Rebecca Hogea MAPS MCCOMP
Some time before I began my university degree, a friend of mine experienced a traumatic brain injury. After witnessing his journey, I selected disability studies as a major area of study during my undergraduate psychology degree. This led in turn to my interest and involvement with a community-based rehabilitation program. During this time I was asked by a participant of the program: ‘Why haven’t you told me how you got your brain injury?’ I clearly did not fit this person’s perception of a staff member. Although I took this as a compliment, I was affected by the enormity of the perceived gap between staff members and the brain injury survivors in the program, one I increasingly viewed as arbitrary. The extent of discrimination inherent in attitudes of the wider community toward people with disability was becoming clear in the interactions I witnessed and at times ignorantly enacted. It was through my relationships that I learned of how notions of ‘normality’ could be problematic.
Since my exposure to disability studies, I have chosen to work in various roles serving people with disability within community services. My postgraduate training in community psychology involved an explicit shift toward a practice centred on values of social justice accompanied by an acknowledgement of the multiple contexts within which people live. Taking a social determinants of health approach in the context of the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is an example of how studying community psychology continues to assist me. I believe that both what led me to disability studies and my experience of it, reflects a strength I brought to practising psychology – namely, valuing people with lived experience as expert citizens.
For those starting out, I would recommend seeking out mentors. I am thankful that I was able to do this both through the registrar program for Area of Practice Endorsement in Community Psychology, which I now hold, and the ongoing supervision I still find invaluable. In saying all this, the program participant who kindly tolerated my ‘mentoring’ through a disability studies placement over 10 years ago, became one of the most important mentors I have had to date.
Disclaimer: Published in InPsych on December 2015. The APS aims to ensure that information published in InPsych is current and accurate at the time of publication. Changes after publication may affect the accuracy of this information. Readers are responsible for ascertaining the currency and completeness of information they rely on, which is particularly important for government initiatives, legislation or best-practice principles which are open to amendment. The information provided in InPsych does not replace obtaining appropriate professional and/or legal advice.