For as long as I can remember, I have always been a talker. I enjoy having conversations with people.
I value intimate and meaningful conversations. I like to combine everyday activities with conversation. It was no surprise to friends or family when I decided to study psychology at university. I had found a way to combine career and conversation.
So what is psychology? Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour. Research and statistical analysis of the person, their behaviour, and their mental processes is emphasised.
Psychologists predominantly work within the medical model, drawing on diagnosis, standardised testing, and scientific methods for symptom reduction, to assist people in their everyday lives. Theory and research informs the practice of psychology, with science providing a strong basis for explaining who people are and how that is illustrated by their behaviours.
As I progressed through my degree, I was sure I was in the right field. I wanted to build my career and practice on a foundation of the science of human behaviour. I liked that the theory and research informed my knowledge, and provided me with something to fall back on.
A psychology degree allows you to study a number of electives. Unsure of what I wanted to specialise in, I picked a counselling elective that complimented my core psychology subjects.
This elective provided me with a strong understanding of social and interactive processes, and highlighted the importance of the therapeutic relationship.
I was able to practice significant in-depth therapeutic work within my studies using various therapeutic approaches. The counselling subjects went beyond theory, and opened the doors to an entirely different field that I didn’t realise I was so interested in.
I am regularly asked: how does counselling differ to psychology?
Counselling is an applied discipline, focusing on interpersonal relationships. Counsellors utilise interpersonal skills that emphasise facilitating the client’s change process within a therapeutic context.
The work with client processes is based on an ethos of respect for clients, their values, their beliefs, and themselves. The counsellor is particularly interested in the characteristics that affect mental health, allowing them to establish collaborative therapeutic relationships where the focus is on building and highlighting strengths and wellbeing, as well as the resolution of difficulties and problems.
After several years of study, I reached the end of my psychology degree and was faced with a decision: What do I do next? Continue on with psychology or move into the counselling field?
Some research into these options led me to the Masters of Counselling. The program aligned with my values. The course outline allowed me to picture myself in a field where I honoured these values.
It offered practical experience with real people. Two years down the track, and I have graduated from my Masters and recently completed my placement with SKATTLE.
The idea of starting placement was exciting. I was eager to accumulate knowledge and skills through practical experience, rather than through theory and research. I wanted to have real, intimate, and meaningful conversations with people.
I wanted to support people to access information that invites them to consider what they value and what’s important to them. I didn’t want to work within the medical model; offering diagnosis, and incorporating scientific testing into my practice.
I wanted to offer knowledge, resources, and skills to people in a non-expert and holistic way.
When I began my placement at SKATTLE, I finally felt like I was in the right place. I practice from a post-structuralist framework, incorporating narrative therapy and solution-focused therapy into my work.
Within this framework, the client is seen as the expert. The client already has the skills, strengths, and resources to solve their problems, allowing them to change their relationships with problems in their lives.
Working within a post-structuralist framework allows me to assume a de-centred and influential position in conversations. This position makes it possible for the client to explore their stories, knowledge, and skills relevant to their problems within a collaborative relationship.
A few years ago, I don’t think I could have imagined myself working as a counsellor, practicing within this framework.
My transition from psychology to counselling has been a challenging journey.
I am now working from a framework that I know is effective. I remain curious, trust in the process, view the client as the expert, and feel like I work in an area that is aligned with my values, and allows me to always hold onto them.
Written by Kelsey Lahey