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Creating pathways for students to forensic mental health

Creating pathways for students to forensic mental health

One of the challenges facing the Victorian mental health system is building a diverse and multidisciplinary workforce who have not only the right skills and experience but a desire to contribute meaningfully to the lives of people with a mental illness. 

One initiative to solve this issue is the Allied Health Pre-Qualification Program – a Victorian Government initiative that aims to attract soon-to-be-qualified students to a career in mental health. The Department of Health has partnered with the Centre for Mental Health Learning to support the program through state-wide resources, clinical supervision and evaluation.   

Identifying the advantages of initiating this program at Forensicare, our discipline heads Dr Shelley Turner (social work), Dani Ashley (occupational therapy), and Dr Aleks Belofastov (psychology) submitted a joint proposal and successfully secured funding.  

Dr Turner said that it is a really fantastic initiative for Forensicare.

“This initiative forms an important foundation for developing and supporting our Allied Health workforce today and into the future. It is also a brilliant opportunity for motivated final year students to integrate their learning in a workplace setting and hone their forensic mental health practice skills,” Dr Turner said.  

How the program will work at Forensicare 

The new program enables us to welcome six final year university students enrolled in social work, occupational therapy, or psychology. Most of our new trainees have just commenced with our service and will each be working within specific units or programs across our community, prison and hospital services.

They will each work under the supervision of a discipline-matched clinician and will take part in regular one-on-one supervision, as well as group reflective practice sessions with the Centre for Mental Health Learning.  

They will play a key role in assisting the mental health care team they are part of and will be supported to grow their skills and confidence and provide care to consumers in line with their level of education and competence. 

Meet some of our trainees!  

Our social work trainees, Rachel and Miles are both in their final year of a Masters of Social Work; Rachel at the University of Melbourne and Miles at Monash University. They are working, respectively, with the Community Integration Program (CIP) based at Ravenhall Correctional Centre and at Thomas Embling Hospital. 

Rachel said that she has always wanted to work in an area of mental health where she can advocate for the rights of individuals and is really interested in the intersection of criminality, mental health and trauma.   

“I’m looking forward to learning more about how recovery-oriented therapeutic techniques are applied in practice and particularly the role that social workers play in the recovery journey of people within the justice system,” Rachel said.  

“I’m interested in working at Ravenhall to learn more about the specific difficulties and challenges these men face and how Forensicare works to provide an empowering and healing experience whilst incarcerated and transitioning to the community.”  

Our psychology trainees, Ella and Daniel are both in the final year of their post-graduate training as psychologists at Swinburne University of Technology and LaTrobe University respectively. They started at Thomas Embling Hospital last month.  

Daniel said that he has had a great start to placement and has been warmly welcomed by staff in the Bass unit at the hospital.

“Forensic work interests me because it involves working with complexity, the integration of multiple areas of psychology, and provides benefit to a wide range of stakeholders – from individual clients and to the broader community,” Daniel said.  

“Forensicare has a reputation for excellence in forensic psychology and it is a privilege to have this opportunity. I look forward to meeting the hospital community and learning more about how Forensicare psychologists support the team and contribute to clients’ journey of recovery.” 

Finally, our occupational therapy trainees Julia and Emily are both in their final year of a Masters of Occupational Therapy Practice at Latrobe University and Monash University respectively. They will start with us at Thomas Embling Hospital once they complete their final student clinical placements.  

Julia completed a clinical placement on the Argyle unit at the hospital earlier this year, and enjoyed it so much she’s come back!  

“While studying, I have been working as a disability support worker and key worker, supporting clients with a range of physical disabilities and mental health illnesses,” Julie said.  

“Earlier this year, I had my student placement at Thomas Embling Hospital where my interest in forensic mental health developed. I am passionate about supporting people experiencing complex mental health issues in achieving their goals. I find this career to be very rewarding and I feel privileged to be a part of other peoples’ journeys.” 

We’re really excited to welcome all our new trainees and look forward to supporting them to grow at every stage of their careers in forensic mental health. 

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