Staff Spotlight: Creative side of counselling

Published: Monday 12th October 2015

Monica Raven has been the counsellor on the Canberra Campus for a few years now and says she has the best job in the world.

“It’s a privilege to share so many people’s stories, and everyone has a story to share. I probably learn as much from my students as they do from me,” she said.

Monica enjoys Canberra because there’s a lovely sense of a small community that is close and supportive.

“It doesn’t take long on campus to start to see familiar faces, and I think this is one of the attractions of ACU in Canberra,” she said.

Monica works two days a week, and hits the ground running on Tuesday morning and her feet “just keep racing” until Wednesday afternoon.

“I’ve worked as a school counsellor in the past, and currently work as a counselling psychologist with a youth organisation as well as my two days at ACU, so my passion is with supporting young people and students,” she said.

Monica sees a lot of students in first year, when they’re still finding their feet and working out what is going on. Whether someone is straight from school or mature age, starting university is often a dramatic transition which brings unexpected challenges.

“Many students struggle with trying to “do it all” – to balance a job, a family, a mortgage, relationships, as well as study,” Monica said.

“The other common presentation is stress around practical – most of the students at Canberra have some sort of practicum incorporated into their degree, and support becomes extremely important when students aren’t getting paid, are in new environments, and often don’t have their regular supports available to them.”

The other part of Monica’s role is delivering the Mental Health First Aid course to students, and she discovered, to her surprise, that she quite enjoys teaching as well.

“People often don’t realise that counselling is a very creative career, and demands tailored, innovative solutions and strategies.

“I love working collaboratively with students, and coming up with something together that will work for them: there’s no such thing as one size fits all. I bring my creative side to my work, and I stay fresh in the work by practicing my own self-care, which usually involves some sort of artistic pursuit.

“I’ve been having fun outside of work hours beginning to teach some art/creativity classes at my local arts centre, and working on textile art.”