People of SL&RR: Sonya Finlayson

A NEW FACE IN THE COMMUNITY

A new addition to the Sexual Lives & Respectful Relationships community, Sonya Finlayson is a Program Partner from the new Blue Mountains site in Sydney, NSW. Sonya is currently an Assistant Manager in counselling. “It’s a clinical load, so providing leadership, supervision and driving clinical policy,” she explains. Much of her work involves being part of projects, working on developing best practice approaches, and particularly assisting people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Discussing the link between her counselling role and work as Program Partner, she says they encounter “a lot of women attacked by family violence” in their field of work. Becoming part of SL&RR was a natural direction for Sonya take, as she’s no stranger helping people through hardship and confronting life experiences.

“IT WAS SO MEANIFUL TO HAVE THE PEER EDUCATORS THERE, TRAINING AND EXPERIENCING IT [WITH] YOU.”

When speaking about how she became involved, Sonya remembers a contact at Synapse reaching out. “[They asked me] whether this would be something we should look into,” she reflects. Given the nature of their work, they took it on. Sonya underwent training in January 2019, and described the experience as “meaningful” and “purposeful”. Reflecting on the program and her experience, she acknowledged some initial concern, as there was much to learn. “Overall, [the program was] very positive. I’m very new and from a different area,” she reveals, “so it was very meaningful to have the Peer Educators there, training and experiencing it [with] you.” Sonya felt the structure of the program was “very different and positive” and greatly beneficial to everyone involved. When discussing a memorable moment so far, she cited the stories: “the individuals’ stories, and the disclosures of Peer Educators were inspirational. Some stories would bring hope to others; I think that’s really inspirational.”

“[THE PROGRAM] IS NEW, ON AN INTERNATIONAL LEVEL AND INNOVATIVE.”

When discussing her goals in the program for the year ahead, she says delivering it for the first time will be an achievement in itself. “There’s a part of me that’s so nervous about [it]; being able to do it,” she says. She notes how much the program and its purpose stood out to her, and how she wants to do it justice. Being a part of something that is “new, on an international level and innovative” can be a bit overwhelming, but Sonya says knowing she’s helping people “encourages” her.

On a personal level, Sonya notes professional bravery is important to her, and that American psychologist and author Marsha Linehan is a big inspiration for her. Sonya reveals she connected to Linehan’s story when attending one of her seminars in 2000. Linehan’s ground-breaking research and methods in psychotherapy were “courageous and trailblazing”. “[It’s] such a mail dominated field,” Sonya explains, “so from a feminist perspective and through a social justice lens, she’s really broken the mould.” With a career that has left an impact, Sonya looks at Linehan’s work with admiration. In her own way, Sonya continues to make a difference through her work with others. The SL&RR community welcomes her with open arms!

– Georgina Morrison 2019

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