Making a lifelong difference

Counsellor, Michele, loves making a positive difference in people's lives.

Connect Health & Community encourages feedback from our clients and loves hearing that our efforts have made a positive impact on the lives of those we work with.

Counsellor, Michele, was delighted when we recently received an anonymous message from a client thanking her for “your patience and excellent counselling. You saved me!”

When asked who she thought may have sent such an appreciative message though our customer feedback forms, Michele was stumped. Not because she didn’t think she had helped anyone recently, but because there were at least three clients she thought it could have been.

Indeed the range of clients Michele assists each week is broad, from a widow struggling with grief or a young child struggling with behavioural issues, to a woman balancing the challenges of disabilities and homelessness.

“My role is very rewarding and enables me to help a wide range of different people in our community who are all at different stages in their lives,” Michele said.

Michele explained that helping the grieving widow was a long process of helping the woman discover herself for the first time in her adult life.

“She had married young as a new migrant to Australia and lived and worked with her husband in the family business. Her husband and family were the woman’s entire life and when he died, she found herself not only without a life partner, but without a connection to the world outside her home,” she said.

“She had never done anything by herself her entire married life. Her husband paid all the bills and managed their life, while she focussed on the cooking and cleaning,” Michele said.

“My job was to help her grieve his loss while helping her find herself, and find out how to live her own life. It was a long and arduous process for her. She idolised her husband and it took time for her to engage with me and trust the process as she worked through her ‘survivor guilt’.”

Michele said the client had found Connect Health & Community after her family expressed concern to her family doctor.

“It was a long but rewarding process of getting her to build a life for herself. By the end of our time together she was able to shed her mourning clothes, engage fully and actively with her family and even travel overseas to see relatives,” Michele said.

The young child Michele helped came from a “lovely, stable family.”

The child’s parents were worried the child had received a fright at a social event. The child was unable to process her distress without help and was acting out with tantrums and aggression.

“It turned out we needed to understand the child’s emotional reactions and the parents’ own reactions to them. We worked together to develop strategies – much of our work was parental education,” Michele said.

As an infant mental health specialist, Michele said it is best for children and parents to take action when issues first start to occur.

“This kind of work is best done in the earliest years, yet often people don’t realise there is assistance to help them.  Many feel that the struggles of parenthood are something they need to go through on their own.  Of course, that is not the case, we are here to help,” she said.

The third client Michele helped through challenging times was a former circus performer living with ADHD, anxiety, depression and homelessness.

“This young woman had explosive and impulsive displays of aggression and was tricky to engage. She was hyperactive, suicidal and had escaped domestic violence,” Michele said.

“This woman had been through multiple support services without success, and with no family support she was experiencing lots of issues,” she said.

“The most important thing for her was to know that if she was in a crisis she could come here whenever she needed. And it worked, Connect Health became her ‘home base’,” Michele said.

“She didn’t need a therapist to tell her what to do, she needed a counsellor to help her set her own goals within the parameters of her own mental health,” Michele said.

Over a four month period, Michele worked with the young woman and together they forged a sustainable path to the client’s new, more manageable lifestyle.

But with a career that spans more than 35 years in the health sector, Michele is no stranger to the fact she makes lifelong impacts on her clients every day. She began her career as a nurse before becoming a midwife, then a maternal child health nurse with a graduate diploma in infant mental health, a mental health nurse and finally a psychoanalytic psychotherapist.

While she finds work with young families most rewarding, Michele reflects on her time in a nursing home as ‘one of the best’.

“Really, it is all wonderful. To be able to help people at different stages if their lives is such a great feeling, but to think that in some cases my work has actually ‘saved’ them – that is priceless,” she said.

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