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Amalka Edirisinghe: Reaching new heights in clinical psychology

Posted: 20 March 2020

Sri Lanka, Disability, Experience, Impact, In Australia, Scholar, Videos,

Australia Awards scholar Amalka Edirisinghe from Sri Lanka is a clinical psychologist by profession, currently completing her Master of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy at Flinders University in South Australia.

In Sri Lanka, Amalka was working in an organisation that provides holistic psychosocial services to people affected by violence-related trauma. She was responsible for implementing a clinical supervision model for the organisation, and conducted weekly individual and group clinical supervision for the psychosocial workers. She was quickly promoted to Director of Programs, responsible for overall management of all psychosocial programs.

Noticing that there were deficiencies in her client treatment, Amalka felt she needed more knowledge to excel in her field, and sought out an advanced degree in clinical psychology. “As a clinical psychologist, it is of utmost importance that the therapy provided to clients is effective in reducing the common mental health problems that they have been experiencing. I am currently in a one-of-a-kind program that teaches mental health professionals a therapeutic technique named Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which has an excellent evidence base of its effectiveness,” Amalka explains.


Australia Awards scholar Amalka from Sri Lanka on campus at Flinders University

In 2015, Amalka was diagnosed with macular telangiectasia (MacTel) type 2, an eye disease that causes loss of central vision, making it difficult for her to read, write, walk and clearly see people’s faces. Her dreams of further studies started to feel unattainable after her diagnosis. “I wanted to achieve things such as higher learning before it became more difficult for me to see, but in Sri Lanka, there is not much assistance,” says Amalka. “Searching for scholarships online, I came across Australia Awards, and I selected it because of all the support that the Scholarship would provide, including disability support.” This was the primary reason for Amalka to pick Australia as her country of choice for higher education.

Amalka at Flinders University with fellow scholar (now alumna), Ushaa Moosa from the Maldives

“There are many challenges related to this that people who do not have vision impairment might not even think of,” Amalka explains. The support that Amalka has received for her disability has been very positive, even the small ‘vision impaired person’ badge that she proudly wears: “The moment that someone sees me wear the badge and read that I have a vision impairment, the support that I need is provided without me even asking.”

Amalka is also proud of the meaningful relationships that she has built with her lecturers, senior therapists, clinical supervisors and colleagues in Australia.

“I believe that these connections have given me valuable insights regarding mental health and service provision, and helped me think outside of the box to come up with different ways that I can help a client,” she says.

Once she returns to Sri Lanka, Amalka hopes to join an organisation that has vast reach at the community level, so she can train counsellors providing mental health and psychosocial support to people. “I hope to teach and support those in Sri Lanka who are undertaking university studies in psychology,” she says. “I believe the psychology curriculum in Sri Lanka would benefit from more evidence-based teaching, and I hope to help bridge the gap.”

Scholar Amalka Edirisinghe in Canberra during a recent Australia Awards – South and West Asia Scholars Forum