Guillermo left the world of advertising to become a psychologist: a vocational decision.
Some think that psychologists engage in therapy solely to satisfy their curiosity in a purely intellectual sense; to be able to study the human being as one who observes a colony of bacteria from a microscope. This way of understanding psychotherapy is not only incomplete, it is fallacious: in many cases, it is precisely the human and empathic component that makes many people decide to dedicate themselves to this profession.
This is the case of Guillermo Orozco, a Canarian psychologist who left behind a promising career dedicated to advertising to turn his life around and become a psychologist. His testimony shows that vocation can sometimes override the inertia of continuing to work on something for the simple fact of not having to adapt to change.
Interview with Guillermo Orozco: psychotherapy as a vital philosophy
Guillermo Orozco is a General Health Psychologist specialized in third-generation and cognitive-behavioral therapies, with consultation in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Your career path is a declaration of intent: changing your profession and city may be worth it if it is to develop as a professional for vocational reasons. In the following lines we speak with him.
Guillermo, before entering the professional field of psychology, you worked in the world of advertising, and you even had your own agency in that sector. What made you decide to change your life by starting to study psychology?
There were several reasons that led me to consider changing my professional career, but the most important was my own process of self-knowledge and personal growth. I started working very young, from the age of 17 I was serving drinks, and at 19 I combined the work of a graphic designer with that of a waiter. When I managed to save a little money, I joined to set up an advertising agency in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. They were good years and business was going well, but I always felt that something was missing.
I started reading a lot about personal growth, psychology, philosophy, metaphysics, and spirituality. My values and personal concerns were changed, I felt that I was evolving as a human being, and the simple fact of living to work, earn money, get married, have children, buy you a house, a car… stopped making sense to me. A great compassion for human suffering developed within me, and I was uneasy about the meaning we give to life. I realized that what is really important is the people and the emotions we share, and I felt the need to do my bit to make this world a better place.
So I made the decision to give my life a deeper meaning and dedicate myself to something that was really worthwhile. I know it sounds like a cliché, but I decided to dedicate myself to helping people, and I succeeded.
Although in the world of marketing there is a lot of psychology, probably already in the passage to university and later to postgraduate training you will notice an important change in what you did. Were you able to adapt without problems throughout the process that led you to become a psychologist?
When I started studying for a degree at UNED I was still working as a freelance web designer, so it was a great effort due to the little time I had, but I really enjoyed those years. Each book I read, each new subject, was to delve deeper and deeper into a world that I was passionate about. He studied and read all the free time he had, including Saturdays and Sundays. This effort was reflected in my academic record, which was very good and allowed me to choose a university to study the Master in General Health Psychology.
The biggest difficulty I found when I went to Madrid to study the Master, since it took me a lot to adapt to the city. I missed the sea a lot, my family, my friends, and the one who was my partner at that time. In addition, Madrid is a city with a difficult rhythm to carry, I will never forget the Nuevos Ministerios metro at 8 in the morning, with hundreds of people jostling to enter …
But the effort was worth it again, since I wanted to study and learn with the best, and the Autonomous University of Madrid has one of the best Schools of Psychology in Spain. So, when I finished the master, I felt safe and ready to start my professional career as a psychologist.
The popularization of online psychotherapy in recent years is a fact. Do you think psychologists need to adopt a new way of managing their personal marketing to take advantage of the potential of this type of therapy?
Definitely personal marketing is essential for any professional, especially if you want to direct part of your work to the online world. In my experience, it is very positive to dedicate effort and a significant economic investment in marketing, since this way you reach many more people, beyond your own locality. I have a website that I update regularly by publishing articles on my blog, I am in various professional directories, I publish ads on Google AdWords, social networks, etc.
When you dedicate yourself to a health profession, such as psychological therapy, you are dealing with people who are suffering and need a trained professional. The fact that patients can know and trust you before the first consultation is essential. Thanks to digital marketing and social networks, the people who contact me already know me widely, and they know that they place their trust and their health in someone who deserves it, and not in a stranger.
What do you think psychologists can learn about the human being if they look at the field of advertising?
It is really advertising that has been feeding on discoveries in psychology for years. We know how people can make decisions based on emotions, and then “rationalize” them, as they trust brands by mere continuous exposure to them, or by associating them with people they admire, and so on. What I have learned from the human being looking at advertising is that we need to trust something, we need to be able to believe and be sure that what we are doing makes sense.
We need to be understood and valued, we need to evolve, love, and be loved … all of this is what advertisers offer us in their campaigns, but we will not achieve that by buying the products they offer us, we achieve it by knowing ourselves, and growing as people.
A new car will not make you more confident, it will make a healthy self-esteem. Having the latest smartphone will not make you have more and better friends, that is achieved with social skills. A very expensive perfume does not make you more attractive, it does an assertive demeanor, self-confidence and charisma. Advertising teaches us that people seek happiness and well-being, but we continue to look outside ourselves for what we have to look for within ourselves.
What aspects of the psychological intervention caught your attention the most during your time at university? Does it correspond to what you ended up specializing in?
When I was in Madrid I was lucky enough to study with wonderful professionals who fueled my passion for the profession. In particular, couples therapy subjects were exciting to me, so I decided to delve into that topic. At present it is one of my favorite areas of work, in fact, many of the individual consultations that I attend have to do with couple issues, which is a recurring theme in my consultation.
On the other hand, I was able to delve into third generation therapies, especially Acceptance and Commitment, and Mindfulness. This type of therapy is indicated in certain cases, such as rumination, intrusive thoughts, relapses into depression, personality disorders, among others. After completing the master’s degree, I continued studying how to apply these techniques in consultation, and today I combine them with traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Interesting new research is constantly emerging in the field of psychology, so there is always news. What are you most interested in continuing to train today?
My daily work is as a therapist in a private practice, treating problems of anxiety, depression, self-esteem, stress, emotional problems, fears, phobias, etc., so all I am currently studying is psychology applied to therapy, in order to be more efficient in helping my patients.
As I mentioned before, third-generation contextual therapies (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, Integral Couple Therapy, and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) are being of great help to me on a day-to-day basis, since they are tools that complement perfectly with what I studied during my college years.
The scientifically proven psychological therapy, and that has proven results, is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This is the type of therapy that is officially learned in formal education, and it is the one that forms the basis of my treatments, but I have realized that there are people and situations in which, for example, Mindfulness and Mindfulness Therapy Acceptance and Commitment, they work wonders. There are numerous scientific studies that support the results of third generation therapies, so I feel more and more sure of the usefulness of these techniques.
The goal is that the people who come to my practice improve as quickly as possible and avoid relapses, so all the tools that I can include in my therapeutic repertoire will be very useful. In addition, I love my profession, and I am passionate about reading, studying, and constantly updating myself with the latest advances in psychological therapy.
You studied and worked in Madrid, but you returned to your native land, the Canary Islands. Are there differences in the way of working in one place or another, or in the type of needs of the patients?
Once you have grown up by the sea, that is not forgotten. I decided to return to the Canary Islands because of the quality of life, my family, the climate, water sports and the human quality of the people here.
One of the things that caught the attention of the people who came to therapy in Madrid was that many of them were from provincial towns that had moved for work. These people, although they had been living and working in the capital for years, still felt lonely and missed their place of birth.
In Madrid he treated a lot of anxiety, work stress, and feelings of loneliness and sadness. Perfectionism, self-demand, the need for control, a low tolerance for uncertainty, a lack of emotional intelligence… All this ravages people who live in a big city, where life is extremely competitive. There we are surrounded by thousands of people, but often you feel very alone.
In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, despite being a large city, since it is the ninth most populated in Spain, the pace is different. The sea, the climate and the proximity of all services can greatly help people’s good mood, although the feeling of isolation can have a negative influence.
The problems that I see in the office don’t really differ much from what I worked in the capital: anxiety, stress, depression, relationship problems, low self-esteem, emotional problems, behavioral disorders and fears and insecurities in children, maladjustment problems in adolescents, etc.
Do you think that online therapy and the technological advances that are emerging will make it almost no matter in a short time if the psychologist is physically away from the patients?
I practice online therapy by video call, and I make sure that patients find a quiet and quiet place for the sessions, that they have a good Internet connection and that they use a desktop or laptop computer. I think it is necessary that the video call comes as close as possible to being face to face with a person. Communication is essential in psychological therapy, and everything in us communicates, not just words. Body language is essential to be able to receive a message correctly, that is why it is very important to be able to see the person on the other side of the screen well.
The advantages of video call therapy are many, since it can be better combined with the busy life we lead, you can reach people in isolated places who do not have qualified professionals nearby, or even people who want to receive therapy in Spanish and who reside abroad.
The new generations are very used to communicating in this way, by messages, mobile video calls, audio messages, etc. I believe that the option of online therapy will be increasingly in demand, and we must be prepared for it as mental health professionals.