The experience of evolving: From graduate to mental health care coordinator

Ms Dallas Rae1

1South West Sydney Local Health District, Sydney, Australia

Public community mental health services in Australia operate predominantly within a multidisciplinary team (MDT) format. Teams generally consist of generic mental health care coordinator roles, titled mental health (MH) professionals, which can be occupied by psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers and nursing staff. A mixture of professions filling these generic roles, with the addition of a Psychiatrist, usually forms the basis for a MDT.

University training occurs predominantly within single-discipline streams, which are not designed to train students for the responsibilities required of a MH professional. This means that  staff  recruited to these positions often have little understanding of the role or the duties they are required to fulfil. This is not helped by the lack of agreement, worldwide, of a standard model of care coordination for MH professionals operating in these positions. Subsequently staff often utilise their own professional training as the model of treatment for consumers they are responsible for.  Confusion and debate has led to difficulty in designing training packages that can support MH professionals in their care coordinator roles, which are also compounded by issues surrounding the generic nature of the roles, including professional identity issues as well as few opportunities for career advancement in mental health.

This paper will discuss these issues within the context of a current research project which explores the role of MH professional in South West Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD). The project’s aim is to understand the role in order to design training and support which satisfies the requirements for both discipline and role specific training for allied health staff entering these positions. This will have important clinical, educational and professional implications for ongoing development of clinical services in mental health.


Dallas Rae is the Director of Allied Health (Mental Health) for SWSLHD. She is a Principle Clinical Psychologist who has been working within the LHD for 15 years. Her current brief involves the leadership, governance and coordination of Allied health services in Mental Health, as well as facilitating strategic planning requirements of the Mental Health Allied Health service along with other members of the executive team. She has previously worked as the Service Manager for Liverpool/Fairfield community Mental Health as well as the LHD’s Child and Adolescent Community Service in Campbelltown and Liverpool. Her clinical focus has been on providing evidence based therapy for mental health consumers with chronic and severe mental health issues. Dallas has also focussed on providing service wide training for community mental health workers across the LHD, providing workshops in her specialty area since 2006. She has been a guest lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, and the Australian College of Applied Psychology and has also presented workshops for the Schizophrenia foundation and the Australian Association of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (AACBT).   Dallas is a published author and is currently completing her Doctorate of Health through the University of Tasmania.

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