Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest: Helen Killmier
Guest Bio: Helen has extensive experience in leadership roles within the not-for-profit and local government sectors, including leading development and implementation of vision, mission and strategic direction, change management processes, development and maintenance of positive relationships with funding bodies and governments, development of consortia and partnerships, staff performance management, financial and risk management, business development and service provision.
She has served on many Boards of governance and has been Chair of a community legal centre and service for young people at risk of homelessness. She is a Registered Psychologist and She is Deputy Chair of the College of Community Psychologists and a Member of the Australian Psychological Society Public Interest Advisory Group.
Segment overview: Helen discusses the services provided by the Australian Community Support Organisation Inc. in today’s segment. They aim to provide offenders with a second chance to reintegrate into society can actively reduce crime and make a safer community for all. They currently offer innovative services responding to mental illness, disability, homelessness, substance use and offending behaviour throughout metropolitan and regional Victoria, and consult and provide secondary consult and support for Government and Not for Profit Organisations in other Jurisdictions in Australia.
Health Professional Radio
Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and my guest today is Helen Killmier. Helen is a community psychologist and she’s a board member of the College of Community Psychologists within the Australian Psychological Society. Welcome to Health Professional Radio Helen.
Helen Killmier: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
W: Tell us a little bit about community psychology and how that fits in to the health system?
H: Community psychology is currently only taught in Australia in Victoria at Victoria University so there’s only one pathway at the moment for community psychologists to get the specialist training in applied psychology from a community perspective. It has been around in other states but at the moment, there’s only one in Victoria. It’s certainly run around the world that there’s community psychology training courses within America, North America and a variety of other countries around the world but we’re a small section, I guess, of psychology and we do quite specialist work around looking at … developing of communities at risk, community asset massing of social capital, looking at community generated problem solving from an asset’s based perspective, looking at collaborations on social justice, looking at community capacity buildings that manage change and address risks and threats and protective factors, evaluation of psycho-social environment, looking at things like sense of community, attachment to place, quality of life and how our social support networks are a big influencer of our health and wellbeing.
W: Now when I think about psychologists in my ignorant manner, I think about professional and patient into one to one chat, almost with the leather couch mentality. Now what you’re describing is obviously quite away from that, you’re looking interaction with entire communities. Have I got that right?
H: Yeah, you’ve got that right. Community psychology takes a very broad systemic perspective on looking at the person in situ, looking at a person in a context of his social and environmental factors and what impacts those play, the institutions, the family have on the individual. And it really is a strength based approach, it’s really not a medical model, it’s a social model.
W: Now is your predominant client then still an individual patient, or is your client a government department or a social body as a whole?
H: It can be either or. We could work with individuals. For example, I’ve recently have done a quite a bit of clinical work working with ex-offenders at the Australian Community Support Organization. I’ve also worked with that organization on developing strategic framework, for example I’ve done a culture confidence framework for them. And I’m currently working with them on readiness as an organization for national disability insurance gain services. So a community psychologist’s role can, I guess, will fluctuate between an individual client, a small system and not for profit organization or a government body and can range from a quite strategic and management perspective down to policy or the provision of systems to manage project down to education, counseling, advocacy, and that sort of work. So group based intervention, education programs – it’s a really broad discipline.
W: It does sound like a very broad discipline. And is it a specialization at you know at university level, is this a master’s level intervention? How does this work in the education system?
H: It is master’s level. There’s a master of applied community psychology course and that’s the one that available through Victoria University in Melbourne. They also have doctoral programs or course as well.
W: And so it seats within the APS Australian Psychological Society as a separate specialization?
H: It does. There are a number of different colleges within the APS – there’s a College of Clinical Psychologists, College of Counseling, College of Sports, College of Forensic and Community Psychology is one of those colleges that seats alongside the others.
W: I see. Now Helen as a community psychologist, what’s the biggest misconception amongst your customers, clients, patients, that drives you nuts and keeps you awake at night?
H: I think it’s what you mentioned earlier in the perception of psychology, generally, is about the one to one medical model couch-client and that’s all there is to it. Whereas there is so much more to community psychology and the sorts of social issues that we work on from aboriginal reconciliation, disability, drug and alcohol, child protection, domestic violence. There’s a broad ranging social issues that impacts on our community and there are broad issues that community psychologist tend to work with.
W: Helen, as you know most of our audience are within the health system. If there’s a message that you’d like to get across to practicing doctors, and nurses, other clinicians within the hospital and health system. What would that message be?
H: That there’s a … in the community psychology within the public systems, health systems that community psychologists have a lot to offer are very broad perspective that we bring a broad ranging skill set potentially to the social issues that people often present with. So when a client comes in the door, the client may have a multitude of personal problems and issues that need to be worked through. But they also come with a set of social issues and potentially social justice issues around where they’ve lived, who they are, what formed their opinions, their value base. And I think community psychology perspective can also be a different look at a person in their environment and bring into a different perspective to things.
W: Helen, thank you for bringing that to our attention today. For those listeners who want further information, the Australian Psychological Society website www.psychology.org.au is the best place to go. A transcript of today’s interview and a sound archive are both available on our website at www.hpr.fm. You’ve been listening to Wayne Bucklar in conversation with Helen Killmier.
H: Thank you Wayne.