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Finding the ‘right’ career is highly crucial. A recent study by McCrindle Research (2018) showed that after leaving school, the average Australian will have 17 employers from the age of 18 to retirement. “Looking for work isn’t just about a job anymore, but rather looking for a calling”, as stated by Berg, Grant, and Johnson (2010). Additionally, individuals look for careers that provide meaning and fulfilment of core personal values. Hence, the purpose of this essay is to find whether choosing Educational and Developmental Psychology is the ‘right’ profession in accordance to my skills, attributes and values. For finding the speciality that resonates with one in choosing a career is important for the above-mentioned reasons. A brief overview of EDP will be provided, following the self-assessment on how my skills, attributes and values align with my chosen profession. In order to practice as a psychologist in any Australian state or territory, one needs to be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA), which is the national board for psychologists. PsyBA is supported by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA). AHPRA implements the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme. Furthermore, AHPRA registration requires psychologists to (a) hold accredited qualifications, (b) follow APS (Australian Psychological Society) code of ethics and guidelines, (c) engage in regular continuing professional development (CPD), (d) go through a formal audit process of their professional practice and CPD (APS, 2018a). It is also important to be aware that, School Psychologists, in addition need to be considerate of the federal, state, and local laws governing their practice and advocacy practices.
Educational and Developmental Psychologists (EDP) work with individuals/groups across the lifespan and are particularly concerned with the development and learning of individuals. Areas of practice include, early childhood, school years, adolescents, adulthood, late adulthood. Similar to other psychologists, EDP’s identify, assess, report and diagnose psychological issues. Their role in particular, involves; designing and evaluating programs and interventions, counselling, researching, developing the curriculum, and consulting with individuals and groups. Additionally, they design training and professional development programs.
In specializing as an Educational and Developmental Psychologists, I wish to become a School Psychologist. Hence, the job description provided below is about where the profession sits, as well as what the roles, tasks and purpose of School Psychologists are.
School Psychologists work as practitioners, researchers or administers. The majority of School Psychologists are found in educational settings. Other places include clinics, community organisations, hospitals, and universities. School Psychologists provide ‘direct’ support such as, psychological treatment and counselling (e.g. addressing emotional and social issues), psychological assessments (administering and interpreting tests, such as cognitive functioning), behavioural assessments (e.g. observing the student in a classroom setting), psychological or educational assessment (e.g. assessing child’s learning progress according to the school curriculum). A significant role of School Psychologists involves ‘indirect service’ which is providing support indirectly via consultation with teachers, parents, guardians or other stakeholders. School Psychologists also engage in designing school-wide, preventative programs, for those students who do not require direct nor indirect support. This includes, but not limited to, teacher and parent information sessions, implementation of anti-bullying programs or crisis intervention strategies. The tasks and roles of a psychologist are intended to promote for create and maintain a supportive, friendly, and helpful learning environment. As indicated above, this is done via encouraging learning, socialisation, and a sound mental health. In cases, where a psychologist isn’t able to meet the child’s needs, they refer them to external resources or agencies, which will assist both the student and the school to achieve their full potential.
Having effective communication skills as a psychologist is one of the most important aspects in a psychologist-client relationship. School Psychologists not only interact with students but also with teachers, school authority, and parents. Hence, it requires working in a setting that involves communicating with a wide range of audience to negotiate issues/conflict, discusses shared decisions and facilitates change. In order to fulfil this requirement, one needs to understand what is involved in applying effective communication skills. Active listening, focusing, self-disclosure, paraphrasing and summarising, questioning, observing, attending, having empathy as well as understanding non-verbal communication (i.e. body language), are all components of effective communication skills. In other words, it is about how one responds to what the client says, shows and hints, all of which requires careful observation, keen listening and accurate interpretation of a client’s feelings.
Additionally, research has shown that physicians with adequate communication skills have a better impact on mental health outcomes; such as decreasing emotional distress in their patients. Below is a personal example, which indicates how effective communication plays a crucial role in a counselling/psychology session with clients.
In my role as a school counsellor, one of the students sought help due to personal and family related issue. She was determined to start working but was distressed about the possible effect of work on her studies and the reaction of her parents towards her decision. In the counselling setting, she briefly mentioned her motive for wanting to work; however, she indicated that she did not want to cause emotional strife to her parents. In that context, she required assistance/guidance with coming up with a solution that would allow her to tell her parents, without causing any potential arguments or emotional pain.
As a counsellor, I validated her feelings. Then, together with the student, we explored all the available options and at the end of the counselling session, she was still quite emotionally affected by her decision and its possible outcomes. At that moment, self-disclosure was used as a strategy to help the student move into a more positive frame of mind. I disclosed a relatable personal incident, where I had similarly felt distressed about the outcome of my decision. The personal example that I provided was as follows: I had wanted volunteer for the first time in grade 12, and my guardian agreed to the idea of volunteering provided I start only after the completion of year 12. It required patience and effort, but my guardian understood my decision and we agreed on a ‘win-win’ situation. As discussed with my guardian, I started volunteering when I commenced university.
At the end of the counselling session, the student felt comfortable with the self-experience I had provided and was able to move forward with her decision without any visible forms of distress. In having shared a personal experience, the student felt that she was not alone and had impact on reducing her stress. This was one of the examples, which showed the effectiveness of communication skills (such as listening, focusing, and self-disclosure (also used as a way to establish rapport and trust)).
Flexibility is another important factor in meeting client needs. For example, using only client-centred therapy with all clients cannot meet all their needs as discussed by Parker (1987), but rather as a psychologist, one needs to more flexible his/her approach. This was also observed by myself, in my role as a school counsellor, as stated below.
During my counselling role, I was approached by a student who wanted to seek help for some personal matters. This was an interesting case, for she came to seek help but was not willing to share what the issue was. In the first session, I was primarily talking because she wasn’t sharing any information. Additionally, with any question that I asked, she replied with “I am not comfortable to talk about that”. After having a couple of sessions with the student, I realised that she had a very “introvertive and reserved” personality which was a barrier for her to express her needs. She was very quiet but had the willingness to receive help. Knowing, that the student presented with that sort of personality, I used a different approach in helping the student. I started talking about more general topics to provide her with a comfortable environment. Worksheets were used to uncover the issue, as student was more responsive to worksheets over verbal communication. This was a way for me to adapt and change the way I responded to meet my client’s needs. This is important because sticking to a predetermined approach or strategy is not effective when different clients require different approach of counselling or therapeutic. According to Ramarajan and Thomas (2010), due to the increase of diversity over the last few decades, members of the minority or disadvantaged groups are less stigmatized and given more equal outcomes within organisations. For example, Kalev and his colleagues (2006) found that the percentage of white women, black women and men have increased immensely over the last couple of decades due to the move in industries. This was observed in organizations, who in particular, structured their jobs around promoting diversity. In another study by Beckman and Phillips (2005), which is focused on female partners in the law industry and found that that the proportion of women partners in the law sector is growing, due to gender diversity. Additionally, Ramarajan and Thomas (2011) stated that increased diversity in organizations, is as a result of increasing members of the disadvantaged and stigmatised groups. It is a positive feedback loop where increasing diversity, potentially increases more chances of racial and gender equality and vice versa.
These articles indicate the importance of diversity, both within and outside organizations. Additionally, they show how diversity creates a positive impact on increasing the members of the stigmatized and disadvantaged groups in the workplace. In the next paragraphs, I will discuss my self-experience as to how I was exposed to diversity and the importance of promoting diversity.
In 2013, during my first year at university, I started volunteering at one of a student’s Multicultural Society. It was my very first experience of working with people from various backgrounds. Getting to know other students at an individual and community level was very fascinating. It opened my eyes to other cultures and also prepared me for the next role as a case worker/counsellor with people who were addicted to Alcohol and other Drugs (AOD). Having been exposed to different groups of people, not only encouraged me to push my boundaries but also increased my tolerance, openness and willingness to learn more about others.
When I first started volunteering as a case-worker role (AOD organisation), I found the nature of the work to allow me to fulfil my passion (i.e. create an impact in someone’s life), but it was also very ‘nerve-wracking’ because of the stigma around people associated with AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs). In fact, initially, people commented whether I would be safe doing this sort of volunteering, as according to them I was helping “aggressive and drunk” people. I was surprised by the number of people who shared that view. Nevertheless, my prior volunteering experience gave me the courage and ability to go forward with my decision. After I started the volunteer work, I found that the clients I worked with, were one of the most humble and caring people. After listening to their stories, I felt conflicted at times as the views held by the community I grew up in did not apply; I had seen people who were addicted to drugs and alcohol shunned and stigmatised. For instance, AOD in people is often seen as a major character flaw, invalidates all other factors. This volunteer role allowed me to question and be critical about what I had learned. Most importantly, I realized that there was a possibility that could allow the community I grew up in handle such issues without blaming the victim and support them instead. I would not have had the chance to reflect on these issues and grown spiritually if I had not put myself in a more diverse community. Therefore, diversity has become a value that is instilled within me. It is a value which should be addressed within any profession or industry, particularly among psychologists as they perform a key role in promoting diversity. The above self-analysis indicated that my chosen career path is in line of my skills, attribute, and value. Doing the self-assessment confirmed and enhanced my understanding of the role, tasks and responsibilities of School Psychology as a profession. Additionally, it allowed me to discover my limitations of my current role, as a school counsellor in comparison to being a School Psychologist.
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