Associate Professor Shirley Morrissey FAPS MCCLP MCHP
I began my training as a nurse in the UK and while working on a female medical ward, found myself drawn to those patients who were obviously (at least to me) having psychological problems as well as physical health issues. This led me to further training in psychiatric nursing which opened my eyes to the complex psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorders and postnatal psychosis. Again I was drawn to those patients who I thought needed and would benefit from psychological help and not just medication or ECT!
I wanted to ‘help people’ with psychological problems. This led me to further training in cognitive and behaviour therapy (CBT) and subsequently a position as a Clinical Nurse Consultant at a hospital that specialised in intensive treatment for OCD and where I also worked with individuals with a range of psychological problems such as depression, generalised anxiety, agoraphobia, social anxiety, health anxiety etc. I came to Australia in 1985 and learnt very quickly that nurses did not work as autonomous therapists here and CBT was considered to be clinical psychology territory!
So, in some ways, I had no choice but to go to university and study psychology. Two major obstacles faced me immediately, one was to study psychology I needed to leave town, and secondly because my nurse education and training had all been hospital based, I had to complete the whole 4 year degree in psychology! In retrospect, this was no bad thing!
I thoroughly enjoyed my psychology studies and found that life in tropical North Queensland had its own very specific challenges which led me to pursue a PhD examining the psychological impact of heat and humidity. I became so enthralled with psychology that the last 20 years of my life have been spent practising psychology, teaching and supervising students, and researching across a broad range of clinical and health related topics. I am grateful for my nursing background as this has helped me enormously in being able to understand the complexity of health and illness, as well as having prepared me for working in the health system.
My tips for career planning of early career psychologists is to think broadly, to look for opportunities to apply psychology in a variety of settings – to consider the application of psychological science in communities and systems, and to be willing to collaborate with professionals from a range of other disciplines, and demonstrate the value of psychology across diverse populations and diverse settings.
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.