Meet the Courage Scholars (Priscilla Akutu-Carter)
This guest entry is from Priscilla Akutu-Carter, a PPG Courage Scholar for Violence and Post Traumatic Growth. Priscilla is as a Senior Management Consultant for the banking and finances industry and active in the LGBTQ+ community. She is also a recently trained Coaching Psychologist who runs a social enterprise, EncouragingHer, which supports female survivors of domestic abuse. She enjoys being in nature, travel, culture, mindfulness, and meditation.
How did your journey in Positive Psychology begin?
I came across the area of Positive Psychology after experiencing feelings of frustration and disillusionment with what the corporate world had to offer. Prior to 2018, I had spent well over a decade working as a successful independent management consultant in banking and financial services. At this stage, I believed that I had all of the ingredients to ensure that I lived ‘the good life’ – focusing on materialism, entertainment and striving for continually moving goal posts. I was left feeling unsatisfied and quite frankly – unfulfilled. I made the decision to hire a life coach and through our sessions, I began investigating the area of Coaching Psychology, which is often described as an Applied Positive Psychology. This led me to the decision to re-train as a Coaching Psychologist, and I applied to study a British Psychological Society (BPS) approved diploma. Through my training, I was introduced to the concept of character strengths and the Values in Action (VIA) assessment, concepts such as gratitude, self-acceptance, resilience and was introduced to the work and research of prominent practitioners such as Martin Seligman, Christopher Peterson and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. My training provided me with insight like no other – I was able to directly apply what I had learned to my own life and experienced significant changes. Although for a time, my situation in life remained the same, I started to develop greater levels of self-awareness and gratitude. I was able to identify my character strengths in action and gained a new level of appreciation for the knowledge and experience gained from my professional career.
The most notable life change was the decision that my wife and I made to launch a social enterprise called EncouragingHer. The organisation focuses on providing innovative solutions to support female survivors of domestic abuse. Combining my knowledge of applied positive psychology and my fascination with PTG, I felt drawn to the notion that a positive psychology approach may also prove useful for those who had experienced domestic abuse and violence. By November 2018 – my partner and I won an award for EncouragingHer as a concept. In the summer of 2019, I made the decision to apply my learning and research and construct a PERMA-based wellbeing programme called ‘Beyond Surviving’ to support survivors and help them develop a forward-looking approach and develop a deeper knowledge of the fundamental pillars of wellbeing and flourishing.
After a period of active recruitment, on 24th January 2020, I launched the first 16-week face-to-face programme for a group of 16 women referred to us by 2 local authorities, Women’s Aid and Hestia. At the time of launching, I had the privilege of partnering with a formidable team of female practitioners – 4 of whom supported me with the delivery of the programme and the remaining 2 were researchers and lecturers from the University of Greenwich. The pilot programme came to an end in April 2020 and it proved to be a truly life changing experience for clients and practitioners alike. My learning journey continues, and I thoroughly enjoy learning about new dimensions of my character and I now actively look for ways in which I can harness my strengths.
Why did you apply for the Courage Scholarship?
I was informed about the Courage Scholarship by a graduate from Buckinghamshire University Applied Positive Psychology Masters programme. At the time, we were collaborating on the delivery of my PERMA-centrered programme. I have first-hand experience of seeing the results that teaching PPI’s can have on survivors. I was able to create a programme based on the knowledge gained through my coaching psychology training. The programme also led me towards developing a research paper (to be completed by the end of 2020), in addition to forming some life-long friendships. I believe the Courage Scholarship will help me to continue to expand my network, deepen my knowledge on the subject of positive psychology and provide me with new insights which I can use and apply to develop additional interventions to support female survivors of domestic abuse.
Why and how does strengthening Positive Psychology research on Violence & Post Traumatic Growth interest you?
In a recent lecture for my coaching psychology training, one of my lecturers described themselves as a ‘prac-academic’. This phrase really resonated with me. I enjoy research as it allows me to engage my ‘love of learning’ and ‘creativity’ but I also really enjoy working directly with people as a practitioner. My assumption has always been that there is a need to favour one direction over the other, but nevertheless, I am a firm believer in the symbiotic relationship between research and practice. I am an evidence-based practitioner and in my view, it is imperative to inform and strengthen practice via research. I am keen to make my contribution to the existing body of research on post-traumatic growth and as any true evidence-based practitioner would do – put this into practice!
What are you most looking forward to on the scholarship?
When I discovered Positive Psychology – I knew I had found my area of interest. One of the things that I really enjoy about the subject is the sheer breadth of areas that are available to learn and research. I am very much looking forward to broadening and more importantly deepening my knowledge on the subject area. At present, I have an interest in exploring the training pathway (although I am not wedded to this, as I am aware that over time and through further study, my interests may change!). I have reviewed the course content and I am particularly interested in expanding my knowledge on the psychology of strengths, resilience and motivation. I also have a keen interest in developing my qualitative research method skills, as this will help me develop new ways of measuring the impact of my research. I am excited to put my knowledge into practice via my research project and look forward to the opportunities that will present themselves as a result.
The Courage Scholarship for Violence and Post Traumatic Growth is funded by the PPG Scholarship Fund as a priority research area. Four positions were awarded for the period, 2020-2022. The four Courage Scholars are each tasked with researching the relevance and possibilities for application of Positive Psychology to post-traumatic growth in situations of violence, conflict, and crime.