Understanding the Role of Psychologists in the Disability Sector

Ever wondered what psychologists do in their line of work? Hear from AWWA Head of Psychology, Kelvin Lee, on the role, challenges of psychologists and what inspires them to keep on doing what they do.

What is the role of a psychologist in the disability sector?

Kelvin: The role of a psychologist varies depending on the type of clients they see. However, in general, psychologists provide assessments, interventions, consultations, and counselling to enable their clients to lead more fulfilling lives. As psychologists are usually part of a professional team, they also provide consultation with other professionals like teachers, therapists and chartered bus drivers as well as stakeholders like parents and caregivers.

What are the challenges you face in your role as a psychologist in the disability sector?

Kelvin: One of the challenges is finding treatment methods and approaches to handle emotional and behavourial issues that are viable for clients. Clients and their caregivers come from many different walks of life and have different living situations. Sometimes even the best interventions may not be appropriate for them. This can often lead psychologists to feel stuck and disheartened. However, it is important to develop intra-personal awareness and continue forward with the clients even if it is taking baby steps and making small changes.

What is the perception people have of a psychologist?

Kelvin: Different people have different perceptions. Some positive, some not so. Some (parents) understand that we can help them with supporting and managing their child’s behaviour, to support them with difficult decisions, and provide them with good information to make informed decisions. On the other hand, they may feel that it is stigmatic to work with psychologists- only people with mental disorders see them. When working with a psychologist, some individuals may expect the psychologist to be the one to drive change in the therapeutic relationship; failing to understand how changes in themselves may be necessary.

What inspires you to do the job you do?

Kelvin: I can only speak for myself, but I think the positive changes that we see in our clients motivate me the most; seeing them become more successful over time and their caregivers learning to not just cope, but be hopeful about their child’s future, wherever it may lead.

What would you tell someone who wanted to pursue psychology in the social service sector?

 Kelvin: I think it is important for them to know what they want to do first rather than to pursue a job title. Often you hear about people getting into a certain course of study only to realize the prospective job is not what they thought it would be.

Also, be curious and take time to find out about the social service sector. There are many areas where one can practice psychology in.


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