Research opportunity: Personalising motivational interviewing

Research conducted by Western Sydney University aims to explore where and how Motivational Interviewing (MI) is being used with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. If you have experience in using MI with different client/patient groups or you are involved in delivering training or undertaking research on using MI with different population groups, we’d love to hear from you.

We invite you to complete a brief (5 min), online survey. Please read the participant information PDF, 108.67 KB (opens in new window)Opens in a new window and if you are happy to participate in this study, click on the following link which will take you to the survey:

Participate in the survey (opens in new window)Opens in a new window

This project was identified by members of the community and the Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Clinical Academic Group (Maridulu Budyari Gumal, SPHERE). The project has been approved by WSU HREC: H15769.

If you have any questions about the research, please contact Kyar Wilkey at [email protected]

Research opportunity: Lived experiences of counsellors with ADHD

The University of Canberra is are conducting a research that investigates the lived experiences of counsellors with ADHD, exploring its impact on clinical practice. Qualitative data will be gathered through in-depth interviews. Our study, titled ” Understanding the Lived Experience of Counsellors with ADHD: Exploring the Impact on Clinical Practice,” aims to shed light on the lived experiences of counsellors who have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and how this diagnosis impacts their work in the counselling profession.

What Participation Involves:

Participation in this research will involve a confidential, one-on-one interview. The interview will be online via Teams, will be scheduled at a time that is convenient for the participants, and it will be conducted in a supportive and respectful manner, with their privacy and anonymity protected at all times.

Ethical approval by the Human Research Ethics Committee at the University of Canberra.


Who Can Participate:

We are seeking individuals who meet the following criteria:

•             Registered Counsellor or Psychotherapist

•             Diagnosed with ADHD


For questions or to register interest, please contact [email protected].

Tips for Managing Loneliness for Healthcare Professionals

Michelle Lim is the CEO of Ending Loneliness Together, she has shared with our community about her work and her fight to make Australia less lonely.

Ten tips for managing loneliness in the workplace:

  1. Acknowledge your own loneliness – even if it’s just to yourself. It’s the first step to making things change.
  2. Open the door to discussions and help to reduce the stigma of loneliness.
  3. Give your colleagues the gift of your full attention: put your phone away at meetings and create a culture of active listening that enhances social connection.
  4. Arrange to meet co-workers for lunch – increasing opportunities to get to know your colleagues better creates a deeper level of social connection.
  5. Find or develop a peer support group to share your common interests, experiences and workplace challenges.
  6. Celebrate team successes to help co-workers feel they have a common purpose and direction. A ‘thankyou’ goes a long way to help others feel valued and respected.
  7. Form and maintain your professional networks to foster a sense of community and your professional identity.
  8. Join a professional organisation to increase opportunities for meeting new people.
  9. Remember your other self-care activities (for example, taking rest breaks, reducing stress) may also help in managing loneliness and developing meaningful connections at work.
  10. Create your own self-care plan for boosting social connection and handling loneliness and encourage your students to develop their own.

Professional Advice: So you want to be a Counsellor

In this series, counsellors share with CA their professional journeys and the things they have learned along the way. Counsellor and behaviour practitioner Sharon Marshall tells CA what she wishes she knew in the prelude to her career. As featured in the Counselling Australia Journal Autumn 2023, Volume 24 Number 2.

Sharon Marshall Diploma of Business, Diploma of Counselling (ACA membership), behaviour practitioner, registered counsellor, specialist support coordinator. My company is Boutique Caring and we are located in Brisbane.

Looking back to your final year as a student (before starting your counselling career), what are the top three pieces of advice you would give?

  • Be true and honest to yourself
  • Follow what you want
  • Reach high and hard

Would you change your decision to be a counsellor or psychotherapist? Why or why not?

No. I studied Psychology for three years and regretted wasting HECS on that, so I deferred. I felt it was too orientated around research and statistics and there was not enough emphasis put on the holistic person-centred approach.

How do you describe that work that you do?

My day consists of assisting people to find the best that they are and can be. I show them techniques to assist them to dig deep and delve into their trauma. As hard as it is to confront those demons, I am fortunate to be able to assist people and have an impact on their recovery or journey. To do this, it is necessary for me to have a thorough understanding of the impact of the trauma on the client’s life. Therefore, I spend a lot of time in conversation, or with children in play therapy (I love this). I often say that they are the flower, and I am just watering it and one day it will bloom.

Do you love your work? Why?

About 10 years ago my life took a dramatic turn. Imagine a ball rolling down a hill, gaining momentum and pulling everything into the vortex with me. My brain was on overdrive and I had a complete breakdown. I took a massive overdose with the intent of dying. I had said my goodbyes to my children and husband and then died. But there were other plans for me. After a long rehabilitation in Belmont Private Hospital (my first admission was over 10 months and then two admissions after that), I bounced back and I said, enough is enough, no more of this medication and ECT. I took control of my life and now I am teaching, navigating, encouraging people to take control of their lives. I love my work as I do make a difference in someone’s life. I am very good at what I do because I have lived experience and I can totally relate to people’s mental health and their challenges. I have empathy and I learned at the very beginning that we have two ears and one mouth, therefore listening is often all people require. My company has just started a therapy centre where people – either NDIS or private – can join in activities. They can learn how to cook, make candles, make cheese, do a resin board or restore some furniture. The therapy centre is also a place of sanctuary and safety; they can just sit in the beautiful lounges and have a coffee and read a book.

What is your ACA level?

As a professional counsellor, I focus on upgrading my knowledge by undertaking courses, such as BPD and training, as my passion is understanding them. I am completing my Master of Counselling, which is inspiring and has a steep learning curve.

Research opportunity: Harnessing traditional medicines to support First Nations Australians holistic health and wellbeing

Southern Cross University is conducting Australia’s first ever national survey focussed on First Nations’ Traditional Medicines. They are looking to survey First Nations people, as well as Health Service Staff, to gauge views on traditional medicines and the potential for their use in the healthcare system.

This survey is open to any First Nations Person from Australia 18+.

This survey is open to those 18+ who work in a health service that has a significant number of First Nations patients.

ACT: Code of Conduct for Health Workers | January 2024

After a number of years of consultation, in July 2023 the ACT government passed legislation and a regulation (Human Rights Commission Regulation 2023) enacting the Code of Conduct for Health Workers in the ACT. The Code commences in the ACT on 7 January 2024. Members who provide health services in the ACT need to be familiar with the Code.

The Code provides for minimum standards of care in the provision of health services by health workers in the ACT.

This includes:

  • Providing safe and ethical care
  • Obtaining consent for treatment
  • Keeping appropriate records & protecting a patients privacy
  • Having appropriate insurance
  • Minimising harm and acting appropriately if something goes wrong

The Code also obliges health workers to NOT:

  • Mislead a patient about services, products or qualifications
  • Put a patient at risk due to a physical or mental health concern
  • Make false claims about curing serios illnesses such as cancer
  • Exploit patients financially
  • Discourage patients from seeking other health services or treatments
  • Have an inappropriate relationship or inappropriate boundaries with a patient

Health workers are any person providing a health service who is not a registered practitioner such as a doctor, nurse, dentist or one of the 15 registered practitioner groups regulated by the Australian health practitioner regulation Agency (Ahpra). This means health workers in the ACT from 7 January 2024 must comply with the Code when providing health services in the ACT.

A health service is a service provided in the ACT to someone (the service user) for any of the following purposes:

  • (a) assessing, recording, maintaining or improving the physical, mental or emotional health, comfort or wellbeing of the service user;
  • (b) diagnosing or treating an illness, disability, disorder or condition of the service user.

This includes massage therapists, laser therapy, counsellors and social workers, dieticians, nutritionists, doula’s, aged care & disability care workers, assistants in nursing and others. (This definition is provided for by section 7 of the ACT Human Rights Commission Act 2005.)

The introduction of the Code aligns the ACT with states that have already introduced the Code including NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia. From January 2024 patients accessing health services will be able to make a complaint to the ACT Human Rights Commission if the code is not adhered to when a health service is provided. Information about the Code is available at here.

The Code also requires health workers to display the Code where they are providing a health service. The requirement to display the Code may apply differently in institutional settings such as hospitals. Copies of the Code can be downloaded from the website or health workers can request copies of the Code by emailing us at [email protected].

The Commission generally tries to resolve complaints about health services through a conciliation process. Where significant conduct issues are identified by a complaint or through other means the Commission can take more significant regulatory action such as placing conditions on a health workers practice or prohibiting a health worker from providing that service.

If you need further information you can call the Health Services Commissioner’s team on 02 6205 2222 or email us at [email protected]

Research opportunity: Counsellors experiences of uncertainty

The University of Tasmania is currently seeking therapists to participate in a short research survey that aims to gain valuable insights into therapists’ experiences of uncertainty in their practice. The survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete and is anonymous.

Uncertainty is a pervasive aspect of therapeutic practice, and it can have a significant impact on both therapists and their clients. By participating in this research survey, you will be contributing to a better understanding of therapists’ experiences of uncertainty and, in turn, improving the quality of mental health services.

To participate in this survey, please follow this link: The survey will be available until January 2024.

This study is being conducted by Dr Elly Quinlan, Dr Catherine Deans, Lize Booy and Amanda Tan Jia Qi from the University of Tasmania and has been approved by the University of Tasmania Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) H0029273.

If you have any questions or concerns about this survey or would like more information about the study, please do not hesitate to reach out to Catherine at [email protected] or Amanda at  [email protected].

ACA joins National Rural Health Alliance

In stride towards strengthening mental health support in rural regions, the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) is proud to announce its membership with the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA). This is an important and strategic engagement to ensure inclusion of Counsellors in workforce planning for regional, rural, and remote communities in Australia.  ACA has a diverse network of Counsellors who live and work in these communities and we are committed to doing more to support.

Jodie McKenzie (CEO) was invited to attend a special event at Parliament House to relaunch Parliamentary Friends of Rural and Regional Health, followed by the Council Strategy Day and celebration of the NRHA’s 30th Anniversary.

Jodie McKenzie attends NRHA event

Emma McBride MP, the Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, Mental Health, and Suicide Prevention, highlighted the shortage of healthcare workers and reiterated the government’s commitment to make healthcare more accessible. The day continued with engaging discussions about the current health situation in rural Australia and future focus.

Highlights from NRHA event

“I was filled with much inspiration being surrounded by so many NRHA members who are truly committed and passionate about making a difference to regional, rural and remote health and hearing their stories and continued efforts. We all need to do more to ensure everyone gets the support they need. We are proud to be a member of NRHA, working together with all members to make sure rural areas in Australia have a healthy and happy future.” – Jodie McKenzie, CEO of the Australian Counselling Association

Welcoming a new chapter | CEO Announcement 

After 25 years Philip Armstrong steps down as CEO of ACA, Jodie McKenzie steps in as new CEO 

On 3 October 2023, Philip Armstrong informed the Board of ACA of his intention to leave his position of CEO to pursue personal interests as ACA transitions into its next chapter under a new Board. “I know I am stepping away at the right time for ACA. I’m excited to see ACA grow during its next phase as an ongoing member,” said Philip. Incoming ACA President Dee Hardy thanked Philip for his leadership and contribution to ACA over many years. “Philip’s contribution to ACA is peerless. We wish him all the best as he moves forward into his next phase,” said Ms Hardy.

We are pleased to announce that the ACA Board has appointed Deputy CEO Jodie McKenzie as the new CEO of ACA, effective Monday 9 October 2023. 

Jodie brings experience in planning, stakeholder engagement, change management, and risk and issues management to her role as CEO, in addition to being an experienced counsellor. 
Jodie joined ACA in January 2023 as Deputy CEO following an extensive executive search. 

“This is an organic transition – Jodie has done an outstanding job shadowing Philip over the best part of this year as Deputy CEO, co-leading ACA’s advocacy efforts with various stakeholders, government, and importantly with our community of 14,000+ Members,” said Ms Hardy. 

Click here to read more about Jodie McKenzie

ACA looks forward to strengthening relationships, advocating for, and advancing the counselling and psychotherapy profession under this new leadership. 

Are my notes confidential?

As featured in the Counselling Australia Journal, Volume 24, Number 2. With thanks to Michael Lynch Lawyers.


Professionals are often engaged to assist a party in navigating issues arising from the breakdown of their relationship. Family lawyers are frequently asked by these treating professionals ‘Are my notes confidential?’.

The starting point is non-confidentiality. Everything said to a GP, paediatrician, therapist, counsellor, psychologist and other allied health practitioners can be disclosed and it can be subpoenaed.

Why? So courts can learn the truth.

In parenting matters, the question that the Court must determine is “What is in the best interests of the child?”. This is the paramount consideration and if there are documents that can assist the Court to understand what parenting arrangements may meet the child’s best interests, then the Court should have access to them.

Practitioners such as psychologists and doctors have a responsibility to maintain client confidentiality as part of their ethical standards, clinical practice, and professional licensing regulations.

It is understandable that clients may become incredibly distressed when a subpoena is issued to their treating practitioner for their notes in circumstances where they thought that their personal health records were confidential.

The subpoena recipient (for example the psychologist or medical practitioner) and the person affected by the issuing of the subpoena (the husband or wife in the Court proceedings) may object to the production of documents under a subpoena.

Some of the grounds for objection include but are not limited to:

  • That the subpoena lacks a legitimate forensic purpose
  • That the subpoena is an abuse of process or oppressive
  • That the subpoenaed material is not relevant to the issues presented before the Court
  • That the information being requested is privileged


In a recent decision of Vitalis & Kazan (No 2) [2022] FedCFamC1F 601 (19 August 2022), the Court was asked to determine parenting arrangements for two children aged 8 years and 4 years.

In the proceedings, Ms Kazan served a subpoena on Ms Vitalis’s gender reassignment surgeon (“Dr O”) and on her medical insurer. Ms Vitalis objected on the ground of relevance.

It was noted by the Judge that “in any parenting proceeding any parties’ mental health issue is potentially relevant to the extent that it may impact on parenting capacity”.

Ms Vitalis accepted that her mental health was a relevant fact potentially in issue and did not object to subpoenas that Ms Kazan had issued to her identified treating mental health practitioners. She did object to the subpoena issued to Dr O on the basis that “the biological surgical procedures Dr O was involved in will not illuminate any issue relevant to parenting capacity” and was a “fishing expedition”.

Ms Kazan submitted that Dr O may have engaged in an assessment of Ms Vitalis’ mental health which was relevant to the issue before the Court. It was noted by the Judge (at paragraphs 21 and 22) that “ [A]s part of gender reassignment, the nature of the surgery might reasonably require the surgeon to satisfy themselves that the patient meets the criteria under the World Professional Association of Transgender Health Standards of Care Guideline. That might reasonably require the surgeon to engage in their own assessment of the patient’s mental health status. In this case… it is at least possible that Dr O was required to and did undertake his own independent mental health assessment of Ms Vitalis, taking into account Ms Q’s [Ms Vitalis’ treating clinical psychologist] opinion but not merely relying upon it.”

Due to the intimate nature of the surgery, Ms Vitalis maintained an objection to the subpoena on privacy grounds. It was also submitted that the Court “should control the use of subpoena in pursuance of the overarching purpose, of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021 (Cth) (“the Rules”), being to facilitate the just resolution of disputes according to law and as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible.

The Judge in this case noted that “whilst privacy grounds would be relevant if the information sought went only to the physical process, where it is conceded that there is a real possibility of a mental health assessment, and therefore a genuine forensic purpose, privacy is not a proper ground for objection. While Ms Vitalis’ position is understandable, given the sensitive nature of the procedures involved, the nature of the family law jurisdiction, in which the Court enquires into the welfare and best interests of children, means that the public interest and children’s interest in the Court having all available relevant evidence about a parent’s mental health outweighs the parent’s right to privacy.

The Judge went on to say “Whilst the Court should, and does, exercise close control over the issuing of subpoena as part of the application of the overarching purpose, I am not persuaded that in the context of these proceedings the subpoena to Dr O is inconsistent with the overarching purpose.”

It was submitted by Ms Kazan that the subpoena to Ms Vitalis’ medical insurance company was appropriate as it would give details of other medical practitioners who had treated Ms Vitalis that “were not disclosed, and who Ms Kazan says should have been”.

In many cases, the Judge said that the subpoena to the medical insurer “would be a step too far, but each matter requires consideration on its own facts.” Here he said (at paragraph 38) that “Where a party’s mental health is an issue in the proceedings, and where it appears that she has taken an approach to disclosure which raises issues about the selectivity and reliability of that disclosure, it may be appropriate to allow a subpoena… to ensure that the Court has the best available evidence when considering the best interests of the children.”

The Judge held in this case that there was a “genuine forensic purpose to each subpoena” in this matter and allowed access to the records produced by Dr O and the medical insurance company.


  1. Read the subpoena
  2. Write down your thoughts
  • What documents am I being asked to provide?
  • Do these documents exist?
  • Are the documents relevant to an issue in dispute?
  • Are the documents privileged?
  • Should I object to the subpoena?
  • Is the Subpoena being used for a proper purpose or is it too broad, oppressive, a mere ‘fishing expedition’?
  • What date do I have to comply by?
  • Have I received conduct money?
  • How much will it cost me to produce the documents (eg photocopying costs)?
  • Where do I send the documents?

3. Get legal advice, if required, and speak with your insurer.