27th July 2021
Student wellbeing came into sharp focus at Girton last year when experts predicted that “the other curve”, being that of mental health, would be the next big challenge once the coronavirus itself became contained.
Young people are predicted to bear the brunt of the mental anguish caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, and as always, experts paint a clear case for early intervention and support.
The establishment last year of services in “65 Wattle” and the provision of a single point of access to student psychological services was a timely move that has served Girton well and we are pleased to provide a virtual introduction to our newest 65 Wattle staff member, Mr Richard Clark, a registered Psychologist who loves history and barracks for Richmond – but don’t judge him. Read about him below and you will be as pleased as we are to have Mr Clark at Girton.
What made you want to become a psychologist and what other professional hats have you worn?
I initially became interested in Psychology during high school when I undertook a psychology subject during VCE. Learning about the interacting mechanisms between our hardware (brain), software (lived experience and learning), and human behaviour was fascinating to me. Once I learnt that clinical and applied psychology was responsible for helping people rewire this hardware and updating this software, I knew clinical psychology was the career path I wanted to take. I have been lucky enough to work in a variety of roles which have improved my clinical and research skills. This has included Alcohol and Other Drug counselling, mental health case management, step down mental health support, out of home care coordination, youth mentoring and advocacy, and clinical researcher in schools.
What do you think makes a good psychologist?
Applied and clinical psychology is a multifaceted role which requires a variety of skills and competencies. A good Psychologist is someone who is able to apply and adapt evidence-based psychological research in a way so that it can be useful and helpful in improving the lives of those to which it is applied. A good Psychologist is someone who listens with empathy and has the ability and willingness to build an alliance with you. A good Psychologist is a critical thinker with good interpersonal skills and an ability to adapt. Additionally, a good Psychologist is someone who is dedicated to self-development and education, and who can strike a balance of realism and hope with their clients.
What are your personal learning passions?
As a Psychologist, I am passionate about understanding the interacting mechanisms between interpersonal relationships and wellbeing. I have spent several years researching the role of caregivers in improving the emotional and social outcomes of children. Through this, I have also become interested in how we as humans, relate and communicate with ourselves and the effects this can have on functioning and psychopathology. In my personal life, I am interested (and slightly obsessed) with Australian history. Bendigo is an amazing place with countless stranger than fiction stories. Check out ‘Trove’ online if you want to find out more!
What are your overarching philosophies for a life well lived?
My philosophy on a life well lived is continuously striving towards a balance of order, structure, and planning, and spontaneity, adventure, and mindfulness. When we find ourselves moving too much towards either of these extremes, we can feel overwhelmed, stressed, or lacking direction. Taking several moments during a busy day to be mindful and spontaneous can allow us to feel revitalised and ready to tackle our next big plan or challenge.
What are some practical tips for coping through disruption, challenge and change such as the current COVID pandemic?
Whilst disruption and change can be challenging, research suggests there are lots of things we can do to reduce stress and anxiety and improve our overall wellbeing. Some of these include:
- Stay active! A 10-minute walk around the block can release endorphins which reduce stress and improve our mood.
- Stay connected! Just because we can’t see each other face to face doesn’t mean that we can’t check in on our friends and family. Staying connected through telephone or face time can help release calming brain chemicals including oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, all of which are important for improving our mood and maintaining homeostasis.
- Keep a routine! It is very easy to accidently alter our sleeping cycle, eating routines, and screen time when we are at home 22 hours per day. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and try to eat three balanced meals throughout the day. If possible, limit screen time and try to leave your phone out of the bedroom (or off the bed) one hour before you fall asleep.
- Remind yourself of what you love! During lockdown we can feel out of control and lacking autonomy. Remind yourself that these restrictions are time limited. With Spring approaching, spend some time pondering what you are looking forward to next week, next month, next year.
If you could wave a magic wand, what 21st-century mental health challenge would you fix, and why?
This is a difficult question! Many mental health difficulties such as depression and anxiety lie on a spectrum of experience. Therefore, removing or changing them would remove a large element of the human experience. Nonetheless, having worked and engaged in research related to out-of-home care, I have observed the challenges faced by young people who experience early life neglect and maltreatment. Therefore, if I had a magic wand, I would provide all children with a warm and nurturing parental figure so that they can develop a secure attachment style and feel comfortable to explore the world safely.
What are you looking forward to at Girton?
I am most looking forward to working with a passionate team of educators and administrators who have a genuine desire to see young people reach their potential. Schools provide a unique opportunity for young people to not only learn and grow, but to do so within a structure which can also shape their values, ideals, and passions. As a Psychologist, I look forward to working collaboratively with staff and students so that barriers to learning, achievement and valued living can be reduced.
Which AFL team do you follow and why?
Richmond (or better known as the reigning premiers!)
Cats or dogs?
Dogs (refer pictures!)
Kindle or hardcopy?
Latte or long black?