"I absolutely loved my clinical placements during this degree. While the learning curve felt steep, these experiences quickly allowed me to become more attuned to individual differences among clients, and more adaptable to their needs in the moment."
After studying a Bachelor of Arts (scholars program), and continuing through with Honours, Aviva's love for psychology and its challenges were cemented whilst completing the Master of Psychology (Clinical Psychology).
Why did you decide to study this course?
I always knew I wanted to work in the field of psychology, but I decided to pursue the clinical Masters program specifically due to its focus on training students to work with a wide range of clients in various clinical settings, its prioritisation of evidence-based practice, and its engagement with innovative research. After graduating from my honours degree in psychology, I had intended to spend a gap year in London during 2020 that never eventuated. So, after a difficult year I was extremely excited to jump back into my educational training in 2021 and continue along the path to becoming a psychologist. During my undergraduate and honours degrees, I found the academic content really interesting and thought-provoking, but I wanted to extend my knowledge further and apply it to real-life clinical scenarios. The Masters course appeared to be the perfect opportunity to gain real-world experience and develop more practical skills as a therapist. The University of Melbourne appealed in particular due to its emphasis on diversity and cultural competence in clinical practice, as well as its pioneering research staff – not to mention its beautiful location!
What did you like most about your course?
I absolutely loved my clinical placements during this degree. Being able to finally put into practice the theory and skills I had learnt in the classroom was extremely rewarding and affirmed my love of this field. While the learning curve felt steep, these experiences quickly allowed me to become more attuned to individual differences among clients, and more adaptable to their needs in the moment. Undeniably, the course was not without its challenges, and we sometimes struggled with juggling many competing demands and facing natural bouts of self-doubt. However, none of these struggles ever outweighed the underlying satisfaction of being able to help another person work through a difficult time in their life, come to a realisation about themselves, or generally feel less alone. The challenges are undoubtedly worth it!
What have been the best things about studying your course at the University of Melbourne?
My cohort developed a special level of closeness very quickly, despite facing a semester online due to COVID. The support, encouragement and humour that we provided each other throughout the degree was life-saving. It’s really wonderful to know that we now have each other as lifelong friends and colleagues who will always share this uniting experience.
We also loved developing connections with our teachers, who often came to assume a mentor role. Not only did we enjoy being to able to pick their brains and learn from their expertise, but we also valued their consistent encouragement to prioritise self-care and ensure we were leading balanced lives. It’s definitely an important lesson that has stuck with us as we progress in our careers.
What kinds of work integrated learning, practical experience or academic enrichment activities did you participate in your degree, and how did they impact your development?
During the course, I was privileged to complete three practical placements at the University of Melbourne Psychology Clinic, the Royal Women’s Hospital, and Inner North Centre for Mental Wellbeing, respectively. This involved working with a range of clients and clinical presentations. Each placement shaped my development in different but equally important ways. In the public system, I was exposed to working in a multidisciplinary team and learning from different clinicians with unique expertise, as well as learning how to provide effective therapeutic services in short-term working relationships. In the private space, I was able to focus on more thorough assessment processes and develop more in-depth relationships while working with longer-term clients. Looking back, I recognise that this combination of public vs. private environments was extremely useful for the different learning experiences they provided. It’s an avenue I would highly recommend!
What goals did you set yourself before starting the course, and have you achieved these?
Before starting the course, I was open-minded to learning anything that’s required to become an effective clinical psychologist, whatever that may entail. Only once I began the course itself did my personal goals really crystallise. These involved practical tasks (e.g. writing more concise session notes, avoiding over-preparation for each session, and gaining experience using clinical assessment tools), as well as broader professional goals regarding the types of therapy and client populations I hoped to work with in the future. I feel that this Masters course provided the perfect environment to achieve these goals, through the combination of clinical supervision and personal self-reflection that was facilitated.
My proudest moments from my training have been the times when I’ve seen real progress in the clients I worked with, due to their own hard work and perseverance. To be able to see the theory we have learnt translate into meaningful real-life change makes me very grateful to be a part of this field.
In the future, I would love to work in a combination of areas including perinatal, child/adolescent and family systems-based work. There are so many different professional pathways available as a result of this degree (e.g. research, teaching, intervention development) which are all extremely appealing, but my primary aim for now is to hone my clinical skills as a therapist and try to help the community in a time when mental health support is so desperately needed.
Where are you currently working and what is your position title/role?
Although I am currently travelling overseas, I feel well-prepared by the Masters course to enter the workforce when I return. Overall, the experience provided me with excellent preparation from an educational and training perspective, but in many other respects too. We were advised about different types of workplaces that exist for psychologists and the most important considerations when exploring future professional opportunities, and we were always reminded to engage in self-care – not only for the benefit of our clients, but to avoid burnout and remain happy for the sake of our own wellbeing.