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Get Qualified to Get Heard

29 November 2005

Get Qualified to Get Heard

Karen Kjestrup has travelled a lot to study. Sometimes she has even slept in her car to be able to attend classes. "That didn't usually happen, my other classmates have let me stay and made me a part of their family," says Karen. "It's not very nice sleeping in a car, now I know how some of my clients feel." Karen had been working in the mental health field in Wanganui, coordinating support for mental health services.

She is passionate about her work but realised that she needed a degree in order to be heard and make a real difference * so she enrolled in Drug and Alcohol Studies at WelTec. "I was as an average achiever at school," says Karen. "I didn't do too well. But because WelTec's approach lets you build one qualification on top of another it's less intimidating. I didn't have to commit to a degree up front and I could have left early with a certificate or diploma if I had wanted to."

"It's really challenging personally and intellectually. I think I came in with a toolbox of skills and experiences that I could draw on to help my understanding during my study. It helped me learn. I could connect the theory in class with my own experience. I struggled with theory in the first year but it was worth the effort, it makes total sense now and it gets much more enjoyable.

Karen is pleased that she has seen her studies all the way through to degree level though. "I didn't leave last year with a diploma, like a lot of other students did because they were offered jobs. I'm glad now because I gained a lot from the last year. Karen says she has worked with clients all the way through her study and that it is an important part of the learning. "I found my own placement at Good Health Wanganui.

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Anyone coming into the course should be really proactive about finding exactly the placement they want because it can turn into a job at the end, as it has for me," says Karen.

Karen's job at Good Health Wanganui is in 'dual diagnosis' * people who have both mental health issues and alcohol and drug problems. "I'll be working with clients with more challenging problems than when I was working in the community. I'll also be working as part of a team to educate families and support people and coordinate support groups.

Karen is so enthusiastic about study now she will do post graduate study. "I think I'll have a break first though." Frances Mason at Good Health Wanganui has closely supervised Karen's work during her placement. She says that Karen's progress over the time of her study has been profound.

"The fact that she has been given a rock solid foundation of theory and knows how to apply it practically is obvious in all the work she does. Karen has worked hard but she has obviously had hours of input from good tutors," says Frances. For more information on any of WelTec's Counselling or Drug and Alcohol programmes call 0800 WELTEC


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