The career-change social worker assisting local youth

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After decades  of dreaming about pursuing her dream job, Tammy finally took action. Here’s the  story of how she transitioned from owning a shop to advocating for young people  in need

For many years my  husband and I owned retail stores. However, possibly because I went through  some adverse situations earlier in life, I’d always dreamt about becoming some  sort of counsellor. Long story short, after my husband and I sold our last  shop, I secured an administration role at the Local Health District and  enrolled in Bachelor of Social Work. I graduated and eventually obtained a job  working in child and adolescent mental health.

A strong start

I was very aware I  had minimal clinical experience working in the health sector. And while my  social work degree had covered the basics of child and adolescent mental  health, I felt I needed much more in-depth training. That’s how I came to be  enrolled in a HETI’s Graduate Certificate in Applied Mental Health  Studies course (Child and Youth specialisation) at the start of 2020.
I’ve only  completed the recovery-orientated-practice unit, so it’s still early days. Even  so, I’ve been prompted to recall a variety of things I’d learned at uni but  subsequently forgot and been exposed to lots of new information. There’s no  shortage of readings – and other learning resources – provided when you’re  doing a HETI course!
Thanks to what  I’ve learnt, I’ve become more aware of remaining focused on the client’s goals  and using recovery-orientated language. Those things might sound basic. Nonetheless,  it’s important to be reminded of their importance; to make sure you’re going  into every session thinking, ‘It’s about the client’s goals, not my own.’
I also feel more  confident now when talking to young people and liaising with their carers.  While there’s theory involved, most of  the course material has a practical focus. After developing new knowledge, I usually  apply this into practice on the frontline within a matter of days.

Helping make a  dream a reality

I have a significant  student loan debt as a result of my  previous uni degrees and a family to support. I couldn’t have done the HETI course if I’d had to pay for it all  myself. Fortunately, I was eligible for the CAMHS – Children and Adolescents  Mental Health Services Scholarship that covers 75 per cent of the fees.
I’d never applied  for a scholarship before, but I found the process straightforward. My manager  supported the application saying I would benefit from doing the course. I  submitted a statement that detailed my midlife career change and desire to  learn more about mental health. A few weeks after applying, I received a letter  saying I’d been awarded the CAMHS scholarship.
The staff at HETI  have been delightful. I was deployed down to the South Coast to help with  bushfire relief earlier in the year, which affected my ability to keep up with  my studies. My lecturer was supportive and even granted me an extension on an  assignment.

The future  looks promising

It’s not easy  making a major career change later in life. But I’m loving having the  opportunity to advocate for those in need and help young people in their  recovery. I have plenty of life experience to draw on, but you can never have  too much knowledge. I’m looking forward to learning much more about young  people’s mental health while finishing the remaining units in my Graduate  Certificate. Once that’s done, I’ll probably go on to do the Diploma.