I graduated with a bachelor of psychology at Western Sydney University. Right now I’m a provisional psychologist working with Challenge four days per week at Rosehill and one day per week at Camden.
Before joining Challenge in January 2020, I worked at a private practice and at a school. My role at the private practice focused on individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Disabilities and Learning Disorders. I also worked at a school along with two other psychologists focused on helping students suffering from emotional, behavioural and academic challenges with the goal of helping them transition back into mainstream schooling, pursue work or external education after year ten.
What does a day in the life of a psychologist look like?
I mostly work with children in foster care and their families. A typical day may involve going to the child’s school, maybe doing an observation, assessment or a counselling session with the client. Usually, I will collaborate with the school and staff, try to identify any barriers such as behavioural or academic difficulties. I will do an assessment to find out how to support the child’s behavioural challenges and give staff strategies to work with them collaboratively. I also work with Challenge caseworkers frequently.
I enjoy having opportunities to go to clients’ home environment to see them on a personal level, working with the families and providing behaviour support to carers. Sometimes, when time allows, I may stop by between appointments for a coffee and work remotely on my laptop catching up with families, schools and caseworkers via phone consult, update my progress notes and respond to any emails that I need to look at. I enjoy travelling to homes, schools and there have been opportunities where I’ve been able to visit and observe a client in their work environment.
How has COVID and lockdown changed the way you work with clients?
At the moment with the NSW lockdown, I am doing telehealth sessions. I do zoom sessions, or if clients prefer a phone consult I do that. I am trying to maintain contact with them as much as possible.
What type of therapies do you use?
I use a variety of interventions depending on the individual client. Both adults and children benefit from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and I find that our foster care children also benefit from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) as most may have come from a complex trauma background. I also use play therapy with children.
When using Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), I find that adults are better able to identify their own strengths whereas children may need more help identifying these themselves. Children with stronger executive functioning skills however seem to respond quite well to this intervention. I find that children benefit from more hands-on interactive modalities of therapy such as play therapy. A lot of visual-based things that is adjusted to the client’s needs. For example, if they are learning emotional regulation skills, I may bring in some visuals and activities around emotions (labelling emotions) to make it interactive. I use a lot of crafty resources as well to help children and young people stay engaged and learn develop their social-emotional skills.
A lot of the kids look forward to the bag of goodies I bring to sessions! They get excited about what I will bring that day. I may have sensory resources with me, fidget toys, playdough, a deck of affirmation cards and some games, I like to change it up every so often so the kids have something to look forward to in our sessions.
If you had to describe your role with Challenge in 3 words – what would they be?
Flexible. Fun. Nurturing.
Who can benefit from psychological therapies?
The families I am working with benefit from psychological therapies but so do the caseworkers and support staff involved with the client.
The clients I work with are able to develop a relationship where they are able to express any challenges or concerns they may be experiencing within a safe therapeutic space. I tend to work with 0-18 year old’s.
What has been your highlight while working at Challenge?
I think it is just being able to be part of the client’s journey. Because many of my clients are young, I can be a role model and be consistently available for them. Knowing I am part of their journey is rewarding.
What is your favourite thing to do when you’re not working?
So I love going on getaways and exploring different places. Trying different cuisines, traveling around and finding the best food spots in Sydney! I enjoy hikes and I love watching the sunset. Anywhere I go I have to find the best spot for a sunset. I also enjoy photography, cooking and picnics.
At the moment, during lockdown, I have been doing a lot of cooking. I am from a South American background, so currently, my family is also teaching me how to cook South American cuisine.
Psychological Therapy at Challenge Allied Health
At Challenge Allied Health, our experienced psychologists like Natalie work with children, young people and adults.