Hilary Ash has needed a wheelchair for 25 years after a car accident left her with quadriplegia. It has not stopped her pursuing an active career in social work, and more recently coordinating not one but two MHPN networks. And now she has offered to introduce other coordinators to the Balint method of casework collaboration among clinicians involved in mental health.
Attracted by the MHPN model, Hilary attended early workshops run by MHPN and agreed to coordinate a group in Elsternwick, Melbourne.
Hilary has a master's degree in group analytic studies from Monash University and is particularly interested in the way groups operate. One of the areas she studied was Balint groups.
A few years ago Hilary participated in a Balint Intensive Training and found it a useful model for any professionals, not just GPs, who work with distressed people. The experience persuaded her to set up a local Balint group.
The Intensive also exposed her to experienced Balint leaders in Melbourne, kernel of the movement in Australia. One was Ruth Dunn, now Treasurer of the Balint Society of Australia, who facilitates the MHPN Balint group in Elsternwick.
After starting with a small group, Hilary decided to canvas her wider network. She received a strong initial response through MHPN of 13 to 14 people so she and Ruth decided to split the group into two. They meet Tuesday and Wednesday evenings every six to eight weeks. Places are available for more members.
"I would love to have these groups running much more widely because I think Balint groups are an extraordinarily powerful resource. Everybody that presented a case in these groups has said how much they appreciated the input they received and how beneficial they found it."
Of the MHPN concept overall, Hilary says the opportunities for multidisciplinary teams and professionals to get together and talk about their work is "fanastic and needs to succeed, because we do need to discuss our work with people of mixed professions to benefit from a range of perspectives on what we do.'
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