Stage 9: Reflections of a fresh graduate from a Masters program

I’m an Australian woman in my early 40’s and came to psychology quite late. Having served Australia in the RAAF and worked in adult education as a computer lecturer, I got up one morning and realised all I had ever wanted to be was a psychologist – the classic epiphany. That was in July 2005. I started study almost immediately, and have recently submitted my thesis to finalise my Masters in Psychology (Forensic), through James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland. I was able to register as a psychologist in August 2011.
I pursued my undergrad degree and honours, with a heap of credit from a previous degree externally through USQ in Toowoomba. I then underwent my Masters by block attendance in Townsville – which was quite a commute from my home state of South Australia. I thoroughly enjoyed my study, and struggled to see how one can be an effective psychologist without the learning implicit in a Masters level qualification. I gained excellent and varied experience in my placements, with placements at a men’s Labour Prison, a Child Development Unit specialising in autism,  a private practise forensic psychologist, and at the university clinic in Townsville. All of these, excepting the clinic, were completed in Adelaide. I secured contract employment with the prison after my placement, which is always nice.

In September 2011, I moved to Tasmania, and although a very early career, I went straight into private practise, and I love it! I am largely doing therapy work, much of it sourced through the local probation and parole office, and so I get to use my forensic training. Some days it’s hard and I feel out of my depth, but I consult my peers and the research for guidance constantly. I know I’m fairly green to be out on my own, but I live in a regional city and didn’t want to work for government full-time or rehab providers. I’m also a bit of an autism specialist and am moving into delivering social skills programs for kids in the local community where no other services exist. My own son is diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome so this is a bit of a long standing interest for me. I’m also doing a few days a week with the local Education Department, and have built new networks and friends through that work. They are very supportive, and given the shortage of psychs in Tasmania willing to do the work, they’re as grateful to have me as I am to do the work.
Being on my own, and not in a practise with others is a challenge, but my business is growing every day. I love doing educational and forensic work, and hope in the future to be able to do more assessment and report writing than therapy work, in particular for defence lawyers. The reality is that breaking into that market can take time, and given I’m in a regional city, I have to create the market too.
Professionally, making new networks is an ongoing challenge and pleasure. I love meeting the psychologists and associated professions here, and I hope that we both learn from each other. I am a member of the Australian Psychological Society and the Australia New Zealand Association for Psychiatry, Psychology and the Law, and value the benefits of both organisations both to my personal and professional development.

I have never regretted my chosen path, even for a minute. The study was long and arduous at times, and sometimes I have to work long hours. I have to kick myself sometimes and say “You ARE a psychologist”. And you know, when a client session comes together and they walk out, it’s a great feeling knowing that we do make a difference in more ways than we realise, and that all those years of study were worth every minute.


SGPsychStud: Analogies - The passenger and the driver

I often think about psychological things and how things work whenever I take a ride. This next analogy took place when I was in a car ride.

The analogy that I thought of was: Doing counselling or being a counsellor or therapist in a counselling session is just like taking a car ride.

With the client being the driver, the therapist would be in the passenger seat. Counselling is done normally with the client being the one in charge of directing the "wheel" or the session, and the therapist's role is to sit by the client's side, experiencing what the driver is experiencing.
Being empathic, the therapist would (or try to) experience similar things as the client, which helps in improving their relationship and as well as reaching the "destination", which is towards resolving the client's issue.
The driver is often usually seeing only the "outside" of the car, which is similar to clients only focusing on the issues. But as the passenger, the therapist can not only see the issues, he can also see what is happening in the inner thoughts of the driver, by paying attention to what is happening in the car.

Work of the therapist is not just noticing the "inner" thoughts and "outer" experiences, but also to see how they link to each other, to find the link between the experiences and thoughts, which will help in identifying the conflict in the client.

Yes the client is the driver, but the therapist's job is to help the client get to the "destination" of resolving the issue. So through identifying the conflict, the passenger can then point the driver to how to get to the destination, but getting there is still the driver's responsibility. The therapist can point out the issue and help the client in resolving the issue, but the choice of resolution is still in the client's hands.

(Hope this analogy is not too difficult to understand. If anyone have any issues in understanding or have any comments about it, feel free to comment. If responses are receptive, there may be more future analogies. Thanks!)    

SGPsychStud: Do you have a goal? What is your goal?

Being in the month of May, many students would have finished or would be finishing their exams soon. For some of you, this period marks the beginning of your new semesters or time to have a break. So this might be a good time to do some reflection looking at yourself and asking yourself why you are studying what you are studying. This post may not only apply to psychology students but rather all students.

The question here is: Do you have a goal? What is your goal?

A phenomenon I noticed (since the years I have been teaching tuition) in students, especially younger students, do not really have a goal. They seemed to be purely studying for the sake of studying. If they were asked why do you need to study, an answer often heard would be because "I have to" or "need to", but this does not really answer the "why". Think about it. They could have given an answer towards their preferred future occupation or dreams, but studying seemed to have become a daily action that is required to be done for the sake of doing it.

But this may not be the case for students who are doing tertiary studies as they may have chosen their education path due to their choice of future possible careers. I used "may" in the last sentence, as there are students who chose the certain diplomas or degrees because those are the only ones they may be able to get in.

It is ideal to have a goal, to know where you are going and what you are striving for. With a goal, there is direction, an aim and an reason for why you are studying what you are studying.

Do you have a goal? What is your goal in psychology?