Meet Laura Hawkins
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 Three 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 Laura as she tells her story of her journey into systemic thinking and practice, and her passion for teaching and mentoring.
Laura is a Mental Health Occupational Therapist and Clinical Family Therapist working in this field for 10 years, supporting families, adults and young people. Laura is our valued Systemic Facilitation Leader, as the title of "tutor" does not capture the breadth and depth of experience and skill that she brings to the program.
"What sparked your interest in systemic practice?"
After a stint in Adult Mental Health as a new graduate Occupational Therapist, I moved across to Child and Youth Mental Health into a team called Evolve Therapeutic Services. It was there that I saw the ‘magic’ of systemic practice. We had systemic group supervision which is where I began to see the systemic lens used in everything I did – from emailing a stakeholder, to how we operated as a clinical team, to seeing a child individually, parent work, or when seeing a whole family. I went on to complete my Masters in Mental Health (Family Therapy) and have never looked back. It all just made sense to me that of course, we have to look at the context and relationships to understand challenges and to help build a path forward.
"What frameworks are you drawn too and why?"
I would describe myself as someone who ducks and weaves throughout the Systemic Family Therapy schools depending on what is presented at the time. I have found that having a thorough understanding of all the Family Therapy schools means I have a big toolbox of lenses to grab from in moments of feeling stuck.
I have a strong lean towards the Strategic Family Therapy camp – loving to tackle the system by looking at what areas I can influence to keep flexible and moving forward. My Occupational Therapy spin often makes me very practical on the ground and focussed on meaningful goals and tasks for the individual, family and wider system.
"How has systemic thinking changed your practice?"
Being able to zoom out to see myself in the system is one of the most useful techniques I have found in my development as a Systemic Family Therapist. By doing this, I can check in on my own relationship triggers, blind spots, begin to understand my place in the system, sticky points, and areas where I can move and groove!
I have found that systemic thinking has not only changed my practice, it has also value added to my personal relationships. Being able to hold the systemic picture and relationship dance in mind has been invaluable in managing what I bring to my own relationships personally and my work clinically.
"Why have you chosen to go into a teaching and mentoring role in this field?"
Every tutorial or group supervision group that I have run, I have learned so much myself. It has been the absolute best professional development! I love hearing about others' clinical work and seeing students move through the journey of having the systemic lens fit with their practice – this is often followed with a burst of re-energised passion and enthusiasm in their own practice! Two areas I love to focus on as a mentor in the field are (1) Peeling back the layers to understand yourself in the system and, (2) Helping build a strong understanding of how theory applies to practice in a very practical way!
My students know me for my hand gestures – so be sure to look out for my jazz hands when I am in teaching mode!
"If you could give one piece of advice to our starting students what would it be?"
Don’t be too worried about feeling overwhelmed with how Systemic Family Therapy will ‘fit’ with your current practice and knowledge. I have found that systemic practice provides you with a framework that integrates with your experiences, interventions and ways of working - you don’t have to choose one over the other – it all fits!
Be open to the journey that you are about to partake on – it will be wonderful and you will learn so much, build confidence in your clinical practice and grow as a person too!
"What is one food you cannot stand?"
Bananas – give me a banana lolly or banana bread any day, but the real thing with that mushy texture gives me the heebie-jeebies!