Sara (left) and Ashwini (right)
Master of Applied Psychology students: Sara (left) and Ashwini (right)

As part of VU and Orygen’s partnership to boost the youth mental health workforce in Melbourne’s northwest, Victoria University (VU) Master of Applied Psychology students will complete mental health placements at Orygen, Australia’s leading youth mental health not-for-profit organisation.

To complete the Master of Applied Psychology in either of the two areas of specialisation – Clinical or Community Psychology – students must undertake 1,000 hours of placement, with placement opportunities now including Orygen.

Orygen’s Dr Karen Hart (Operations Director – Clinical Transformation), explains how VU psychology student placements create a range of benefits and opportunities.

“Orygen focuses on getting its cutting-edge research findings into clinical practice as quickly as possible, so when VU students complete a placement with Orygen they’re getting a chance to implement the latest in evidence-based clinical interventions, treatments and supports,” Dr Hart said.

“We know how important placements are in terms of skills and confidence development for students, and for their future career opportunities. Being able to work directly with young people, their families and carers offers invaluable learnings for students at Orygen.

“We are delighted to be in partnership with VU and we know that quality student placements across our diverse offering of clinical services can often contribute to new graduates joining the workforce at Orygen, which would be another great outcome for us.”

Sara – Master of Applied Psychology (Clinical)

Sara has known since she was 15 that she wanted to become a psychologist, and commenced tertiary study right after high school. However, by the time she finished her undergraduate degree, she “just felt too young.”

Working in a range of jobs unrelated to psychology for the next five years, Sara decided to return to study two years ago while working with people who were experiencing ongoing mental health issues.

“I felt I was working with purpose, and had a deep sense of gratitude for having the opportunity to hear and support people through their experiences.”

Now in her second year of the Master of Applied Psychology (Clinical), Sara is undertaking a placement at Orygen.

“I am in the HYPE (Helping Young People Early) team. The team works with young people at risk of developing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or who have received a BPD diagnosis. I’m a case manager for young people in the community, supporting them to effectively learn to care for themselves and manage distressing symptoms.”

For Sara, the placement has also provided an opportunity to extend herself professionally.

“I enjoy being part of a very skilled team, and it is an opportunity to rapidly develop my skills in working with young people. You feel you are intervening at a crucial time in their lives.”

She is also working part time as program coordinator at Westside Lodge, a 20-bed residential dual diagnosis facility. Although the workload can be challenging, she has found studying and working concurrently works well.

“I’m able to integrate my learning in the masters program directly into my workplace and external placements. I feel equipped both personally and professionally to enter the next stage.”

Ashwini – Master of Applied Psychology (Community Psychology)

Ashwini became interested in community psychology during her Honours course at VU, enrolling in the Master of Applied Psychology (Community Psychology) in 2021.

Through her personal experience and studies, Ashwini appreciates the complex dimensions of culture, community, and connection and how they relate to individual mental wellbeing.  

“Being an immigrant from India, I have witnessed the stigma attached to mental health and so have always wanted to work with diverse communities to help improve their wellbeing. I was very interested in system-level psychology and how our position in society affects us.”

“VU is a very inclusive university, embracing the fact that students have a range of varying experiences. VU also has great connections with people and organisations that are doing important work in mental wellbeing, a great resource for my future as a psychologist.”

Ashwini has taken part in three placements in her masters degree, and is currently on placement at one of Orygen’s headspace centres. As a provisional psychologist on placement, she has delivered individual therapy, group work and community-level interventions.

“At headspace, I have had a chance to run workshops, observe the fantastic work clinicians do and be at the forefront of witnessing how one of the biggest names in youth mental health operates,” Ashwini said.

What is a provisional psychologist?

Students who are completing the Master of Applied Psychology (Clinical Psychology or Community Psychology) at VU are registered provisional psychologists with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APRA) Psychology Board, which means they have achieved the required competencies to provide psychological care. As provisional psychologists, these students receive supervision from an AHPRA-approved supervisor.