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.