What inspires someone to become a psychologist and help people with their mental health? What drives them and makes their work so rewarding. In this article, Mental Health Advisor for Moving Mindz, Dr Karen Hallam, shines a light on the profession.

1) What’s your professional background?

I am both a clinical psychologist and have been a senior researcher for universities and organisations for many years. I started out by doing an undergraduate degree in psychology with honours, followed by a PhD through the Psychiatry Department at Melbourne University.

I realised that after doing my PhD I was qualified as a lecturer and researcher, but to be able to work as a clinical psychologist I would have to go back and do a couple more years of a Clinical Master’s in Psychology.

Overall, I was at uni for most of my 20s, but I couldn’t get enough of it – I ended up working at universities, teaching and researching in psychology for another decade on top of that. 

It was only in 2020 that I made a decision to move full-time away from research and teaching into psychology practice. That’s when I opened my own rooms in Northcote.

2) Why did you become a psychologist?

I like solving puzzles and trying to understand complex things. I really enjoy when people can begin to identify patterns they may not have previously been aware of and make simple or more complex changes to improve their lives.

I also remember reading a book in my undergraduate years by Anne Deveson, ‘Tell me I’m here’, about her son’s battle with schizophrenia. It inspired me to do something that made a real difference in people’s lives.

3) What do you love about your job?

The people. I feel very honoured that people talk about such personal and challenging things with me.

What people don’t get about therapy sessions is often how much we laugh and celebrate successes. I tend to believe the saying, ‘we did the best we could with what we had’ and that people have done well to get to the point in their lives where they want to make more changes. It’s nice to be part of helping to take those next steps.

4) How do you feel about being a collaborative researcher with Moving Mindz?

I love it. I am a big believer in the power of small and significant steps to take care of our health and mental health.

Over the years, I have constantly been surprised that the peer-reviewed science papers we have published about the outcomes of the Moving Mindz programs show such significant impacts from seemingly simple activities like walking and being part of a team.

I also have liked working with Moving Mindz founder Shane Bilsborough on so many things. His passion for helping people and making the program the best it can possibly be is infectious.

5) Hobbies outside work?

I am a lover of all things renovating, so tend to relax by working on a very cool and very run down mid-century modern house we moved into in late 2019.

We have a big garden now and I am loving seeing it slowly transform. I am also a big home cook and veggie gardener, so I am getting pretty keen on permaculture. 

6) Favourite TV show and book?

Hmmm, probably Search Party to binge watch at the moment.

Book…it’s embarrassing, but because I spend so much of my life reading for work and writing, I hardly ever read books. My only exception is books on Australian architecture where I see all the things I would love to be able to do. We fans tend to call it ‘architecture porn’.

7) If you could spend a day in the life of someone, who would it be?

An Age Good Food Guide restaurant critic.

8) Secret vice?

That wouldn’t be a secret anymore, right? Probably buying plants on Facebook marketplace. It’s highly addictive.

9) Your goals for 2021?

In 2020 I moved into full-time psychology practice after years of doing it part-time while doing other jobs. In 2021 the goal is to build up the practice and make a bit of an impact on the lives of people in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne. My biggest practice goal is to get better at doing the admin!

About Dr Karen Hallam

Dr Karen Hallam is the Mental Health Advisor for Moving Mindz and the Principal Clinical Psychologist at Northcote Consulting in Melbourne. You may contact Dr Hallam through Moving Mindz or via info@northcoteconsulting.com.au