Meet Dr Kate Owen
Are you curious about the teaching team here at QIFT? Do you want to explore if we will be a good fit for your learning style? Then welcome to Part Two of four articles to introduce Leonie, Kate, Laura and Mark.
It is important to us that we embrace the relational principles that we teach. So get to know Kate as she tells her story of her journey into systemic thinking and practice, and her passion for teaching and mentoring.
Kate has a passion for supporting the growth, development, and sustainability of helping professionals and this has been a key motivating factor in the creation of the Certificate in Systemic Family Therapy Program. Kate's capacity to "light a fire" for learning, and her knack of making concepts and skills understandable, concrete, and applicable, are just a few of the qualities and assets she brings to QIFT.
"What sparked your interest in systemic practice?"
I have always been fascinated by people and relationships, and when I was doing my Doctor of Psychology degree I chose to do a Family Therapy elective even though it was on another campus and took me two hours of driving for a two-hour lecture each week. But it wasn't really until I was working on an adolescent inpatient unit around 2005 that I really craved more tools and techniques for working with families. So when I found a three-day introductory course, I jumped at the opportunity. Those three days felt like "home" for me. I could see the value of looking at the bigger picture of a person's life and appreciate their context, history, and current dynamics. It felt like I had more areas of maneuverability and confidence, and when I put that training into practice there were so many lightbulb moments for my clients, that a passion was sparked in me to immerse myself in systemic thinking and practice.
"What frameworks are you drawn too and why?"
Although I place my therapeutic framework under the umbrella of integrative Systems Theory, I do have some preferences in my clinical practice. The First Generation Schools fit with my preferred ways of working as the focus is on understanding patterns of behaviour which integrates nicely with my Psychology training.
In particular, Bowen Family Systems theory is key in my practice as I love helping clients and families explore their past to help understand their patterns of relating in the present. And anyone who knows me, knows that Structural Family Therapy is a favourite of mine. Helping families create healthy, functioning processes to problem solve any situation that life throws at them is my ultimate aim...even if it does me out of a job :) Sticking with behavioural change, I also default to using Solution Focused Therapy with a systemic twist. Why reinvent the wheel when some skillful questions and curiosity can elicit what is already working? I fundamentally believe that clients and families have untapped knowledge, resources, and resilience that can be (re)activated.
And what really excites me, and I could talk about for hours, is how to integrate these frameworks with neurobiological approaches. Especially as a key area of treatment in my clinic is working with people and families affected by trauma. So when I am teaching in the Certificate Program I am pretty confident you will see my face light up when I talk about how relationships will either soothe the central nervous system or flare up the central nervous system.
"How has systemic thinking changed your practice?"
What I appreciate about systemic thinking is that it forces me to slow down, be curious, and look at the bigger picture of someone's life. And systemic practice is like an onion....layers upon layers upon layers. So it reminds me to take into account the client's history, their family history, the current context, where they want to head in life, how other systems around the family influence them (e.g., school, work, etc), and how my own experiences in life need to be acknowledged and then "left in the hallway of my office".
I honestly can say that once you start thinking and working in this way, you can't go back.
To throw in an analogy from the movie The Matrix. Systems thinking is like choosing the "red pill" - to understand life in its beautiful complexity.
"Why have you chosen to go into a teaching and mentoring role in this field?"
I first chose this profession purely because I wanted to help people. As time has gone by my passion for helping others has also grown. Now I would say that I would hope to have a positive impact on professionals, organisations, individuals, families, society, and the next generation.
One avenue for me to do this is through teaching and mentoring. I can only see so many clients per week. But to teach a group of professionals, who then go back into their workplace and work with clients and families, the number starts to compound.
I have done the math. If I see 20 clients over a 12 month period, that is 200 people in one decade. If I teach 20 professionals each year in a decade, who then see 20 clients each year....that is 40,000 people in a decade!
"If you could give one piece of advice to our starting students what would it be?"
With any new learning, you will find yourself at times in a place of uncertainty. You might have been a counselling professional for many years but suddenly feel as though your confidence is shaken. This is normal. Expect this to happen. This is what happens when we embrace new ways of working and thinking. You are disrupting your homeostasis. But just know this...we will help you find your compass.
"What is one food you cannot stand?"
I am not a seafood person. I can eat mild fish and heavily battered calamari, but put an oyster or sardine in front of me and I will gag. Anything that smells really fishy - tinned tuna and salmon - is also a "no thanks".