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What our graduates are doing now

Matt Hegan

Psychologist
Intensive Wraparound Service (IWS)
Ministry of Education

Dr Matt Hegan

right: Matt Hegan meeting with a youth support person

When Matt Hegan meets people at social gatherings, he no longer tells them he is a psychologist. Conversation would often dry up after people learnt what he did during the day, with the comments “you must be analysing me right now” or “can you read my mind?” commonplace. Now he simply tells them he works with young people and those around them, and changes the subject.

Matt finished high school and then started farming. Eventually he decided to expand his horizons and move to the city, starting a music and theatre degree at the University of Otago. He was quickly drawn to the field of psychology, after taking a first year psyc paper and then changing his degree.

“I loved the arts and expressing myself on stage, but I wanted to help change people’s lives - really make a positive impact”.

Whilst studying psychology Matt continued to pursue his musical interests, taking time out of University to tour in different bands.

“The day came when I knew I needed to make a decision in terms of a career, and so I chose to commit to further study”.

Despite that decision, his career path was not clear cut.

Working in the Colombo lab with Professor Mike Colombo and Dr Damian Scarf, Matt grew to love ‘good science’.

“I really appreciate the scientific method, and my time working with Mike and Damian really challenged and moulded my thinking in this way - their mentorship really set me up for life”.

After graduating with a BA (PSYC), DipGrad (EDUC) and MSc (PSYC) Matt toyed with Med School, before opting to work in a secure residential facility for CYFS. Having always worked with ‘at-risk youth’ in different capacities, Matt enjoyed the challenge of converting psychological concepts into daily practices.

“I think the real challenge I will always face is to mould psychological theory into practical real life solutions”.

Becoming a registered psychologist in New Zealand requires a postgraduate qualification that includes an internship of 1500 supervised hours (roughly one year), case studies and oral examinations. After working for CYFS Matt went back farming before enrolling at the University of Waikato to obtain his psychology registration.

“Life is an interesting journey, and my career path has not been a straight road - more of a roller coaster. One thing I can say for sure is that life experience really helps in the field of psychology - you have to be able to ‘keep things real’.”

Matt now works as a psychologist for the Intensive Wraparound Service (IWS), a top-tier Ministry of Education intervention for the most at-risk youth in our communities. In his day to day work, Matt is able to take the valuable lessons learned in the Colombo lab and implement them in practical every day solutions.

“The work is incredibly varied. I could be counselling a young person, working with teachers on best-practice classroom interventions, working with police youth aid officers on behavioural strategies, parents with violent behaviours, administering cognitive assessments - whatever the need is, I analyse the situation, collect data and make sure the interventions we implement are ‘best practice’ and are making a difference. I access research all the time, and use it to inform my practice as I work with youth and those around them.”

So if you meet a person at a party and they give you some vague description of their work before changing the subject, watch out - they could be analysing your every move.