Psychology and counselling - student stories
Annette Rauf, Psychologist
Why did you choose to study Psychology with the OU?
I had started studying with the OU when I was a single parent and my first degree (BA Hons) was able to get me started out in financial management. I wanted to give something back to the OU so I started working with disabled students at summer schools and this then opened me up to taking a psychology degree as most of the students I was helping were taking this course of study.
What else did you do while you were studying?
I was interested in domestic violence as I was once a victim, so I also started volunteering with a domestic violence charity – Domestic Violence Intervention Project - to gain practical experience in my chosen area which was working with perpetrators of domestic violence. I would give psychological assessments for perpetrators who wanted to get onto the offender programme.
What qualifications did you get?
By the time that I gained my psychology degree, the OU had changed to letting graduates have a named degree. As I had also included in my course programme social policy and criminology courses, I also gained a Diploma in Social Policy and Criminology.
How did you change career?
At this time my job was going pear shaped as my company was rationalising and my role became untenable. So I now had both the degree and the practical experience to change careers. I applied for and got a job as a Domestic Violence Coordinator which involved a multi agency strategic response to tackling domestic violence. As this role was a contract position when this finished I decided to widen my net and became a Community Safety Manager, which involved a multi agency strategic response to crime reduction including domestic violence.
What happened next?
Unfortunately just as I was becoming established in this role and gaining a reputation, I was struck down with cancer. Due to the treatment and complications I had to be medically retired from this role, which was a great disappointment to me. However even though I was now left with a disability and had seen the way disabled people cope with adversity, I decided that although I may not be able to work, I would not give up hope of working in some capacity in the future.
How did you maintain your professional development?
I undertook a Masters in Forensic Psychology and Criminology to maintain my professional development as well as practical experience at a victim level of working as a volunteer with Victim Support. Victim Support work with victims was a challenge as I had previously worked with perpetrators and at a strategic level, but I needed to keep my feet on the ground.
What have you done since?
More recently I have had a small amount of work with my local police force as a Domestic Violence Risk Assessor. This again was a challenge, not only in getting back into work but also working as a disabled person. Psychologically this has given me a boost which I desperately needed, as I found that I had not lost my edge and the knowledge came flooding back. Although I have to work in a different way now than when I was an able bodied person (I can only work from home and even then it can be difficult) I am still useful and my degrees are still useful.
What would you say to others thinking of studying Psychology?
Having a psychology degree does not mean that you have to go down the conventional route of clinical work. There are more varied exciting possibilities that are opened up to you and it is up to you to take full advantage of what you are interested in and the variety of jobs available.