'My research experience has supported my development as a clinician...'
PhD in Human Services
Senior Clinical Psychologist, Southern District Health Board
People ask Latesha why, with an established career as a clinical psychologist, a private practice to manage and two 'very busy' children, she would embark on a PhD in Human Services.
'I felt I needed a new challenge of an academic nature,' she explains. 'I certainly got that!'
In her work at the Southern District Health Board, Latesha provides clinical psychology assessments and interventions to children and young people with mental health problems.
'My interest in my PhD topic developed from meeting a significant number of families dealing with parent abuse - children behaving abusively towards their parents and caregivers - and I found that very little research had been conducted in this area.'
Knowing exactly what she wanted to study, but based in Invercargill, Latesha had to consider her options when choosing where to study. She needed to find both the right academic fit, and a way to juggle all her responsibilities.
'I was aware that Kate van Heugten and Nikki Evans [Human Services and Social Work Department] at UC had an interest in parent abuse, and I liked their approach to researching and writing about human struggles. I found them both to be really enthusiastic and supportive right off the bat. This is important when you are embarking on a journey that will involve hours of time and you're based at the bottom of the world!'
Over the five years of her study, Latesha says she actually spent very little time on campus.
'Before I applied we talked about the challenges of studying by distance. Kate was really mindful of some really important factors to consider, having supervised others from a distance. As a student, this is where the quality of your supervision relationships is critical. We had regular Skype meetings and I could access information via the UC website or call someone for advice about administrative matters or library services - I found everyone to be really helpful.'
Latesha says her research has been 'hugely beneficial' to her work.
'Clinical psychology is ever-evolving and it is important to stay up with the play in terms of developments in both assessment and treatment of mental health problems.
'I think that psychologists, with our emphasis on individual and family factors, often do not pay adequate attention to broader factors - social, cultural and political - when trying to conceptualise a person's or a family's difficulties.
'I feel my research experience has supported my development as a clinician, particularly with respect to the problem of family violence, but in many other ways too. PhD study develops your ability to think more critically about the information you read and hear, and I feel it has deepened my awareness of the many social and cultural factors influencing New Zealand children and their parents.'
Latesha adds: 'If you are considering a PhD in Human Services, feel excited about all the really interesting topics that you can pursue. When you settle on one, search out supervisors who will share your enthusiasm for it. In my case this meant venturing away from psychology and opting for a human services focus.'