Andrew Wallis (social worker): I’m Andrew Wallis, I’m a clinical specialist social worker in a public hospital. And I guess what that means is I see teenagers and their families, they come with a range of different difficulties. There’s a couple of areas that I really specialize in on, which are eating disorders and kids that have got unexplained medical symptoms like tummy aches and headaches and those sorts of things. But I also see kids that have got a range of other things like anxiety and depression, and just their adjustment overall to the illness that they’re experiencing.
The way that I work with people that come to see me is primarily through family therapy. Trying to understand what’s happening for the young person in the context of their family. And that’s really important to do, because the family is really the place that provides all the skills that a teenager needs to feel secure or feel attached, to learn to be able to solve problems. So I do try to spend some time with the kid on their own, but primarily I try and have everyone sort of working together on a common direction around that.
So when parents come, what they could expect is that they’re going to have an opportunity to explain what their concerns are. That all their – that everyone in the family’s concerns would be understood. To try and understand where those concerns started. And really importantly, what strengths and assets they have and how those can be utilised to try and get them into a better spot.
From a social work point of view, two of the really key take home messages are that social workers see parents as very much a resource to help kids get back on track, when they’re struggling, whatever the issue actually is. And a second thing is that social workers can help with some of the – I get issues that can get in the way of parents being able to feel as though they can effectively look after their kids. So when there’s financial distress. When there’s marital conflict. When there’s extended family, difficulties going on… The things that really can distract parents from what they need to do for their kids, that social workers are interested in trying to help at all those levels. To try and get something, a more stable setup, so that parents can concentrate on using their skills to help their young person.
To come and see someone like me, people can make a self referral. They can phone and inquire about the service. They will need a GP referral to back that up. But I think it’s always good when parents inquire for themselves, because it really makes you feel that they’re motivated, and wanting things to get worked out. A GP is also a great source of information about who to go and see and how different services in your area work. The school is also a great source of information about who to go see, and how different services in your area work. The school can be a fantastic source of information, because they will have referred other young people to get help many, many times. And often have a list of people who they’re confident in referring to. And I guess word of mouth through parents is also another really – a nice source. I think keeping in mind different people and different families tend to fit better with different types of personalities. So if you have the experience of going to see someone and you don’t like them first up, then it’s ok to see someone else. Or alternatively persevere, and get through that initial phase so that you can really find out whether it’s a good fit.