I have a long-term interest in supporting access and equity and overcoming prejudice faced by many people in our society, partly through my personal experiences. I sustained a serious spinal cord injury in high school and as a result have had lived experience of the biopsychosocial effects of disability and chronic pain. I have spent much of my early career assisting to develop innovative and inclusive programs, including Australian first clinical trials in mental health and addiction. Having recently completed undergraduate study in psychology, my graduate honours thesis is a meta-analysis of the prevalence of opioid use in people with spinal cord injuries. Applied clinical psychology is my area of interest and at this stage of my career I would like to develop and apply research to help those who experience prejudice and improve their mental health outcomes, promoting a healthier society.
From 2007 to 2009 I worked at Delphi on Pulteney, a small private practice of 9 practitioners, as a receptionist and administration officer. My duties included greeting clients, entering Mental Health Care Plans and billing Medicare, DVA, WC, MVA, and private clients. I also liaised with medical clinics regarding Better Access Services.
I have worked at PsychMed from 2009 to present in a range of roles, from front desk reception through to senior management positions. I have been trained in the interpretation and triaging of Mental Health Care Plans and involved with triaging referrals from the Central Referral Unit and liaising with a number of external providers, such as Headspace, Links, Sonder and Oars. I have been involved in the establishment, development and execution of Commonwealth and State Government programs. This included the drafting of tenders, development of risk management plans, recruitment and training of staff, triaging and prioritizing clients to the programs, and implementation of programs in regional and rural SA. These programs have involved working with high need and at-risk clients, where I was required to engage in motivational interviewing skills to mitigate risk and motivate clients to engage in service provision, particularly with regards to the Suicide Prevention, CPT for trauma and Addiction services.
In mid 2016, I was part of the project team assisting to develop clinical trials for these Commonwealth funded mental health and AOD programs, including an exposure-based suicide prevention program, developed in Switzerland, and a Cognitive Processing Therapy program treating survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and other index traumas. From the end of 2016, I was involved with the AOD team in the establishment, development and piloting of the US Matrix program for treatment of methamphetamine users. I also worked on the establishment of the current SA intensive gambling help service, which provides 12 sessions of cognitive-behaviour therapy funded by the Gambling Rehabilitation Fund. I assisted in the coordination of the state gambling help line and professional training workshops including overseas and interstate experts providing CPD for psychologists, doctors and counsellors. I have been on a number of regional visits liaising with doctors, hospital and community-based organisations and learned a lot about engagement, active listening and motivating people to participate in mental health, AOD and harm minimization practices.
In 2018, I was involved in the establishment and implementation phase of a pilot program delivering the Matrix program for methamphetamine users in the Riverland. This included the establishment of a clinic, planned engagement with the local community and service providers, recruitment of a lived experience mentor and group facilitators, and assisting to organize training and establishment of this complex program. In the last 5 years I have also been undertaking HR management duties, including recruitment, employment screening, performance management involving reviews, coaching, mentoring, training and mediation, designing and redesigning job roles and strategic HR involving aligning human resources with organisational goals to achieve outcomes aimed at providing essential services to the community.
I am currently working on the development of a new website and application to support people with gambling and gaming addiction and significant others. I have been fortunate enough to work with high need and complex clients and closely with psychologists ranging from those in training to very experienced practitioners, which I feel has assisted me to have comprehensive grounding in the profession and its practice, assessment protocols and use of evidence-based interventions, research, as well as assisting with important issues such as inclusivity, access, cultural competency and work across the lifespan.
I was involved with the Psychologists’ Association SA Branch from 2007-2009 with chairperson and clinical psychologist Charles Karathanasis. This organisation is responsible for advocacy for working conditions for employed psychologists in SA. In this role, I assisted in answering queries from psychologists and liaising with GPs, psychiatrists, and paediatricians during the introduction of Better Access Medicare benefits. The association ran a helpline for 2 years during the initial introduction of this scheme to provide information for medical referrers about applied psychological practice and practitioners.
I have recently become involved in the establishment of a not for profit Australian research institute, the Wellbeing and Recovery Research Institute (WARRI). I have contributed on a voluntary basis to assist with the establishment of its aims and objectives, focusing upon applied psychological research in suicide prevention, trauma treatment, alcohol and other drugs and addiction, innovative disability treatment programs, evaluation of programs, and looking at cognitive retention in the elderly.
I have worked with a number of service providers to assist the development of the Authentic voices program, which enables volunteers with lived experience train to safely become advocates and provide expert input into the cultural appropriateness, accessibility and face validity of existing programs. In some cases, people have gone through this program to become paid lived experience mentors in state mental health services.
In 2019, I attended the annual APSAD conference held in Hobart to assist PsychMed’s AOD team in the delivery of a multipart presentation on the establishment, adaptation and implementation of the Matrix program into Australia, and took the opportunity to attend a number of professional presentations relating to studies examining opioid addiction and chronic pain, which is the subject of my current honours thesis.
I have also engaged in volunteer work assisting with psychoeducation and screening for mental health and AOD at regional sporting carnivals as part of the community drug action team delivering services from their mobile bus and provided counselling and brief motivational intervention to encourage participation in screening, self-awareness and help seeking. I have volunteered at regional community field days, setting up and working on information stands to promote community awareness of mental health, drug and alcohol and gambling treatment programs and provided screening and psychoeducation materials in Cleve (Eyre Pen), Lucindale (SE) , Karoonda (Murray-Mallee), Berri (Riverland) and the Royal Adelaide Show. I developed novel engagement strategies including the use of emotional support animals and online electronic surveys.
Recently, I have become involved in the establishment of another charity organization Desert Flower, with a group of professionals, including obstetricians, gynaecologists and psychologists experienced in trauma treatment. Desert Flower is a successful autobiography written by a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM) which has turned into a major worldwide UNICEF initiative to eliminate the practice of FGM and associated trauma. Despite approximately 80.000 Australian women and young girls being survivors of FGM, there was no organization in South East Asia or Oceania. I am currently involved in the development of a constitution, defining the aims as raising community awareness of FGM, surgical medical treatments and psychological trauma treatment programs.