Rural placements for psychology students

  • Female student with laptop talking to a woman
Rural Workforce Agency Victoria
Gaby Gauthier,
Allied Health Project Officer, and
Lauren Day,
Future Workforce Program Officer

Delivering mental health care to rural communities is usually a collaborative effort between providers, schools, training organisations and workforce support organisations such as the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria (RWAV).

One Red Tree Resource Centre is an Ararat service that provides high-quality, evidence-based mental health care, as well as placements for provisional psychologists completing their Master of Psychology in partnership with Federation University.

In 2022, One Red Tree was a recipient of RWAV’s Rural Allied Health New Service Grant, and this assisted the clinic in fitting out six additional clinical rooms with furniture and psychology assessment resources to support student placements.

During the current semester, the clinic is hosting 11 provisional psychologists with a caseload of 10 patients each. The program model used at One Red Tree has enabled Federation University in Ararat to increase the available places in the Master of Clinical Psychology course from 15 to 60. These students are guaranteed a rural placement before being accepted into the course, and many want to study at Federation University for this reason.

Tammie Meehan, co-director of One Red Tree, submitted a question about student placement support via the ‘Contact Us’ page on the RWAV website. Tammie's query was sent through to the Future Workforce program, which noted her concern about RWAV’s current Rural Clinical Placement Grant guidelines. The guidelines were not making provision for the alternative placement schedules that psychology students follow, compared to other health disciplines.

Placements occur over a six-month period for two days a week, and Tammie found that her students require financial assistance for accommodation and fuel costs for their placement. RWAV recognises that mental health services are a priority need across rural and regional Victoria and a crucial decision was made to help students complete their rural placements.

Following discussions with Tammie, RWAV identified this unmet need and the new RWAV Rural Clinical Psychology Grant was approved. The grant is designed to support clinical psychology and neuropsychology masters and doctoral students, as well as students studying a Master of Professional Psychology, to undertake clinical placements in rural or regional locations.

Applicants were able claim up to $3,000 to assist with travel and accommodation costs associated with rural and regional placements. This critical support was previously unavailable to psychology students and RWAV hopes it contributes and strengthens the Victorian mental health rural workforce.

Through RWAV Grants, provisional psychologists at One Red Tree have been supported in completing their placements, providing mental health care to children and their families, and guidance to school staff to enable ongoing care.

The collaboration between RWAV and One Red Tree contributes to the future mental healthcare workforce. It supports individual students on their journey to rural allied health careers and delivers mental health support to those who need it most.

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