My Path to Becoming a Psychologist in Australia: A Personal Journey

Allan O
8 min readAug 19
Therapy session in a private practice setting, medium: photography, style: professional and empathetic, capturing the essence of a psychologist’s work, lighting: soft and inviting, creating a safe space, colors: warm and neutral tones, composition: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR camera, EF 85mm f/1.8 STM lens, Resolution 30.4 megapixels, ISO sensitivity: 100, Shutter speed 1/125 second, focus on the psychologist’s attentive expression, depth-of-field to blur the background, high-sharpness, ultra-deta
Source: Midjourney (by Allan Owens)


Becoming a Psychologist in Australia is a big adventure. You can “choose your own adventure” (to a degree). For instance, I could have completed four years of study and two years of internship experience. This path (called the 4+2) is now phased out in Australia. I wanted to continue my university studies, so I ruled this option out. Or I could have finished the fourth year, then undertaken a Master’s degree covering two full-time years of study. Yet you would need to undergo 1000 hours of placements across three or four different learning environments. This was not an option for me, with a family and mortgage to support.
I took the middle road between further university and internship. I followed a path called the 5+1 model, which means five years of study and one year of working with real people. This journey took 13 years and 283 days to complete. I want to share my story, the hard parts, and the good things I learned.

The 5+1 Model: Learning and Growing

Here’s what my journey was about. Years one to three covered normal human psychological functioning (for the most part). I enjoyed examining neuroscience and behavioural psychology. Did I read and absorb ideas outside of the prescribed texts? You bet. Books like Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl, and enjoying the practice of Zen, for instance. This learning accompanied by real-world experience. I learned many things:

  • Stressed about work? If so, sometimes anxiety or depression may have interesting causes. You may be anxious because you work with turkeys or basic people — “human doings”, rather than human beings.
  • Choose your pain. The pain of improving yourself, feeling ugly feelings to their fullest and grasping the nettle of tough situations. Or the duller, enduring pain of mediocrity and lack of purpose.

My fourth year was challenging. The drive to get high marks was intense, as was the challenge of producing a 10,000-word thesis. Rewriting essays 18 times would yield the highest marks, but was it worth it? The “not knowing” whether your final fourth-year mark was good enough to take you further. Beyond this I learned:

Allan O

Senior organisational change manager. Mental health professional. Author of The Change Manager’s Companion.