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‘The fact that I could study online at HETI was hugely appealing for me, particularly as I was working full time. And the online experience was fantastic. I would rush home after work to find out what people thought of the latest subject or discussion. I really enjoyed the exchange of ideas with other students and the flexibility.’
By Louise Salmon, Senior Family Consultant, Hobart Family Law Registry
After graduating with a Master of Applied Mental Health Studies from HETI, Louise secured a senior position in the family law court and was asked to contribute her psychiatry expertise at a leadership level. She explains how HETI gave her confidence to take the next step in her career.
When I enrolled in the Master of Applied Mental Health Studies at HETI, I was working in Sydney as a Family Consultant. My role involved dealing with children and families, and providing assessments to the court. The judiciary considered my assessments when making decisions that would significantly impact the family, so it was a really complex and responsible role.
Some of the children I was seeing had a lot of mental health troubles, so I wanted to learn more about children’s experiences with stress and trauma. I was doing my own personal study to stay informed, but I really wanted that in-depth knowledge and clinical framework to guide my work.
Taking on a leadership role in the court also interested me. I had worked as a clinical social worker for 12 years and dipped in and out of part-time jobs when I had children. But I was at the point where I was ready to focus on my career and make a bigger contribution to the community.
The fact that I could study online at HETI was hugely appealing for me, particularly as I was working full time. And the online experience was fantastic. I would rush home after work to find out what people thought of the latest subject or discussion. I really enjoyed the exchange of ideas with other students and the flexibility.
While a lot of the information was familiar from my experience in social work, the Masters provided a framework for what I was seeing on the ground. I’m particularly interested in mental health advocacy from the perspective of lived experience, so it was great to be pointed to research that supported that approach. It was very different to the evidence available when I first studied social work years ago.
In fact, I find it hard to imagine doing a Masters and not practicing at the same time. It complemented my practice and validated my knowledge, giving me a lot more confidence and pride in my work.
The course was also a lot more critical and analytical than I expected, which was impressive. It showed me that we can contribute to the knowledge base on children and families, based on our experience. And we can comment on it from a clinical perspective, to develop the knowledge of our peers.
The realisation that I could reflect, think critically about the material and make a contribution was quite powerful. It gave me the language and conceptual tools to think holistically about mental health and advocate for consumers and carers.
After finishing the Master of Applied Mental Health Studies at HETI, I was interested in moving to a regional location in a more senior role. It didn’t take me long to secure a Senior Family Consultant position with the Hobart Family Law Registry. They encouraged and financially supported me to move to Tasmania, which I don’t think would have happened without my Masters qualification.
I’m working in a fabulous team that includes a consultant with a Master of Advanced Social Work, and my studies have given me the skills to speak her language and support her in taking on a leadership role of her own.
I’m also a Committee Member of the Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, where I contribute to policy direction and review policy papers. The combination of my clinical experience and Masters degree means I can operate at a leadership level and really make a difference.
The truth is, I had a Bachelor of Social Work and worked in the field for a long time, but it wasn’t enough. You really have to keep abreast of what’s happening in the field, otherwise you risk drawing on biases to make conclusions about the families you see. My Masters made me more accountable, and I certainly feel more purposeful in what I’m doing at work.
My advice? Do it. Studying at HETI has given me a whole lot more confidence in working with children and families, as well as court staff and the work I do in the mental health advocacy space. It means I can make a real difference to families. And that’s really what it’s all about.
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