Riverside therapy: Mahalia redefines counselling spaces for young minds

By Barry de Silva
Mahlia Scholz looking at camera and sitting in office
With the mental health challenges of young people increasing by almost 50 per cent in the last 15 years, there is a growing need for empathetic counsellors who can create environments where young people feel comfortable sharing their problems.
Mahalia Scholz is a Clinical Practice Lead at Centacare and has been running a private counselling practice for her clients, away from the traditional office settings. Mahalia gave an insight into her life in the beautiful region of Albury-Wodonga, why she was inspired to study counselling and psychotherapy at ACAP and spoke about how she supports young people with their mental health.

Growing up near the banks of the iconic Murray River, Mahalia revealed that she knew early on in her life that she wanted to be in a profession that helped people.

“I had friends who struggled with their mental health, and now in my adult life, I’ve realised that they could have got support, they just didn’t know how to or weren’t brave enough at the time,” Mahalia said. “I’ve always had this burning question that supports everything I do – if we gave people a set of tools in life early on, where would they be now?”

Several years ago, Mahalia developed a niche in counselling to support adolescents and young men who were struggling with their mental health, and in an environment that wasn’t clinical, which she offers through her private practice.

“Helping young people is true to my heart and where I want to be in my career. Some of my best counselling sessions have been done walking alongside rivers and on the backs of their utes, being really gentle in my approach and guiding them where needed.”

“I am a strong believer in early intervention and providing a set of tools early on to young people as soon as they start to notice big feelings in their worlds, and it becomes challenging. Giving them that support early on will set them up for later in life.”
Mahalia began her journey into health care in 2018 when she studied the Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy at ACAP. The flexibility around the course, she said, was the key to her studying success.

“I had family members at home I was taking care of, so I had to continue to bring in a solid income. I never wanted to leave my hometown, so having the flexibility to do the blended delivery through ACAP meant I could experience being on campus and also do a lot of studying from home, which really helped me thrive.”

This year, ACAP celebrates 40 years of delivering outstanding higher education to students who want to pursue careers in human services, Mahalia reflected on the quality of her learning experience there.

“I absolutely loved it. I made some life-long friends at ACAP – those that studied the masters were in it for the long haul – we were enjoying every moment and soaking it all in,” she enthused.

“What really impressed me was the calibre of the lecturers, they weren’t just academics, they were people with lived experiences and had a personal connection to what they were teaching.”

As a Clinical Practice Lead at Centacare, an organisation that supports people who have experienced hardships and challenges, Mahalia has been able to apply the learnings of role-playing scenarios from ACAP to her position at Centacare, where she works with all clinical staff to ensure they have the correct training and confidence to work with clients.

“I am a firm believer that without the role-playing and workshopping I did at ACAP, I wouldn’t be as confident as I am today. That holistic sense of learning where it isn’t just theoretical work, has been essential to every part of the way I work. Being able to role-play and understand different types of therapy modalities and then have the opportunity to challenge yourself and reflect on areas of improvement is what I have taken into my daily practice with clinical staff.”

Back home, Mahalia is continuing to live Albury-Wodonga’s mantra “where connection happens, naturally” by nurturing relationships with young people, while giving them the life tools to thrive.

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