If you have made it this far, then you already know that I am an Educational and Developmental Psychologist, educator, and researcher currently working at Monash University. I like to make a distinction between the three roles despite the overlap.
Background in psychology
I’m not great at reading minds, and I’ve never asked someone to lie back on a couch while we explore their early experiences. There are some psychologists who really are that perceptive that they can seem like mind readers. And of course many psychologists work very effectively from a psychodynamic framework. Psychology is a very broad science, and my little piece of it is somewhat different to the stereotypes. In clinical practice, you would be more likely to find me exploring the underlying causes of why someone has difficulty learning or retaining information. Complex psychological assessment and differential diagnosis for mental illnesses, and evidence-based interventions are also an area of my clinical work. I have worked in schools, private practice, a hospital, and a university clinic.
As an educator, I mostly teach psychological assessment, mental health and cognitive behavioural therapy. Sometimes I find myself teaching statistics, as well as consulting on research methodologies. I am also privileged to be able to supervise students for minor research projects (Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology, and Master of Psychology programs) and of course Doctor of Philosophy projects. Clearly there is a strong link between my clinical training as a psychologist and my role as an educator.
As a researcher, I have two distinct areas of interest. Psychometrics is the science of psychological measurement. Psychometrics is significant for both clinical practice and research. If you were using an instrument to measure an individual’s depressive symptoms, you would want to be very confident that the result was valid. How much of what was measured are the intended depressive symptoms? How much error is there? If nothing changed for the individual over a period of time, would the depressive symptom score also not change? If things improved for our individual, would our measure be able to detect the change? Would it be able to measure severity just as effectively in the very low or very high range of symptoms? A psychologist’s measurement tools inform their clinical judgment. For the researcher, similar questions arise, and the significance of the answers may be even higher. Is that new therapeutic method or anti-depressant medication more effective than conventional treatments? There is a lot riding on the ability of a psychological measure to do what it purports to do.
My second area of interest is in the study of individual differences. This is one of the older areas of psychology, and explores how individuals differ from each other in stable, predictable ways. Common examples include cognitive abilities (historically called intelligence or IQ) and personality. The distinction between these two examples is perhaps the most important, with the former a measure of maximal performance and the latter a measure of dispositional preference. Consider an unmotivated yet intelligent child. The ability to achieve is tested to an upper ceiling (this is the hardest maths question I got correct), while the motivation to achieve is represented as a preference (I don’t like working hard in maths).
- Bachelor of Science (Psychology) – University of Southern Queensland
- Postgraduate Diploma of Psychology – Monash University
- Master of Psychology (Educational and Developmental) / Doctor of Philosophy – Monash University
I completed my undergraduate degree as an external (or distance education) student. This led to one of my previous research interests, which was improving the educational experiences for online students. Certainly there are many more resources available now to support distance education, such as learning platforms (eg Blackboard and Moodle), virtual classrooms (eg Adobe Connect), and peer-assisted learning (eg PeerWise).
After moving to Melbourne, I enrolled in the Postgraduate Diploma of Psychology program at Monash University. This course was an Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) accredited fourth year program in psychology, equivalent to an Honours degree. My research project was an investigation into pre-service teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education, under the supervision of Dr Chris Boyle.
There are several pathways to registration as a psychologist in Australia. At the completion of an accredited fourth year program, it is possible to undertake a two year supervised practice program, leading to general registration as a psychologist. Alternatively, there are one year Master of Professional Psychology programs which require an additional year of supervised practice (no research component, also leads to general registration), or two year Master of Psychology programs (includes a minor thesis, leads to general registration, and can lead to endorsement in a specific area of practice with further training). Finally, accredited Doctor of Psychology programs offer a more “advanced clinician” pathway to registration. Most importantly, all roads lead to registration as a psychologist, and there is not one path that produces superior outcomes.
About half way through my Masters of Psychology program, I had the opportunity to articulate to a combined MPsych/PhD program. By articulating, I did not submit a Masters thesis, instead a doctoral thesis covered both degrees. This was a very exciting opportunity, as it allowed for the potential of both practitioner and academic career paths. Academic careers are generally not open to those without a PhD. Another benefit was the opportunity to explore work opportunities internationally. My PhD was a validation of a measure of cognitive style (dispositional thinking) from both a conventional variable-centred perspective, and from a person-centred perspective. Dr John Roodenburg supervised my doctoral thesis.
Previous work experience
The decision to train as a psychologist was probably linked to an early-midlife crisis. In fact, crisis is probably an exaggeration – I loved what I had been doing, but was just feeling a lack of intellectual stimulation. When I left school, I stumbled into the disability industry, and stayed almost by accident for about a decade. Promotions into management roles soon followed. From there, I moved into community care, supporting individuals with progressive neurological disorders. Finally, I worked in case management across the aged, disability, community care and in hospital settings.
As I mentioned, I really did enjoy what I had been doing professionally. I was fortunate enough to work in fantastic teams across multidisciplinary settings. However there remained a sense of needing to challenge myself even further. Discovering psychology as an avenue of study was serendipitous. Here was a chance to add to what I had already learned and build a career in a new direction. I’m still working on that, and probably will be until the day I retire!
I never imagined that I would move to Melbourne, but a chance encounter with a gorgeous girl changed that. I was visiting Melbourne for the Australian round of the World Superbikes competition one February, and arranged to meet a group of friends from a motorcycle forum. Brigitte (aka Pink Angel) was one of these friends – I was both smitten and terrified. On my way home I managed to bring myself to ask her out on a date, commuted back to Melbourne for awhile and then made the big move. Brigitte and I are happily married with two teenage boys. Our spare time is spent planning holidays, travelling, riding motorcycles, and we recently decided to venture into the world of offroading and camping!