Staff Profiles

Sheryl and Steve

Sheryl Tatham, Counsellor, Hobart; Steve Barker, Counsellor, Hobart

When asking people to reflect on their careers, quite often you’ll discover that career paths are not linear – but rather a diverse journey, leading to places unexpected. In Steve and Sheryl’s cases, both have embarked on varied and non- direct paths, ultimately leading them to their current home at RA Tas – where both practice as Counsellors.

For Sheryl, her career started in nursing and midwifery and it is the experiences gained from these roles that inspired her to pursue a career in counselling. “I think I’ve always had a high degree of empathy and that’s been reflected in my work as a nurse and is what ultimately led me to counselling.

For Steve, counselling is his third incarnation, “I started life as a journalist for the ABC and after a few years went to University and trained as a teacher.” Working in schools, Steve saw a lot of children troubled by their dysfunctional family life and felt frustrated at the limited support he could offer, “couples counselling was an opportunity for me to help families work through issues in their relationships…and for this to flow through and positively impact the kids.

Having a background in seemingly unrelated industries, is something both Steve and Sheryl attribute great value too. After all, having a diverse outlook and bank of experience to draw upon certainly helps to understand people, build relationships, and communicate effectively—all crucial skills that both practitioners agree, are essential in counselling.

If Steve had to name the ‘thing’ that has been most influential to the counsellor he has become, it wouldn’t be the courses or degrees he’s completed but rather the people. “The training courses I completed were excellent, but most of what I have learnt has been from my clients and colleagues.” For Sheryl this has also been the case, “I think it’s so true, we learn so much from our clients, it’s such a privileged position that we are in.

For the pair, coming away from sessions with clients is a humbling experience, one that leaves both feeling ‘wiser’. Listening to people’s stories and understanding why it is they are seeking support from RA Tas is a ‘gratifying practice’ for Steve and Cheryl. When asked what part of their job they find most rewarding, surprisingly they name the ‘journey’, not the ‘outcome’, as being most poignant. Steve says “often we don’t know what the outcome will be… it’s the journey that our clients take and witnessing the process of change, that I find most inspiring.” “I think Steve’s right” agrees Sheryl, “so much of what we do is to try and instil hope for change.” Steve and Sheryl do admit, however, that the positive outcomes their clients achieve are gratifying to witness, especially as Steve recalls, “when clients hug each other in the car park when they are leaving… or even in the room!

Developing skills that pull together diverse experiences, seemingly unrelated industries and serendipitous opportunities, all build a solid foundation – a foundation which Steve and Sheryl have demonstrated can be applied to any profession. There is a clear theme that arises from Steve and Sheryl’s stories, one that clients and colleagues would all agree on – empathy; the driver and constant variable that has shaped their careers.