Cognitive behaviour therapy support in war-affected Sri Lanka

Amalka Edirisinghe

Overcoming her own adversities in life, Amalka Edirisinghe (MCBT ’20) has dedicated her career to providing clinical supervision to psychosocial workers in war-affected areas of Sri Lanka, and has quickly become a cognitive behaviour therapy expert for her home country.

Amalka struggled with learning early in life due to an undiagnosed visual impairment that caused the loss of her central vision.

But inspired by her mother, who was a constant support and guiding influence, Amalka worked hard to fulfil her dream of becoming a clinical psychologist.

“I began working in the mental health and psychosocial sector in Sri Lanka, which made me realise the importance of evidence-based therapy and ethical practice in mental health service provision,” says Amalka.

“This is what led to my enrolment and completion of the Master of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy at Flinders University. It was the dream course I wanted to study because of its close alignment with my education background.”

COVID-19 border closures forced Amalka and her son to remain in Australia for an additional six months following her graduation, but once lockdown ended she wasted no time in returning home to join the Colombo-based Family Rehabilitation Centre as the Manager of Program Design and Capacity Enhancement, where she had an immediate impact.

“I redesigned the clinical supervision model at Family Rehabilitation Centre with the knowledge and skills I learnt during my Master of CBT,” says Amalka.

“I have also been providing clinical supervision to the psychosocial workers who are working in war-affected areas in Sri Lanka. This helps to reduce the stress they face when providing counselling to clients, to increase accountability of their work, and provides a platform to increase their knowledge and skills.”

With a passion and drive to do more for others, Amalka is using the knowledge and practical experience she gained during her placements at Flinders to design session plans for the remote counselling program the Family Rehabilitation Centre is implementing to support people affected by the pandemic.

“This involves a therapeutic module to raise awareness on mental health and provide activities to overcome worry, anxiety and low mood that people are experiencing due to the uncertainty, mandatory lockdowns and isolation as a result of the pandemic.,” says Amalka.

“I have become somewhat of a CBT expert for Sri Lanka, where I am being invited to teach CBT modules in undergraduate and graduate programs.

“I did not imagine myself working as a clinical supervisor, yet here I am, doing exactly that, supervising psychologists and psychosocial workers at Family Rehabilitation Centre while also being fortunate enough to contribute to the Mental Health Policy of Sri Lanka and advocate for the establishment and absorption of the clinical psychologists into the Sri Lankan Government Health System.”

Amalka says Flinders University has an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching and research within prestigious international rankings while also ranking highly in graduate employability, teaching, facilities, innovation, internationalisation, access, and specialist subjects.

“Flinders has a culture of inclusivity, multiculturalism and participation. My visual impairment needs were accommodated and supported by the University. The openness and acceptance have made me more comfortable as a human being, knowing that my future visual impairment challenges will be surmountable.

“I also gained a lot of skills and knowledge by being a student mentor and was able to contribute to the betterment of student experience at Flinders University by being part of the Student Voice Group where I advocated for services for students with vision impairments, such as 24-hour access to the Adaptive Technology Rooms.

“I also enjoyed being a member of the Flinders University Student Disability Association and have fond memories of being part of the Flinders University Lions Campus Club.

“I am truly humbled by all the experiences I had at Flinders and greatly appreciate the opportunity to study there with the Australia Awards scholarship I received.”

Find out more about studying postgraduate Cognitive Behaviour Therapy at Flinders University

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College of Medicine and Public Health Health Psychology Transnational Education

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