Mentorship and Metamorphosis: Amanda Bird's Path to Counselling Psychology

September 07, 2023

This fall, Amanda Bird begins her master's in counselling psychology journey, deeply influenced by her participation in the Counselling and Human Development Post Baccalaureate Diploma program, which provided an alternative path to her goal of a Master's in Counselling Psychology.

During the program, Amanda took a course with Dr. Masahiro Minami, leading to a transformative mentorship that profoundly inspired and guided her as she advances in her academic journey.

In a recent conversation, Amanda highlighted the pivotal role of mentorship in shaping her future academic pursuits and her goals for her master's program.

Q: What inspired you to come to SFU and pursue counselling? 

A: I grew up in Ontario, earned my teaching degree there, and later worked in a remote Thai community, creating and teaching an art program for survivors of violence and their children. After relocating to B.C., I became a Youth Development Worker, offering one-to-one support for youths facing violence. 

Over time, I transitioned into roles coordinating youth services, all while maintaining my commitment to helping young people and their families. My experiences with resilient youth navigating complex circumstances and mental health challenges motivated me to seek advanced support techniques. Consequently, I decided to return to school, and the Counselling and Human Development Post Baccalaureate Diploma caught my eye as a stepping stone towards my master's degree.

Q: How did your undergraduate class with Dr. Minami impact your perspective on counselling psychology and your academic pursuits? 

A: I took Masa’s Helping Relationships class, where he guides students in developing practical skills for those in or entering the helping field. Masa is not only an exceptional instructor but also approaches teaching with immense care and empathy. He emphasizes reflective practice, understanding diverse worldviews, and accessibility in counseling psychology, inspiring his students to become mindful, informed, and effective professionals. He shares his expertise with clarity and kindness, fostering active learning, connections with the material, and self-exploration within the field.

Participating in Masa's class solidified my passion for counselling psychology and inspired me to pursue my research project.

Q: Tell us about the application process as you prepared the next steps toward applying for your master’s. 

A: While completing pre-requisite courses, discussions about the competitiveness and challenges of program applications were common. Given that my bachelor's degree was outside of psychology, I began preparing for my application about two years in advance while working full-time in community-based organizations. 

What made my experience unique was seeking guidance from Masa. In his welcoming environment, questions were not just accepted but warmly embraced. This extended beyond class content to encompass my aspirations in the field and my career path.

Every prospective student will have their unique academic journey, but I found that getting to know the professors and aligning your passions and values can be empowering during the process.

Q: How did your decision-making process unfold when selecting a research topic and what kind of support and guidance did you receive during this critical phase?

A: When I met Masa, I was already committed to pursuing my Master's, but our interactions and his support inspired me to develop a research project and complete a thesis. Masa emphasizes the value of lived experiences and provides a platform for students to explore their unique interests and passions.

Through our conversations, I shaped a research topic focused on dismantling access barriers to support services for women and non-binary survivors of gender-based violence, prioritizing survivor-centered, intersectional knowledge.

Masa's support went above and beyond, offering unwavering accessibility and a genuine interest in the evolution of my research interests. This mentorship began in his undergraduate course, continued through the application phase, and extended to my work as a research assistant. Masa has become a mentor figure, offering steadfast professional guidance, support, wisdom, and empathy.

As I enter the MA program and work on my thesis with Masa as my supervisor, I'm grateful for the experience of learning from and collaborating with him, valuing his continued influence on my educational and professional journey.

Q: As you embark on this exciting new chapter, how do you envision applying the principles you learned? 

A: I hope to grow my ability to implement liberatory, anti-oppressive practices in providing progressive support. Currently, I am working on a project developing and implementing a multidisciplinary community engagement table to facilitate anti-oppressive, decolonizing support addressing urgent needs for youth in crisis in Vancouver. I hope to directly connect my learning in research and academia with community needs to cultivate responsive, intersectional services. 

My intention is to continue supporting individuals who have experienced gender-based violence in counselling roles, both in community and academic settings. Additionally, I aim to expand my research capacity, co-creating knowledge rooted in collective care, offering impactful individual support, and examining pathways to dismantle revictimization barriers.

Applications for the MA, MEd in Counseling Psychology program open on November 1, 2023. Learn more about the program and the application process by visiting our program page.