Laura’s story

Laura’s story

Laura Gallacher is a student of MSc Art Psychotherapy at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. Read on to discover why she chose to study here, and what drew her to this course.

Why did you choose to study at QMU and what attracted you to the course?

QMU was my choice to study at due to it being the only university to offer the MSc in Art Psychotherapy in the whole of Scotland, and that which was open internationally allowing for a beautifully diverse mix of students, and great opportunities to go abroad to experience different cultures and mix with other students in their own countries.

What did you enjoy most about your course?

The course offers a great range of placements to experience each year. These connections that QMU has with placements allows for all students’ interests to be covered. The mix of lecture and workshop that the course provided allowed for a greater understanding of the practice.

Were there any course activities you found particularly interesting?

One day we had an experiential trip out to experience galleries and the art that they held while connecting it to our lectures in the past semester. This was an exciting activity that brought the university world into the real world.

How did your lecturers support your learning?

Some lecturers were exceptionally supportive, emailing you articles and events that might be of interest and/or to further your practice and learning while at university. For me, the lecturers could really see potential in each student as individuals.

What challenges did you face with the course and university life? How did you overcome them?

For myself, the biggest challenge was the academic challenge. I have dyslexia, and the academic writing needed for this course was a continual source of anxiety. However, I had a great dyslexia advisor and a group of student peers who were always on hand to proofread and do joint learning which gave me the confidence to put my mind to each piece of writing we had to do.

Did you do a placement as part of your course and if so, can you tell us a little about that experience?

I took part in two separate placements as part of the course. I did one in a low secure mental health ward in first year, and in second year I worked with a veteran’s mental health charity. Both of these placements were challenging yet fantastic in their own rights. Placements really allow you to connect the theory you are learning in university to real practice and real human lives. I think placement is where you really understand what it is to be a therapist.

Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in this course?

A big piece of advice I would love to give to students interested in the course is: do your reading before you begin the course. Try and get on as many experiential learning days, even if this does cost you some money, as these can really help you understand the practice and the theory behind it. Look into BAAT CPD days but also connect with other practices and jump on some of their learning days. Every new experience helps with this course.

Did you join any schemes/initiatives to enhance your learning and development, such as a mentoring scheme, volunteering scheme, etc.?

I became my class rep in first year. This was a very challenging role to have during the new learning curve of our first-year experience and the workload that came with it. However, having this role helped me understand my student body, the course, and the lecturers' standpoint on the education platform and helped shape my confidence throughout the year.

What University services did you use to support you through your university journey, and how did they help you?

As aforementioned, I utilised the disability service for my dyslexia where I was provided with great help through the support of my dyslexia advisor who met me regularly to support my written work and to help me understand better the processes to find articles and work that would also support my learning. I also was given a grant towards equipment that would make the process of writing and transcribing a lot smoother which I greatly benefited from.

What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student?

Utilise the discounts you get as being a student, and I don’t just mean on the shops and cinema. When it comes to external learning opportunities many have discounted rates for students, go and do as many of these and as many cultural things we might not do due to the price of doing them. Let being a student flourish your experiences.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned at university?

Utilise your student peers; for friendship, for support but also for learning. You are all there to learn and succeed in what you are studying; this is not a competition so help support each other to succeed. And remember to allow yourself to still partake in the things you enjoy out with university, this is needed to keep yourself cared for and to help with stress.

Can you tell us about your life post-graduation (your career path, notable achievements, etc.)?

After graduation it is scary, after having so much support through the university and your student peers being out in the big world can be nerve-wracking. This feeling was overwhelming at first, and I felt like I had to get a job as soon as possible. Luckily for me I was gifted a chance to go travelling for over a month and I am so glad I did this. Having this break away allowed me to actually stop and rest before actually getting my head down into the job-hunting game.

I have now started working for a company that works with children who have experienced complex trauma in their lives and in turn their foster placements have broken down and they are then placed into our residential care homes. Within this company I work within a clinical team as a mental health practitioner. I travel between six different care homes in one region and to one of our specialist schools that our children attend. My job role includes supporting and training the staff within these homes to support and care for these children in a therapeutic approach 24/7, while also being there to offer one to one therapy for children that are in need of a more direct clinical input.

I have been very lucky in obtaining this job role and cannot look past the support I continued to receive from tutors after completing university during the journey for a job.

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