Meet Our Staff: Chris Davis, Psychologist

What is your role at the College?

I’m one of the College Psychologists.

What was the career path that led you to Santa Maria College?

I decided to change careers after ten years of teaching because I really enjoyed the holistic and pastoral care side of my role. I was in another Mercy school at the time as a science teacher and year co-ordinator. At that time, the most rewarding aspects of my position were building connections with students when they entered the school, encouraging them to build relationships with others in the school, assisting them to develop values and form their identity, and supporting them to adapt and overcome when they experienced disappointments. 

My undergraduate science degree was focussed on Human Biology, with major studies in brain development, neurology and neuroscience, this also included two years of psychology. So when I decided on a career change, finishing my psychology degree then returning to education was a natural progression.

Since graduating with a Bachelor of Psychology in 2008, I completed an internship in a variety of public schools across the metro area and then came to Santa Maria in 2012. I have a particular interest in assisting students with learning disorders, developing resilience in young people and Positive Psychology. I have recently completed a Diploma in Clinical Hypnotherapy and another course in Acceptance Commitment Therapy.

What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?

Assisting students experiencing a variety of difficulties is important to me, using psychometric testing to diagnose learning disorders. I enjoy working collaboratively with other staff to assist students who are experiencing a variety of psychological difficulties.

What are five things you think are vital for good mental health in teenagers?

  • Strong connections with family, friends, and community.
  • Gratitude for what they have.
  • Opportunities to assist other who have less.
  • Participation in sport or exercise or community activities.
  • Educational opportunities.

In addition to these five things, it is important to encourage teenagers to embrace new challenges. Allow them to move out of their comfort zone and experience success or some degree of failure. Learning to accept failure presents opportunities to grow and become resilient as they face life’s adversities and disappointments.

I have found when talking with young people it’s important to try to suspend one’s own judgement and to remain calm. It is more beneficial to refrain from jumping in to fix problems for them or clearing a smooth pathway for them, to allow them to find their own solutions, using a rational problem-solving approach. What might be an obvious solution to us as adults with our own reference of experience, may not work in their particular context.

If a young person is reluctant to talk about a problem, try not to push them at that point. Let them know that you are always available should they wish to talk, and really make that time for when they do. Listen to the ‘whole story’ without interruptions and leave space for silences. This is very powerful, and they will often open up more. Engaging in a task together side by side is less confronting for young people than sitting face-to face having a difficult conversation.

What do you do to unwind?

I take long walks, exercise, listen to music, dance and meditate to wind down.

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