Mental Health Clinician / Occupational Therapist, Auckland District Health Board Lotofale – Pacific Mental Health Service
Bachelor of Health Science (Occupational Therapy)
She has always wanted to work in health, says occupational therapy alumna Folole Fangupo.
“I wanted to work in a health profession where I could spend quality time with my patients and help them improve their quality of life in all aspects. I was looking for a profession where I’m free to use my strengths and my creativity.”
Attending an AUT open day helped her find exactly what she was looking for, Folole says.
“I heard an occupational therapist talk about her experience and passion for mental health and addictions, and that resonated with me and inspired me to enrol in the occupational therapy degree. I realised that occupational therapy was a perfect fit for me, as it truly looks at a person in a holistic way emotionally and spiritually, and at what is important to a person.
“Occupational therapy is a profession that requires understanding and compassion, which are characteristics that I value. Learning about occupational therapy and starting my career has taught me a lot about myself, and I’m grateful that I’ve found a career that honours the essence of who I am.”
Building relationships for the future
Being able to gain workplace experience as part of her degree was one of the highlights of her studies, Folole says.
“AUT is a university that provides opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in their respected field by completing work placements in different settings. This enables students to network and build relationships with future employers.”
As someone who is passionate about the wellbeing of Pacific people, Folole appreciated that AUT supported her with placements where she could work with Pacific people of all ages.
“I was able to connect and establish trusting relationships with Pacific clients and their families. Being a fluent Tongan speaker helped me establish those supportive, motivational and therapeutic relationships with Tongan families.
“One of the highlights for me was my first-year practicum at Auckland District Health Board Lotofale – Pacific Mental Health Service, where I now work. I was inspired by the service and how it uses clinical and cultural knowledge to support Pacific people, as well as by the sense of family and community within the service.”
Making a difference for Pacific people
She loves contributing to the development and implementation of clients’ recovery plans, Folole says.
“I’m part of an interdisciplinary team that also includes nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists and community support workers, and we all work as a team to support our clients in their recovery."
She is passionate about improving mental health amongst Pacific people in a way that reflects the diverse Pacific values, beliefs, languages and practices.
“Because we’re a Pacific cultural service, I work in a culturally safe way that enables me to get to know my clients, understand different people’s value system and create a safe environment for cultural issues to be discussed in a constructive way. My work here at Lotofale enables me to foster partnerships that are person-centred, and nurture hope and motivation for engagement in meaningful occupations.”