Chantelle Terblanche shares some of her experiences as a Senior Psychologist at the Hamilton Hub. Her work shows the many hats that our psychologists wear.
What do you do in your day-to-day role?
I do individual assessments and treatment, which are community and prison based. I also do court reports; for extended supervision orders and preventative detention. These may require us to be expert witnesses in court if called upon.
I provide clinical supervision to students, interns and registered psychologists. We have a good relationship with the University of Waikato and other training programmes in that, we assist them with psychology intern placements. This provides the student with exposure to what Corrections Psychologists do and a safe and supportive training ground. Our hope is that they will consider Corrections as an employment option later in their career path.
I’m also the consulting psychologist for our residential facility for high and very high risk offenders. As such, I am a member of our multi-disciplinary team, which is made up of Corrections Staff and an external agency. During these meetings, we discuss the resident’s transition back to the community and how we can assist them towards their reintegration and rehabilitation goals. It’s nice to work on different platforms because you get exposure to the other sides of the department, not just psychology itself.
What do you enjoy the most about each of these?
I enjoy that each day is different. Our work requires us to work in the moment, which is what I enjoy. I also enjoy contributing to the experience of students and interns during their time with the Department.
What’s the most challenging part?
Working with offenders can be challenging and some of their offending behaviours can be quite fixed. Understanding and challenging these behaviours can be difficult for the individual and the therapist. It can also be a very rewarding process; when you see an offender acknowledge some of those behaviours, and gain an understanding of themselves and an awareness that they can change.
We work in a context where some offenders are ready to change and some are not. In our profession that’s something you need to acknowledge on a regular basis. It’s not about you, it’s not about the work that you’re doing as a therapist, that person just isn’t ready. For that person, it might take a longer time, or they might need more intervention before they are willing and/or able to change.
As a Senior Psychologist, you have the opportunity to engage in some of the more challenging work with offenders and share your knowledge. This has been a wonderful opportunity for professional development and to improve my practice as a psychologist.
What attracted you to psychology?
I have always had an interest in people and wanting to help them. After working in medical and psychiatric hospitals, and mental health services, I joined Corrections in South Africa in 2012. Through engaging with offenders, I began to see the value our work as psychologists and the impact treatment could have in creating meaningful and offence-free lives for offenders.
I’m inquisitive, and that’s part of what makes psychology so interesting because it’s not black and white. There’s no ‘yes’ or ‘no’, there are reasons and there are ways of understanding why people do what they do. We put the puzzle together to understand how, for this individual, their offending forms part of their inner world.
How do you find working at Corrections?
I think Corrections is a wonderful environment for young professionals who want to practise the profession but haven’t found a specific area of interest.
Corrections encourages professional development through ongoing training and competency progression. You are never alone, as you have the support of supervisors and more experienced staff to ensure best practice. One of the main reasons I enjoy my work is because I am surrounded by an amazing team who have such a passion for their work.
I think there is sometimes a stigma around what Corrections Psychologists do, and some people find the idea of working with offenders “scary”. The reality is that offenders are members of our community and prison is not their final destination. As psychologists our focus is on seeing the individual behind the offending, assisting them to understand what has brought them here and help them make meaningful change.