The first cohort of the Master of Professional Psychology walked across the graduation stage in February.
The two-year degree, the first of its kind in Australia, allows participants to skip the research-intensive honours pathway to become a psychologist, and instead enter the program after completing a three-year undergraduate degree.
Mr Samuel Moorby, a graduate who spoke at the ceremony, had a slight sense of apprehension when he enrolled in the program. “Being part of something new can be risky,” he said.
Fortunately, those feelings quickly disappeared. “What I found is an outstanding program with a significant focus on practical skills, led by educators who treated us as valuable professionals. It has prepared me to begin my career as a capable and competent provisional psychologist.”
“There is a research component to the program but it’s coupled with practical skills such as discussions about how theory works in real-life settings, and simulated client role plays with constructive feedback provided. From day one, it’s very hands on. It’s a really neat package,” enthused Mr Moorby.
Co-designed with industry and health providers
Professor Bruce Christensen, one of the program developers and inaugural director of the program, explained the MPP was created in consultation with industry and health providers.
“Traditionally, the paradigm for psychological services is one-to-one therapy, however, there is increasing recognition that there are many areas within society that require psychological practice, intervention and policy.”
“The program prepares students for a wide breadth of employment opportunities. Graduates are equipped to work in a number of sectors including clinical, education, finance, consulting and government, to name just a few.”
“A planning committee made up of partner organisations guided the design and continue to provide input to improve the program. This approach ensures we have graduates with the right skills to meet the evolving needs of their future employers.”
Partner organisations know future workforce needs
One such partner organisation is the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC). Senior Clinical Psychologist in the Australian Public Service Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Unit within the APSC, Ms Connie Galati, was involved in co-designing the MPP program and is a supervisor for student placements and provisional psychologists during their internship year, after graduation.
Ms Galati remarked, “A common misperception about psychologists is that their skill set is limited to treating mental health issues, when this is just one part of our training.”
“Psychologists can make a significant difference in a variety of roles, whether it be in clinical practice, leadership, developing public policy and service delivery models, undertaking research and evaluation, developing community and public health initiatives, or supporting organisations and their employees to thrive in the workplace.”
“The APSC wanted to offer an opportunity for provisional psychologists to undertake an industry placement that incorporated practise from both clinical and organisational psychology, where the ‘client’ is an organisation.”
“In addition, we simply don’t have enough psychologists to meet the needs of communities across Australia and we want to do our part in supporting the community by supporting this training pathway.”
Students set up for career success
Ms Lillian Richardson, who was part of the graduating cohort, learnt a lot during her placement with APSC under the supervision of Ms Galati.
“I had the unique opportunity to adapt knowledge I previously only perceived through a clinical lens into an organisational setting. Even though the learning curve was steep the experience has grown my psychology skills enormously.”
“During the placement I led the development of a guide, which related to trauma exposure and trauma informed practices. This enhanced my understanding of how to support individuals who experience trauma and how to provide trauma informed services across a range of services.”
“As a result, I have developed a strong interest and desire to continue growing my skills in this area irrespective of whether my career is clinically or organisationally based in the future.”
The future is looking bright for Ms Richardson as she commences a role with Canberra Health Services providing psychological services to people with mental illness in the community.
Similarly, Mr Moorby has secured a job with the NSW Department of Education as a School Psychologist.
See the MPP graduates receiving their degrees (55 mins) and Mr Moorby's speech (1hr 12mins,) in this video.