Psychosocial work: promoting competences and encouraging development

Stefan Weisbach completed his bachelor’s and master’s degree in Psychology at AAU and was also involved in the Austrian Students Union (ÖH) for several semesters. During his studies, he organised major student integration football tournaments, for example with the participation of ASPIS, the Psychosocial Centre for Refugees and Victims of Violence. Today he runs a child and youth welfare institution in Carinthia and runs his own practice for psychological counselling, coaching and psychosocial support in Klagenfurt.

How did you land at your current job? How did your career develop?

It was important for me to gain practical experience right from the start. A university degree without having worked in the psychosocial field was out of the question for me. I did not just want to rush blindly through my studies, but to take as much as possible with me. At some point, I came across a job advertisement for a permanent position in a shared flat for children and young people living with other people and was hired. A few years later, I switched to intensive family care and became a department head. In 2014 I opened my practice for psychological counselling, which has been an accredited private child and youth welfare institution since 2015. It was not always easy, but I am very grateful for all the positive and negative experiences and opportunities that have opened up.

What does your work life look like? Tell us about your regular tasks and what it is that you particularly like in your job?

I experience my work life as quite eventful and varied – with all the ups and downs through which I accompany my clients. My psychological and psychosocial work is situated within the radius of action between problems within the family and external influences on the family system. I work with children, young people, adults, couples and families, always with the aim of helping them to help themselves. It is not simply a matter of providing solutions, but my task is to promote skills and encourage development. I work in my practice in Klagenfurt, but I also make home visits all over Carinthia. Sometimes I am also in other federal states. The best thing about my job is to keep families together, resolve conflicts and prevent under-age children and young people from being taken to live with others. It is often extremely impressive to see the changes my protégés and their families are capable of.

Would you choose to study at AAU again?

Yes. That is actually planned. I am very much attracted to the doctoral programme. I have always felt comfortable and at home at the AAU.

Can you recall a nice anecdote from your student days?

I had registered with a few fellow students for a group dynamics seminar which we really wanted to attend. The problem was that the course was totally overcrowded, and we were thrown out of the course as lower semesters. We were naturally annoyed and had to discuss our disappointment intensively at the on campus mulled wine stand. A few of us waited until the end of the first evening of the course to negotiate a place in the seminar with the lecturer, Dr. Pesendorfer. This obviously impressed him, and we were allowed to participate from the next day on. That evening, one of my closest friends confided to me that he would become a father. So, it was still a really nice evening.

What advice would you give to today’s students?

In my opinion, students should not just rush from course to course, but should take as much interpersonal and professional experience with them as possible. Especially in the psychosocial field, it is so incredibly important to be stable. In the lecture hall, a really valuable foundation for later work is conveyed, but in my opinion, you cannot learn a healthy demarcation behaviour, resilience or empathy ability from books. For this, working from person to person is indispensable. But you should also enjoy the other benefits of student life and really enjoy your time.

Do you miss anything from your time at AAU?

Very intensive and reliable friendships developed during my time as a student. I am very grateful and humble because they are real friendships that have grown over a long period of time. We were all in Klagenfurt during our studies. Today we live in different cities – sometimes hundreds of kilometres apart. You cannot see each other so spontaneously any more.

Word Rap:

A happy AAU moment was…

my graduation – and the valuable experience of being able to achieve everything with a certain amount of perseverance: I worked in the psychosocial field parallel to studying for almost my entire studies, married a wonderful wife during my studies, started a family, built my company and then completed my master’s degree in Psychology even with distinction. Graduation was a special moment for me. I was anything but a model student in the past. None of that would have worked without self-reflection. As a student, you have to pay attention to your strengths and resources.

From your time at AAU you still own…

technical literature, my student ID and, of course, my statistics documents – there is far too much time and work involved to simply dispose of them. Meanwhile, they also have a symbolic value: you should not hide from problems but accept them as a challenge. Although it took me a bit longer to complete my statistical challenge.

If you were to study again, you would…

again, pay close attention to choosing a Psychology degree that is as practical as possible. That was also the reason why I came to Klagenfurt in the first place – the practical relevance. I had the privilege of hearing and experiencing some really great lecturers: Klaus Ottomeyer, Luise Reddemann, Jutta Menschik-Bendele, Axel Krefting, Ewald Krainz and of course Philipp Mayring. I am very grateful for this. I was able to take a lot with me.