Finding a path in psychology
Brodie Spark was always interested in psychology but wasn’t sure if university was for him. After two false starts, he discovered the Strathfield Campus and is now a provisional registered psychologist finding his path forward.
“The main reason I came to ACU was I just liked the look of the Strathfield Campus. I was 27 when I started a Bachelor of Psychological Science there, and I’d previously been to two other unis and hadn’t completed either course,” Brodie said. “I found the campuses were so big, I was in lectures with hundreds of people, and it was very impersonal.
“I live quite close to the Strathfield Campus and one day I went to check it out for myself. I could immediately picture myself in this small community and envisioned doing the four- year degree there.”
The perspective of a non-school leaver
As a non-school leaver, Brodie started his psychology studies with a clear head and new perspective.
“When I was a school leaver and went straight to uni I didn’t have much motivation. I didn’t even know why I was there,” he said.
“This time as an older non-school leaver, I knew what I wanted and what I had to do to get where I wanted to go. Everything was more clear and easier to navigate, and I had a better time understanding what the uni wanted from me too.
“At the other universities I was studying arts and kept it really general. But I did a few psychology units and really liked it. I’ve always been interested in psychology and the philosophy of the mind, which kind of relates to psychology in some ways.
“At the time, I didn't imagine myself as becoming a psychologist though; I didn't think it was a possibility.”
Right campus, right course
Brodie enjoyed his classes at Strathfield right from the start and was determined to see his degree through.
“I love how ACU has always felt like a close-knit community. I knew I could put my hand up in a lecture to ask a question, and it wouldn’t be in front of 300 people disrupting everyone,” said Brodie.
“Whereas at Strathfield, the lecturer would be right there standing among everyone and you could interact a lot more.
“I also made some good friends who were about 19 or 20 years old, and it didn’t matter that I was a bit older. They opened my eyes up to seeing that not everyone was an idiot at that age just because I was! We’re still friends and have ongoing conversations about psychology and philosophy together that I really value.”
Brodie recently received his provisional registration and is looking to become a registered psychologist on the 4+2 pathway, which is for those who have completed a four-year sequence of accredited study in psychology and are required to complete a two-year internship program in order to apply for general registration as a psychologist.
“Though I might transition to the master’s pathway instead and go for a Master of Psychology (Clinical), but I’m not sure yet.”
Gaining industry experience
Brodie has already entered the field and been working as a behaviour support practitioner and a provisional psychologist.
“My behaviour support practitioner job was a role created by the NDIS. It involved meeting with clients and getting to understand the challenging behaviours that are stopping them from living a good quality life. I’d develop strategies for them to help reduce those behaviours, either teaching them myself or working with their other support workers on how to implement them,” he said.
“Behaviour support jobs like this are often about working with stakeholders, so it could be a client’s support coordinator or their family, and it was always interesting speaking to everyone to learn their perspective on the client. So, I would be chatting to someone’s mum who was really stressed and keen to figure out what to do, but often they just don’t have the resources or knowledge. Helping families was really satisfying.”
Brodie is currently working as a disability support worker, a position he’s held since he was studying at ACU.
“My clients have a range of presentations such as PTSD, autism, or ADHD, and I work more directly with them in the community. It’s been great, I love the interaction with clients.”
Brodie said working in this role throughout his studies helped him apply what he was learning in the classroom.
“I had one client with PTSD and that was something we’d be learning about in an abnormal psychology subject. So, to see this person, day to day, and hear about the trauma they’ve been through and be learning about it at uni at the same time was really helpful and added to my overall knowledge.”
A lifeline for others
Volunteering at Lifeline has been a part of Brodie’s journey as a provisional psychologist and it’s a position he still values highly.
“During my course, a lot of my lecturers recommended this type of volunteer work to give you some good practical experience. But once I started going, I really came to enjoy it and I like the Lifeline community a lot. It’s an organisation that’s really into self-care and looking after everyone,” he said.
“You do have to go to every shift with a certain mindset. But you only do one per fortnight and they always check you’re ok to go ahead. They’ll always ask me what are you doing after the shift, what are you doing this week? What I like to do after is go swimming. It’s become a really good routine for me and it helps me work off the endorphins from a shift and helps me relax.
“And there’s lots of a support. Everyone has a supervisor and you can talk to them after a hard phone call and debrief. Usually that’s enough for me to get it out of my mind by the time I leave. They want to ensure that when you go home, you’re not carrying anything with you.”
Planning for the future
Now that Brodie has some experience behind him in a range of industries, he’s started to think about what’s next.
“As a provisional psych, there are three things you can do: you can work in NDIS, in work cover or private practice. I’ve done work in NDIS already and I want to explore the other two as I keep going with my 4+2 pathway. I’m really looking forward to private practice in particular.”
For other students planning their future like Brodie is right now, his best advice is to relax.
“If you’re in high school looking to come to uni, don’t think you have to have everything figured out straight away. It's okay to be unsure.
“And if you are unsure, then don't take that as a sign that you have no idea what you want to do and quit before you’ve even started. Ask yourself what’s something you’re even mildly interested in. I wish I had talked to psychologists or other psychology students to learn more about it all. Just have a think.”
If you’re interested in a career like Brodie’s, learn more about a psychological science degree at ACU.
Quotes have been paraphrased.