Postgrad psychology: The laughter and tears and everything in between

To get an idea of the breadth of experiences available to postgraduate students at the ANU Research School of Psychology, you need only to listen to Sara Quinn talk about her PhD:

“One minute I’m playing with kids for my research project, dressing up and having a tea party, and then the next minute I’m talking to someone about losing a family member.”

Sara is in the final months of her PhD in clinical psychology, writing her thesis on the relationship between imaginative play and language acquisition in childhood.

“You know how kids use bananas as telephones and saucepan lids as steering wheels?

“I have been studying how that’s important in terms of language development.”

“I had over 100 meetings with mums and dads and their children, over a six month period, and got to play with them while studying them, which was lovely.”

In extreme contrast, Sara completed a placement with the ACT Trauma Support Service as part of the coursework component of her PhD.

“I was placed with a small team on 24-hour call, who would go along with the ambulance service when there was a sudden death in the community or an incident where the emergency services want support from someone who understands trauma.

“We would administer psychological first aid, managing the affected person’s emotions in that moment and ensuring they know what to expect, and what happens next.

“It’s quite intense. I learned about myself and how I deal with trauma, and also how much of a privilege it is to be with someone in that moment.”

Sara says she has “loved everything” about her studies, with the contrast in subject matter providing “a nice balance.”

“I’ve been to two other universities and compared to them, the academics at ANU aren’t just teaching the subject, they are passionate about it.”

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