, and it was going to explode within minutes. It was our job to find it.

When we came back in to the room, and "played along" looking for the bomb, something became immediately obvious - we were treated like we were crazy. The other students assured us there was no bomb, because why would there be a bomb in a university tutorial, and told us to sit down. They were patronising, and eventually frustrated.

This, our teacher said, is what it's like to have delusions - a cardinal symptom of schizophrenia. Delusions are complex and integrated, and as a result can't be easily refuted by logic.

It's the compassionate side of psychology, in conjunction with its evidence-based side, that built my passion for it.

What I realised early on is that psychology isn't just a course - it's a way of thinking and being. People who study psychology see the world in a certain way. They're methodical and inquisitive and can critically evaluate an argument - but they also genuinely want to help others. The pursuit of understanding human behaviour and using those findings to help people is never far from peoples minds. Not every degree attracts these type of students.

Because psychology is a relatively young discipline, and it's growing and broadening so rapidly, the interest in it is exponential. Ultimately, the world itself is inextricably tied to human behaviour, and understanding people is invaluable. As a result, many people already in successful careers find themselves looking to psychology.

My colleague - one of the most intelligent and experienced journalists I've come across - studied psychology. As have people in a range of fields who want to complement their knowledge and expertise with scientific research and writing skills, as well as an understanding of psychopathology, social psychology, developmental psychology, and countless other areas.

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"Psychology isn't just a university course..." Image: iStock.

Personally, the moment my study of psychology became the most valuable was in my early 20s, when I started to have my own issues with anxiety. I found myself paralysed by fear, and unable to write for long periods of time.

Of course, the ultimate irony was that during my Honours year, I was researching anxiety while being too anxious to write about it. So meta.

At this point, my degree became about realising that without psychology, and the body of research behind it, problems like anxiety wouldn't be acknowledged and treated in an evidence-based way.

It became about realising that without the developments of this discipline, some people suffer for an entire lifetime.

When I got help (a process that is never easy and straightforward - but can work when you let a professional in), I was able to write again. It wasn't easy, and I still struggle, but in a way, it was psychology that allowed me to pursue a career in the media. I've always loved to write, and it was a psychologist who allowed me to do it again.

The value of psychology both academically and in a practical sense is what makes it such an invaluable degree. And one I'm proud to have achieved.

Have you studied psychology or ever thought about it? Tell us your experiences in the comments section below.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Monash Online

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