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Valedictorian’s career change

lady in graduate gown smiling on brick wall
University of Southern Queensland valedictorian Kathryn Millist-Spendlove at her graduation ceremony this week.

It was amid her work as a lawyer supporting victim/survivors of abuse that Kathryn Millist-Spendlove realised she could, and needed to, help in a more meaningful way.

With years of experience as a solicitor, barrister and in-house counsel, Kathryn’s career change has seen her swap the courtroom for a counsellor’s office, and she has now completed a key milestone – graduating with a Master of Counselling with Distinction from the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ).

She joined hundreds of University of Southern Queensland students to receive their testamurs at graduations ceremonies at the Empire Theatre this week.

As valedictorian of the Health & Community ceremony (thanks to a perfect GPA), Kathryn stood before the crowd and advised courage to risk failure, encouragement for self-care, and emphasised the importance of compassion.

“We are not defined by our worst moments. If anything, we learn more from our failures than our successes. It’s all progress and a step of the journey we are on – inspiration to move forward and grow,” she said.

Kathryn will now look for more opportunities to boost her skillset as a registered counsellor specialising in interpersonal trauma, perinatal psychology and infertility, and vicarious (secondary) trauma, and has flagged an interest in pursuing a PhD in the future.

She currently runs a private practice – Mindsmith Wellness – in Toowoomba, offering services in-person, online and via telephone.

“Around 2019, I realised my job as a lawyer just didn’t fit me anymore, but I was still passionate about the people I had been helping in that role,” Ms Millist-Spendlove said.

“All of my clients had experienced abuse of some kind. And I was there with them during a time of enormous distress (going through litigated cases).

“Traumatic experiences can radically shift how people experience the world, leaving them anxious, confused and untrusting.

“Speaking with them and supporting them… that was the part of the job I felt called to. Now, as a registered counsellor, I’m participating more meaningfully in their healing journey.”

Kathryn said her time at the University of Southern Queensland had enriched her ability to provide care.

“I've had an excellent experience - wonderful lectures, plus interesting and practical subjects. The counselling course has a lot of role-playing assessments and other activities that are really helpful for developing the skills that I use every day in my job.”

Learn more about studying counselling at the University of Southern Queensland.