I love understanding what and why people do what they do. So it's only fair to give you a chance to do the same with me, don't you think? Here's some of my story.
When I was 16 and 17, I loved planes. Big ones with jet engines, not the little bug smashers that flitted from town to town. I was determined to follow in my father's footsteps and become an aircraft engineer! At lunch hour at school while my friends might be flipping through fashion magazines (or Uni degree guides), you would have found me pouring over safety magazines and studying aircraft disasters! I was certainly not going to do any more stuck-in-a-chair study after Year 12 – and certainly not university!!! (Ha. Ha. Ha.)
However, I was also struggling myself at the time, and my school counsellor observed at one point, “You know, you’d make a good counsellor one day.” I was intrigued - I hadn't thought about that before. But I knew I had high levels of compassion, empathy, patience, and I loved seeing the people around me grow and find meaning and purpose in life. So I started thinking... "Well? What if...?"
At the same time, my spiritual health was thriving. I was discovering that following Jesus really, really, mattered to me, and I really wanted to echo his spirit of gentleness, encouragement, justice and truth. And I learned that when we feel broken and bruised and burned out, God doesn’t toss us aside as useless, but gently builds us back up and gives us hope!
And don't you think our world needs hope?
So I headed off to that dreaded (and soon adored) place of tertiary study, starting with a Bachelor of Psychology at the University of Western Sydney, intending to eventually work in private practice to serve my community. I graduated with First Class Honours and a Minor in Neuroscience in 2002. By the end of 2005, I'd completed a Masters of Clinical Psychology at the University of New South Wales, with Honours. Between the two, they turned me into a pragmatic practitioner with a love for the big-picture ideas and questions of life.
Overall, I developed a thorough understanding of what it means to be a biological, psychological, social, spiritual, human being; both in theory and in the real world. And as it turned out, my old school counsellor had been right – I did make a fine therapist.
In my early years, I was involved in research and private practice work.
My final placement in my degree had been at what is now the Parent-Child Research Clinic at UNSW. As a clinical therapist and research assistant, I worked with families who needed help with their kids' behaviour or just wanted to help out with our projects. Following the completion of my Masters, they asked me to stay on.
From there, I was headhunted to join a private practice in Turramurra, and as the projects I was working on at UNSW started wrapping up, I also joined a well-regarded clinic in the Sutherland Shire. Despite my relative inexperience, I was an acknowledged asset at each of my workplaces, thanks to the quality of my training and practice, my heart for people, and passion for their growth.
Over time, I started focusing more on my clients in my local community, honing my skills in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), and building my expertise in an emerging therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT; pronounced as “act”; also referred to as Acceptance and Commitment Training in the coaching sphere).
ACT derives its name from two of its basic principles – noticing and accepting your actual experience, and committing your energy and effort to actually doing what matters to you. It has a solid, well-established research base stretching back to the 1980s, and has been shown to help with a huge range of issues:
social, emotional and psychological stress, distress and trauma
the impact of burnout, chronic pain, and exhaustion in the workplace
resilience and coping
reduce errors, inattention and distractibility and improve concentration, focus and attention
improve creativity, innovative thinking and problem-solving
help people deal with conflict and improve their relationships
overall health and life satisfaction.
(By the by, I am now one of the few certified ACT Matrix trainers in the world - a specific trauma tool in the ACT toolbox that anyone can now learn and use for all of these issues in their personal and professional lives.)
I adored my clinical work. While it is always hard seeing people in pain, it was always so wonderful to see those same people rise up, learn to see themselves and their world in different ways, and walk out of my office for the last time confident in their ability to live life well into the future. But then my first daughter was born! So I needed to reduce my hours at work significantly, and contemplate my future.
It was in that time of reflection I was invited to an “Introduction to Life Coaching” seminar, run by the NSW&ACT Association of Baptist Churches. It was another awakening! Coaching held everything I loved about therapy - helping people discover the gold they had within themselves, and helping them get it out into the world!
Straight away, my husband and I crunched the numbers, and I handed in my resignation to began the coach training and accreditation process. It reaffirmed my own core values - that people matter, and that I am built to support and empower others so they can do what matters.
As far as my psych registration was concerned, given my new focus on coaching and my own little family, I decided to take a non-practicing registration for a few years. However, my own health crashed! Somewhat ironically, with a physical/emotional stress-induced syndrome called adrenal fatigue. (I like to joke these days that I'm either an inspiration or a warning - depending on who is doing the looking!)
Thankfully, I started to recover using holistic, gut-health focused practices, which enabled me to return to full registration, relaunch my practice, and founded the Paraclete Initiative (taking stress and resilience and theology and crafting faith-focused strategies for the Christian community).
These days, I am a member with the International Association of Coaching and a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, and if I'm not working on my own business, I'm overseeing and training volunteer coaches across NSW and the ACT with the Baptist Association's Gen1K Coaching group.
I love using my professional knowledge and personal experience to help stressed out change-makers! It's such a honour to come alongside them, helping them keep doing what they're doing, and seeing them escape the clutches of stress and burnout, making differences to lives all over the world! If this sounds like you, reach out - I'd love to hear more about what you're doing and how I can help.