Rizaldos: "Empathy is crucial to be a good clinical psychologist"
Miguel Ángel Rizaldos He is one of those clinical psychologists whose curriculum can not be synthesized in a few lines. Born in Aranjuez (Madrid) in 1967, he studied at the Psychology faculty of the Complutense University of the Spanish capital. In addition to devoting body and soul to clinical psychology, both in his face and online consultation, Rizaldos finds time to teach in different Masters and courses, as well as being a regular in the media and passionate about running.
As if this were not enough, he is also one of the most active and prominent psychologists in social networks, where he contributes "his grain of sand" (as he puts it) to the dissemination of a myriad of topics related to clinical psychology. Today we had the privilege to share a talk with him.
What made you become a psychologist and, specifically, a clinical psychologist?
Uf ... Well, 30 years ago I decided to study psychology. Recently I celebrated, together with my classmates, the 25th anniversary of my degree in the Faculty of Psychology of the Complutense University of Madrid. Seems like yesterday.
There were two reasons that led me to pursue this career: on the one hand I had older friends who started doing the race before I did, and on the other hand it had always attracted me to know how the behavior of people worked.
You are also working to offer training courses on topics related to psychology and have taught Master classes. Did you see yourself devoting part of your time to teaching when you started your career as a psychologist?
Absolutely not. But there comes a time when you have the need to transmit all your experience. I think it is my obligation as a professional and as passionate about psychology. There is no better legacy. I am an enthusiast of the skills of the therapist, I consider that the post of psychologist after 25 years must be transmitted and that unfortunately is not learned in the university.
Clinical psychologists have to have and work with scientifically based tools and techniques, but it is also necessary that we have the "art" to do it individually and adapted to each person. That is something that is not explained in the books.
The environment in which clinical psychologists must work has changed a lot in a short time due, above all, to the appearance of the Internet. Do you think that mental health professionals are taking full advantage of the potential offered by the network of networks? What is your personal experience in this medium?
I think that not everyone is taking advantage of the internet, although there are more and more professionals who join.
For me, for more than 4 years, social networks and the internet have helped me to spread general guidelines that can be very useful for many people. I firmly believe that it is a duty as a health professional in general and psychology in particular.
With the internet I can have a more continuous and contingent presence in therapy. People greatly appreciate and feel supported even if the relationship is not (or has never been) in person. It is also important because in this way it facilitates the person to "empower", that is, to be autonomous in their own treatment and it is they who work on its improvement; something that is fundamental in psychology.
First of all we must clarify that online therapy is not a therapy in itself, but a way to reach people who need therapy. It's about taking advantage of communication and information technologies (TICs) as tools that can make us more accessible professionals.
As in other aspects of life, not everyone will feel comfortable, or will see it possible. It's normal, there are some cultural barriers that still struggle to overcome. It will also depend on the case to see if it is the most appropriate or not to be able to opt for online therapy. In psychology, as in health in general, we can not be on the sidelines of technological advances and we must try to integrate them into our day-to-day life.
On the other hand, it can be done from therapeutic treatment until the resolution of small clarifying doubts, simple consultations or psychological advice, that otherwise could not take place, since normally people do not consider going to a psychologist's consultation so that I will solve a little doubt. It is, in short, to be more versatile professionals.
What do you think is what clinical psychologists contribute to society, beyond the services offered to each of their clients individually?
I am passionate about the dissemination of psychology and I firmly believe in the potential of the Internet as a tool to reach more people and make psychology more accessible. Therefore, I consider a professional obligation to disclose content on social networks. I also work as a clinical psychologist in different media, I believe in the advantages and effectiveness of psychology to generate well-being.
Lately there is much talk about Positive Psychology, a branch of psychology that emphasizes the importance of concepts such as personal development and life goals linked to a meaning. What do you think about the approach you propose?
Positive psychology, together with third-generation behavioral therapies, represent the most innovative that has occurred in recent years in the field of psychology. They have been and are a point of inflection towards a greater development and effectiveness of psychology.
It would be trivializing to consider that even though I am having difficulties, I feel good, that only being positive will the problems be solved. You have to act. And this implies will, struggle, overcoming, sacrifice ... All this, initially, can be a great obstacle and causes us rejection because it costs us effort. We tend to save energy. We want solutions without work. In life, the distance between love and power is shortened with training, with effort, with perseverance. That is, not only thinking, but also doing; as our ancients would say: "joining the gesture to the word".
Do you think that people are more skilled at managing their emotions than a few years ago? How do you assess the influence of the crisis on our psychological health?
At the present time, and thanks to the rise of emotional intelligence, I think we have the strategies to regulate our emotions in a more optimal way. This does not mean that it reaches all people as it should. It is one aspect, that of emotional intelligence, which is increasingly taken into account in the education of our children, although I believe that we are at the beginning of transmitting to the new generations a management of the emotions that generate well-being and Health. Psychologists are obliged to disclose strategies that have already been scientifically proven to be effective in generating emotional well-being, an issue that is intimately linked to health.
The crisis has put the weakness of the welfare state on the table. Not long ago I was with my primary care doctor and when asking about the percentage of his patients who had anxiety or depression problems due to the crisis, he told me about 80%. The problem is that it is not being treated properly.
According to the protocols of the WHO, pharmacological treatment is not combined with psychological care. In Spain they are "stuffing" psychological problems. The absence of clinical psychologists in primary care in our country, as there are in other European countries, is regrettable. And the few psychologists in the mental health services are saturated and this leads to very limited attention.
From the point of view of a psychologist with a lot of experience behind his back, what is the message you would try to convey to those young people who want to devote themselves to psychology?
The only thing that would remind them is that they are going to work with people, and this implies that you are going to have to be involved as human beings too.
I understand my work as a psychologist from the coherence and passion in this profession. I also consider it crucial to foster empathy with the person I work with, my patient, to build a therapeutic and human environment that will help him achieve his goals. If you are not willing to do it, better dedicate yourself to something else. I believe that in this work you can not be aseptic, and lack of empathy from there is not effective. People are much more than a diagnosis and need your involvement.