Jacqui O'Loughlin headshot
Jacqui O’Loughlin/National Networks Program Team Leader
2 mins read·April 17th, 2020

Networks across the country start to meet online

Restrictions on face-to-face meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic means MHPN has needed to adapt quickly and efficiently to offer local networks the option of meeting online.

Network coordinators or other network members may – with the ongoing support of a MHPN project officer – organise to meet with local mental health practitioners via teleconferencing’.

Mental health practitioners are among the frontline professionals helping clients manage the unique circumstances of self-isolation and social distancing.

MHPN-supported network Byron Bay Family & Relationships successfully held its first online meeting in early April.

Network member Kimberley Lipschus, who helped organise this meeting, says interdisciplinary collaboration between mental health practitioners is more important now than ever.

‘I can’t stress enough how important it is. I think the more voices, from all modalities and training bodies, simply add to the knowledge base. There is no us or them in this situation. In essence we must be supporting one another as practitioners and our respective communities. If we hold this as the central motivation, then there can only be a level playing field and openness in knowing we can learn from one another’.

At the 8 April meeting, five panellists linked up to discuss the topic ‘How Mental Health Practitioners Can Support the Northern Rivers Community During COVID 19’.

The interdisciplinary panel was made up of psychologist Peter Chown; mediator and relationship counsellor Kate Pearce; functional medicine doctor Dr Oscar Serrelach, clinical psychologist Dr Lauren Tober; the network’s coordinator and relationship and family psychotherapist Sean Tonnet; and facilitated by Kimberley Lipschus, psychotherapist, writer and filmmaker.

‘I can say personally it was very enjoyable, made so much more easeful by the articulate, intelligent and thoughtful panel who stepped up with such wisdom, authenticity and vulnerability’, Kimberley says.

The Byron Bay network’s COVID-19 forum highlighted that ‘we as health practitioners must keep our own lines of communication and connection open to one another, to ensure we don’t burn out. This is all emerging and changing swiftly and there are a tangle of issues which can come up all at the same time.  For instance, not enough clients know about the new government initiative of telehealth conferencing and we need to get this out into the public sphere’.

Nearly 50 participants joined the conversation on the multi-functional teleconferencing app Zoom which has become the go-to online meeting tool for many organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Kimberley, ‘The technology platform is so user friendly. Of course, it’s different to live – a different dynamic entirely and balancing between screens calls for a bit of multi-tasking’.

Kimberley explains that being able to collaborate with a co-coordinator to organise the meeting made a world of difference.

‘‘Working in a team was so beneficial. Sean and I bounced ideas off one another and worked through the to-do list. I’d recommend preparing the flow of the event in advance, ensuring the panel have this information, and conducting a short rehearsal a night or two prior’.

MHPN is also here to help coordinators plan and set up meetings, so to an extent, it’s business-as-usual for network meetings except they’re online.

‘Holly and MHPN were brilliant. Their support in terms of marketing, on-call service and the technological end were faultless. We would never have had such an extensive audience without the support. Having the positive experience with other bodies, such as PACFA [Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia], who were willing to disseminate an invitation about the event, directly affected the size of the reach and audience’.

MHPN’s project officers are available as always to help MHPN networks hold online meetings. If you want to bring local mental health practitioners together with teleconferencing, contact us now via  networks@mhpn.org.au.

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The Mental Health Professionals’ Network (MHPN) respectfully acknowledges the Wurundjeri and the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin nation, the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land on which our office is situated. We also acknowledge Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past and present.