Copyright © 2022 Hannes Wessels Therapist & Educational Psychologist
Why I became a psychologist
- My own experience with anxiety fuels my determination to help people as a therapist.
- Psychology fascinates me. My curiosity drives me to find the most evidenced based therapy techniques as a psychologist.
- My journey to become a psychologist was not straightforward. Through my own struggles I developed an empathy and understanding for people going through struggles.
- Now I work as a psychologist in Cape Town to help people live meaningful lives despite the obstacles and pain they might be going through.
I’ve always been fascinated by the workings of the human mind. But becoming a psychologist/therapist was not a straightforward journey. Part of the fascination with the human mind was also driven to understand myself. I knew I wanted to help people, but I had no idea how and in what capacity. It took me a while to figure this out.
After completing a few degrees, and feeling mostly directionless in my 20s, I can finally say I have found a field to understand myself, the human mind and help people. Now through my work as a Psychologist in Cape Town I help people that went through and are going through similar difficulties I had.
Here is a little more about my journey, why I became a therapist and how I help people.
When I was younger, I struggled with anxiety, insecurity, and self-esteem issues.
The desire to understand people was part theoretical and part personal. I wanted to understand my own feelings and behaviour better. As a child, I struggled with anxiety and insecurity. I was shy, introverted, and worried about making mistakes. I often felt like people didn’t understand me or were judging me. As my younger self, I felt as if the world revolved around the people who had high self-esteem—they seemed confident in themselves and knew exactly what they wanted out of life.
My teachers, lecturers, family and friends always told me that I have so much potential, yet I was never living up to my own expectations. I just could never understand why there was such a mismatch between my ambitions and actions. Often I will find myself procrastinating and binge-watching series just to avoid the feelings of overwhelm or irritation with myself. This did not help my feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame.
Until my late twenties, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I floated around, and conformed to everyone else’s expectations and not mine. I looked everywhere to find the answers. From the outside, it looked like I had things figured out. If you met me at 27 your first impression might have been “ This guy had things figured out”. Yet I still had an overwhelming feeling of insignificance. Daily, I compared myself to other people. It always felt like my friends had things more figured out than I. On Facebook (Instagram was not a thing back then) it seemed everyone was living their best life. I could just not shake off the feeling of being insignificant and not being good enough. Saying I had a daily struggle with feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety is an understatement. I was very good at putting up a friendly face. Reflecting back I would have easily qualified with the criteria for depression and anxiety. This was something I have always struggled with.
Throughout my journey to becoming a psychologist I have worked through these feelings and help others overcome their obstacles.
The human mind fascinates me. I am very curious person, especially about the human mind. Growing up, movies like Matilda captivated me. As a child I wanted to do the same things she did with her mind. Logically I could not move things with my mind. But the Shopping Channel advertised a product called Mega Memory. I repeatedly watched this infomercial. My parents couldn’t afford the programme, but a psychologist family friend gave me a book about memory tricks. I still use some of the techniques taught in this book today. Reflecting back this was most likely the first sign being a psychologist suited me.
How did my journey to become a psychologist start? I have always had a desire to help people. My first job was working as a teacher. A colleague (which is now a good friend), was busy with his psychology honours. Sharing a break duty, he mentioned he believes I will be a good psychologist. I started to explore the possibility and I realised that with a few additional electives I can apply for the honours in a year’s time. Seeing already I felt stuck, I could not see any damage in trying this. So, I enrolled at the university to continue my psychology studies.
Fast forward a few years later I found myself being accepted for Masters in psychology. Studying psychology did not fix the sense of stuckness but it gave me some momentum and the right resources. A shift happened. The same energy I was spending on myself, transformed into a drive to help people in my capacity as a therapist. I wanted to help people move forward in life.
With the drive to help and working through my own therapy, I started exploring different therapy modalities. After being trained in various modalities and working as a psychologist for several years I found a few approaches to therapy very useful to my clients. The modalities include:
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
- Life Design Counselling.
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
Herewith a brief outline of these modalities.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, is a type of psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of mental health issues. The core principle of ACT is Acceptance. Acceptance refers to the idea of accepting thoughts and feelings without judgment. This enables you to move on from difficult experiences and live in the present moment. Commitment refers to the commitment to taking actions that are aligned with your values. This can involve making lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy or exercising regularly. Research on ACT is very clear, it is an effective treatment for conditions such as anxiety, depression, and other difficulties. It is also effective in helping people to cope with chronic pain and other chronic health conditions.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on helping people to change their thoughts and behaviours. CBT is an effective treatment for a wide range of mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and other disorders. I love CBT because it is a practical and goal-oriented approach to therapy. CBT can help you to identify and challenge negative thinking patterns, develop healthy coping strategies, and make positive changes in you life. I have seen CBT help many people overcome challenges and achieve their goals. If you are struggling with your mental health, I encourage you to give CBT a try.
Mindfulness based cognitive therapy
Mindfulness based cognitive therapy is a type of therapy that helps people suffering from various disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy is so important because it helps people to be more aware of their thoughts and feelings, and to understand how these thoughts and feelings can impact their lives. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy can help your to feel more in control of your life, and to make better choices. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy is an essential part of many people’s lives, and can help them to live happier, healthier lives.
Life Design Counselling
Life Design Counselling is a process that can help individuals to get a direction in life. It is an impactful technique for career counselling, and it has helped many people to make informed choices about their future. Life Design Counselling takes a holistic approach to career counselling, and it considers factors such as values, interests, skills, personality and the life you want to create for yourself. The Life Design Counselling process can help you to clarify your goals and make a plan to achieve them. It is an invaluable tool for career counselling, and it can help your to make the best choices for your future.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
EMDR is a type of therapy that is used to help people heal from trauma. It is a highly effective treatment for PTSD, and has been shown to be helpful for people who have experienced other types of traumas, such as sexual abuse, natural disasters, and voilence. EMDR works by helping the brain to process and store memories in a more adaptive way. During EMDR therapy, I guide you in making side-to-side eye movements while focusing on a traumatic memory. The eye movements are thought to help the brain to processing the memory in a more efficient way. EMDR is a short-term therapy, and most people only need a few sessions to experience significant improvements.
Psychometric testing is a field of assessment that uses psychological measurements. Psychometric tests are commonly used in workplaces and educational settings. Psychometric tests helps you to identify your skills and abilities. The most common type of psychometric test is an IQ test, which measures a person’s general intelligence. However, there are also tests that measure personality, aptitude, and other specific skills. Psychometric testing can be an invaluable tool for your own self awareness. However, the tests must be administered correctly in order to produce accurate results. Furthermore, it is important to remember that psychometric tests are just one part of the assessment process and often aids your own personal therapy.
Through my own journey and personal struggles I have developed an strong empathy and understanding for people and their struggles. This combined with my natural curiosity helped me find a suitable career. Now working as a psychologist in Cape Town, I use some of the most widely accepted therapy modalities to help people with mental health difficulties to move forward in their lives.