In pursuit of passion

September 11, 2023

Graduate student Melissa Read poses for a photo inside the Mary J. Wright Child and Youth Development Clinic at the Faculty of Education.

Changing careers is hardly an overnight decision, especially when it requires leaving job offers behind to make way for a six-year long education commitment.

Melissa Read remembers long bus rides home from her teaching job that were spent wondering whether she could hold off on her dreams any longer.

At the time, Read was working in the U.K., having obtained her Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Windsor a few years prior.

While she loved teaching, Read says there was piece of her that wanted to be involved in research and mental health.

“I could see there were so many things happening for these kids, and I could see there were so many other needs that were there,” Read recalled.

“I wanted to be able help children with their mental health and learning needs in a way that as a teacher, at the time, I could not do.”

Choosing to follow her dream, Read packed her bags and moved from one London to another, ready to begin Western Education’s MA/PhD program in the field of School and Applied Child Psychology, leaving a teaching career behind to pursue her passion.

Read was especially drawn to the School and Applied Child Psychology’s focus on program development and evaluation. Read had experience with program development, having carried out projects related to improving children’s fitness and mental health prior to her teaching job, and she was now gaining a wealth of new tools for improving youth wellness.

Read was also able to satisfy her affinity for research.

During her MA, Read’s work explored the relationship between executive functioning and internalizing and externalizing behaviour difficulties in young children. Currently, Read’s research focuses on the feasibility and efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions for youth and families, as well as tools to help children struggling with their learning. 

“I felt like this is definitely where I need to be,” Read said of her first memories at Western Education.

Putting lessons into practice

Now in the final year of her PhD, Read is wrapping up her role as Psychology Resident for the Mary J. Wright Child and Youth Development Clinic at the Faculty of Education.

At the clinic, graduate students in the School and Applied Child Psychology program work under the supervision of licensed Child Psychologists to provide high-quality and affordable psychological consultation, assessment and mental health treatment services to children between three and 18 years old.

Read instantly fell in love with the impact she was making.

“The first time I had a client be able to do something that they couldn’t do when I met them, that’s probably one of my favourite memories,” Read said.

“There is this difference being made. The children and families are doing a lot of the hard work, but I’ve been given the tools and knowledge to guide them through whatever they’re struggling with.”

There is also the personal transformation that Read has gone through, and she now feels fully equipped to tackle the same issues that made her feel helpless as a teacher in the U.K.

“The clinic is amazing. The leadership of Colin King and Katelyn Bryant is incredible, I received such a range of experiences here — they focused on my learning goals and supported me in achieving them.”

There’s still some time before Read is back in the working world. The PhD candidate is planning her dissertation defense and will then work in supervised practice.

Read is carving out her path and could see herself staying in private or community practice, but has long envisioned making early intervention easily accessible for all children, be it through a school program or curriculum.

Thankfully, Read has inherited a piece of advice that always served as a metaphorical compass whenever she felt lost.

“My dad would always say to me, ‘if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I’ve always used that motto to ask myself ‘do I love what I’m doing here’,” Read said.

“Ultimately, it’s a question of where you want your place to be in life.”