Regular Frisky readers will recognize the name Ami Angelowicz — she’s one of our bloggers and the genius mind behind our “Decode My Dream” column. But at the young age of 31, Ami has had three careers — actress, teacher, and now writer. Before she started penning for The Frisky, she was a working actress in L.A. when she made the decision to go back to school to pursue a Master’s in Counseling Psychology. After the jump, Ami explains how going back to school for psych made her an awesome drama teacher, not to mention a thoughtful writer we’re psyched to call one of our own.The Frisky: You were working as an actress in Los Angeles when you decided to take a break from the limelight and go back to school — for what exactly? And why?
Ami Angelowicz: I went to get my Master’s in Counseling Psychology. Honestly, I was kind of lost at the time. I had just decided I didn’t want to act anymore and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was 23 at the time and acting had become like … a death for me since I had been acting since I was 4 years old. I was just over my acting career and wanted to be doing something else.
The Frisky: So why psychology?
AA: I started seeing this therapist — he was a bald midget, seriously, and I started to think he and therapy were rad, something I wanted to pursue in greater depth. I had minored in psychology in college so I already had an interest in psychology. Back then, I got really into Carl Jung and dream analysis as part of my creative process. My bald, midget therapist told me to get a day planner and gave me existentialist philosophy tapes to listen to and my interest developed further from there.
The Frisky: I’ve heard this from other people who studied psychology — that they had experienced the positive benefits themselves.
AA: Yeah. Also, my grandmother that I never met suffered from mental illness — there were not great treatments at the time and it ruined her life. And then personally, in college I struggled with a severe depression. So all of this, coupled with my bald midget therapist, my obsession with dreams and Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, and my lack of direction at the time made it seem like the perfect career.
I also was drawn to studying psychology because I have always had an instinct for understanding people and their deeper motives. This made me a good actress and I was sure it would make me a good therapist.
The Frisky: You eventually got a job teaching — psychology or something else?
AA: No, theater, actually. It was kind of a fluke, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my training as a therapist.
The Frisky: How so?
AA: Well, I taught at an all-girls Catholic school in East Los Angeles. My students had a lot of problems. Most of the girls knew nothing about theater and my class became an outlet for the girls to talk about or express their issues openly.
The Frisky: Did that happen right away?
AA: It took some time but eventually the class was like a glorified group therapy session. When we would start to do sensitive stuff, really heavy stuff would come out, like sexual abuse, physical abuse … stuff like that. Having a strong background in psychology and counseling prepared me to deal with it. My psych background helped me know how to lead a group, how to respond when that heavy stuff came up. It helped me empathize with them and not judge. I ended up teaching at the school for four years.
My acting career obviously wasn’t null and void either. Being an actor has helped me so much in everything I do. First of all, there were times when I was going through a hard personal time as a teacher, and one thing you can’t do is let your students see you sweat. But I knew how to hide it, how to play it off. Also, I did a lot of improvisation, which really helps keeps things flowing when you’re lecturing or when a student says or asks something unexpected.
The Frisky: You no longer work as a teacher and instead make your living as a freelance writer for The Frisky, among other places. Has your psych background come in handy when it comes to your writing?
AA: Oh yeah! Having a background in both psychology and theater has definitely made me a better writer. As a result of my expertise in these areas, I understand characters, dialogue, how to express a scene, etc., so much better.
Plus, of course, I studied a lot of Carl Jung, which is integral to writing my dream analysis column, “Decode My Dream.” I learned a lot about dream symbols, psychodrama, all that trippy stuff when I was studying psych — all key in decoding what’s going on in your brain while you’re sleeping.
The Frisky: So going to school for psychology has had a big impact on your career, even though you didn’t go on to become a therapist?
AA: Totally. I think all of the things I do are just different mediums that express the same thing — an interest in people and moments in life that are difficult to understand and finding the ability to put them into words, to express and share them with others. You always need to understand people … including yourself.
This article is sponsored by Kaplan; however, the article was independently produced by The Frisky and the opinions and views expressed by the interviewer and interviewee are their own.