The stereotype of being a mind reader comes up quite often when the topic of psychology or being in a psychology major program is brought up. Before I was in the program, I too thought that being a psychologist would allow you to read minds, but now I understand that that is a big misconception. But how exactly did this stereotype come to be? What sets apart a psychologist from a psychic, and how may we address this stereotype?
This stereotyping likely comes from the fact that psychologists are trained to be able to observe and note down cues of their clients, and piece together any information the client may provide, allowing the psychologist to hypothesize what issues a client may be having, as well as the potential cause/s of the said issue. To those unaware, this process may look like mind reading, but for others, this is seen as one of the common practices of psychology, commonly found in psychotherapy.
To understand how psychotherapy works, the client talks with a trained mental health professional, exchange information and conduct the therapy in a safe, non-judgmental, and confidential environment to encourage the client to explore and understand their current feeling and behavior, the objective is to gain valuable information and coping abilities (Barnes & Wills, 2020).
To explain further about psychotherapy, it is according to the American Psychological Association (2020) Psychotherapy possesses several approaches which includes cognitive-behavioral, Interpersonal, and other forms of talk therapy. The objective of psychotherapy is to provide a supportive environment that encourages the client to talk openly, while the psychologist keeps a neutral and non-judgemental stance. This is done to help build rapport between a psychologist and his client so that they may help each other in identifying the issues said client may have, what causes them, and what they can do to manage it.
It will be challenging to support this claim, as there are no official studies on this topic, especially in the Philippine setting. But it has been common for individuals working or studying under psychology to be asked the “read my mind” question. Rather than react in a negative way, we as psychology majors should maybe instead take the time to help them understand what psychology really is and what it’s about. What we can do to avoid misconceptions is to inform people that psychology is still a science, similar to a medical course. The psychologist observes the client, tries to talk to them and gathers data to make a diagnosis, and is not someone who is able to read your mind. Psychologists are very much like medical practitioners that you’re familiar with, simply specializing in a different domain.
American Psychological Association. (2020, July 31). Understanding psychotherapy and how it works. https://www.apa.org/topics/understanding-psychotherapy
Barnes, C., & Wills, M. (2020, Mar 16). The Basics of Psychotherapy. Psychology Today. Retrieved January 10, 2021, from. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-illness-in-america/202003/the-basics-psychotherapy#:~:text=Psychotherapy%2C%20also%20known%20as%20talk,gain%20valuable%20insights%20and%20coping
Beeghly, E. (2015), What is a Stereotype? What is Stereotyping?. Hypatia, 30: 675-691. https://doi.org/10.1111/hypa.12170
Gregory, M. (n.d.). Can a Psychologist read your mind? PsychHelp. Retrieved from. https://psychhelp.com.au/can-a-psychologist-read-your-mind/#:~:text=So%2C%20while%20your%20psychologist%20can,and%20honest%20about%20your%20problems