CQUni knows Positive Psychology

Andrew McClelland

My name is Andrew and I am the Head of Course for Positive Psychology at CQUniversity.

I came to academia reasonably late in life, after many years working in various jobs that involved working with adults and teenagers. Many of these positions involved running therapeutic groups and included developing techniques for growth and positive change. Along the way, I studied a psychotherapy modality and thought I should have something vaguely respectable to hang on the wall as a practicing therapist. I started with an undergraduate psychology degree, liked it a lot more than expected, and just kept going through to a PhD and then academic roles.

I hadn’t intended to work as an academic, but while doing my doctorate and some casual teaching and research roles, a terrific job came up to set up graduate courses and some undergrad units in health coaching. I snagged the job – largely because of all my previous practical coaching and counselling work with adults and teenagers, which had involved a lot of mental health, wellbeing, coaching and group program writing and facilitating. I expanded my courses and units to include counselling with the coaching and also introduced a unit for teaching group facilitation and coaching/counselling skills.

After a number of years, I spent a year setting up and running a Master of Health and Social Wellbeing in NSW and developed quite a lot of teaching material related to collective wellbeing, mind-body wellness, and integrative medicine. Both academic positions, combined with my previous programs development in the broader community have provided me with a lot of material to draw on for the current Positive Psychology courses I coordinate at CQUniversity.

The Graduate Certificate in Positive Psychology and the Graduate Diploma of Positive Psychology first started in 2017 and 2018 respectively, and the Master of Applied Positive Psychology in 2019. We have extensive support and input from the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre at SAHMRI (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) and are gaining a lot of attention across Australia, particularly from teachers, QLD health staff and psychology graduates.

I’m very happy that I’ve been given the freedom to develop units in the Positive Psychology graduate courses which allows them to be significantly different from other Positive Psychology courses on offer around the world. The standout features are firstly, the emphases on developing extensive applied coaching and facilitation skills for working with individuals and groups; secondly, a strong focus on collective wellbeing, social innovation, and inter-cultural wisdom; and finally, a learning and teaching strategy that allows students from a range of disciplines and careers to comfortably work, share and learn together, while exploring a range of applied tools and approaches that can be used in their specific career areas.

The online format certainly assists many of our students to study at distance. We run live online workshops after hours, to cater for people working day jobs, and build in as much practical skill-building into those workshops as possible. We also have a Residential School for those enrolled in the Group Facilitation and Coaching Skills units. Whilst some of these skills can be practiced in an online group setting, to get the full group facilitation experience with in-the-room participants, you can’t beat an on-campus residential. Our Coaching Individuals for Positive Change uni involves weekly three-hour evening workshops, allowing for lots of skill development and practise.

The vast majority of students in the Positive Psychology courses are well established in careers in which they either want to increase their impact in the area of wellbeing and resilience or, want to move into working in that area. There are so many careers that the courses are applicable to, and would enhance, given that so many people work with others in individual and group contexts. We also have a number of practitioners, such as psychologists, counsellors, teachers and social workers that would like to expand their skills in the positive psychology/wellbeing domain, as well as individuals either working as wellbeing coaches or want to move into that area.

I’m passionate about the health, wellbeing and resilience areas, and also love running groups and working with students. I’ve had lots of experiences working with groups of students that have been immensely satisfying, particularly seeing students grow professional skills, and also develop personally and professionally. Sometimes that can be quite unexpected; I had a student in week three of a unit tell me that a particular technique I had shown them for healing relationships had saved her marriage. I love what I do!