Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Forensically speaking

Ten years in, I've managed to edit down my answer to "What do you do?" to one of about three short answers. Answer #1 is my first response and the one I use in small talk, with people I don't know very well, or people who may automatically assume that because I'm a shrink I need to hear about all their crazy relatives. For them, I say, "I work for the state." If I'm pushed I'll say I work in Mental Health. This is the only time I appreciate the patriarchy, because they often assume that I'm an assistant to a nice boy doctor and move on. Answer #2 is my more truthful, but still not super involved answer, which is that I'm a psychologist for the prison department. Answer #3 is reserved for people who will likely hear work stories on a more regular basis and so it involves explaining court orders, audits, and how even though I'm a psychologist, I don't do therapy.

Most people just say, "I'm a forensic psychologist." It's ridiculous, but I have such a strong reaction to hearing that. I was trained as a forensic psychologist. I work now as a correctional psychologist. The two sound like they're the same thing, and the two distinctions are often used interchangeably. However, they are two very different fields with different intents and different training. Forensic psychologists work with the courts, pre-adjudication. They do evaluations and assessments and assist the court in it's decision making. They may work as expert witnesses, in forensic hospitals determining sanity, or as evaluators. Correctional psychologists, on the other hand, work post-adjudication. Correctional psychologists provide clinical services to a correctional population. This requires knowledge of diagnosis and treatment interventions, as well as an understanding of criminology and prison culture. 

I was talking with my boss the other day about a suicide case I was reviewing, and I was totally geeking out on some of the details. Why did he choose that particular method? Given his history, why is this one person the only one he was ever nice to? What was it about that day that made it different? There were so many fascinating questions that I really wanted to answer, and she sort of laughed and said, "I never realized how forensic you were!" And that gave me pause, because I AM forensic. I LOVE that shit. I'm fascinated by what drives people to do what they do. I love interesting people, curious situations, and things that seem completely bizarre but really aren't. It's the reason that I forced C to listen to cannibalism podcasts for 10 hours (so romantic! Also, apparently we taste like pork. Now you know.) 

I haven't been loving my job lately. I think it's part mid-life crisis, part grief/trauma response from my dad dying, and part this maybe not being my ideal job. I've been feeling really apathetic about the whole thing, and maybe a little petulant and annoyed with myself, since it's a good gig that just allowed me to replace my hoopty and buy a house with a (still not working but...) pool. But when she described me as "forensic" it was like a light went on. I can find ways to structure my work so that it taps into that part of me, that part that gets to be curious and do those investigations. And what a blessing is that?! 

As part of my new motivation, I'm trying to make more space for curiosity in my personal life too. If I can spend god knows how many hours on facebook, I can also read about interesting people and concepts. I listened to a podcast with the author of Thanks a Thousand today, and now I'm totally into the history of coffee and food safety guidelines. Did you know they used to cut coffee with dirt and baked horse liver?! How weird is that? Also, apparently Phil Spector once surprised his wife with a set of twins for Christmas. I have SO many questions about that. I don't think that coffee and Phil Spector's twins are connected though. Or are they? Like my dad once said to me, "Sometimes your mind gets away from you, doesn't it?" 

So all of that to say, I'd love to hear what you guys get geeked out about.  There are so many esoteric but fascinating things out there in the world. Share the geekiness! 

1 comment:

  1. I am also having a work midlife crisis and am doing a bit of self-motivated restructuring. the flexibility is basically what I went to school for a thousand years for. cheers!