From landscaper to AOD counsellor in a job straight from placement

Posted by on 13 September 2016

When former landscape gardener Tony was looking to pursue a new vocation from scratch, he chose to study counselling at ACAP, for the course’s match to his satisfaction in helping others, and his personal interests in psychotherapy and sociology. While on placement at TaskForce Community Agency in Melbourne in his final year, Tony was offered a job as an Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Clinician for forensic clients.

Read Tony’s story:

For the past 15 years I have been owner-operator of my own garden maintenance and landscape gardening business. For the most part I loved being self-employed and working outside every day. However, the work was very physical and was taking its toll on my body. I knew that sooner or later I would need to think about entering into a more sustainable career.

All I knew was that throughout my life, people had always confided in me. This was never more evident than in the running of my gardening business. Almost without exception my gardening clients would share their frustrations and current life challenges with me. This was a space I always sat comfortably in. There was something strangely familiar about the counsellor’s role.

I worked as an AOD (put in full name) counsellor for my entire placement. I had finished all the other academic requirements of my Bachelor (including the AOD counselling unit) and therefore had a very good theoretical understanding of several counselling modalities. I was also still running my own business during this time and consequently had a robust understanding of risk, consequence and personal accountability. My supervisor recognised these qualities instantly.

I was counselling clients within my fourth day of placement. I had a very high degree of autonomy, which suited my placement needs and my personality perfectly.

AOD was a natural fit for me and my colleagues and I knew it. Most of the other counsellors in the agency had suggested to my supervisor that he should offer me a job at the end of my placement. Being offered a job therefore was not a surprise but it was a relief.

I started paid work at TaskForce the week after I finished student placement. It was a very satisfying feeling to be offered a counselling job the day I finished my counselling degree! I worked part-time at TaskForce for the remainder of 2015 while still running my business.

In January 2016 I closed my gardening business and began working full-time at TaskForce, as an AOD Clinician. I now work almost exclusively with forensic clients. This means that the majority of my clients are mandated to see me for AOD counselling as part of their corrections order, bail conditions or as part of their parole order. I have become very passionate about working with this population.

All aspects of my placement helped prepare me for employment. Whilst the training I received at ACAP had given me the skills to be an effective student counsellor, it’s not until you’re sitting in front of your first client that you really get a taste of what being a ‘counsellor’ means. One-on-one, without a lecturer or supervisor watching over your shoulder and with nowhere to hide; this is how you learn your craft. 

I am a proud advocate of ACAP and encourage anybody thinking about a career in counselling to seriously consider studying at ACAP. I think the lecturers at ACAP are second to none. The depth of their academic knowledge combined with their field experience makes for a very well-rounded educational experience.

Undertaking placement is perhaps the most poignant aspect of the entire educational process at ACAP. It is ‘where the rubber hits the road’. During my time at TaskForce, I have observed several students from various universities undertake student placement. I can state without hesitation; that no student group in my opinion is better prepared for meeting the challenges of student placement, than ACAP students.