Mary has just started at Newport Physio and Health after 20 years in the Redcliffe and Caboolture hospitals, including a role as the Director of Mental Health where Mary was in charge of a team of 500 people!!

She is loving the freedom and flexibility of private practice, and the fact the bulk of her time is spent with her clients and not doing paperwork!!

1. Tell us a bit about growing up here on the Peninsula

I moved to Redcliffe when I was 6 months old after my parents purchased a house. They still live in the family home to this day. Everyone says it, but Redcliffe has changed a lot since I was young. One of the many things I love about Redcliffe is that it has a lovely community feel to it. It is not too big of a city where no-one knows each other but it is not in the middle of nowhere. We are still close to so many other beautiful parts of south east Queensland. I remember being outside playing as a kid like cricket on the road and riding my bike along the waterfront in Redcliffe (although mum was always concerned about me as I have always been a bit uncoordinated and not that great a bike rider). I went to primary school and high school locally. I also worked a number of jobs locally during my high school and University years. My first was as a ‘Tea and Tidy’ for a local Hairdresser. She was a great first boss and taught me the importance of a good work ethic. I worked at Redcliffe Sizzler (when we still had it here) and the Redcliffe RSL. To be honest, when I became a teenager, all I wanted was to get out of Redcliffe. I thought the place was boring. Now a days, I never want to leave the place. I also think it is pretty cool that my kids get to grow up where I lived and go to the same schools as me.

2. Why did you choose psychology as a career?

I didn’t start out wanting to be a Psychologist. I actually had no idea what they did. At school my focus was on the Sciences and Math. I started doing a Bachelor of Medical Science but within my first year I knew this was not for me. I wanted a career that was meaningful and where I could work directly with people. I wanted to be a part of a health profession where you can improve people’s lives. I have always been interested in the behaviour of people and interested in their wellbeing. That is why I changed to Psychology. I feel very lucky that I made that decision. It is a privilege to work with people, who at times, are at the lowest point in their lives, and watch them recover and grow. It is an honour.

3. Tell us about your career journey so far and some of the highs and lows

When I first started at Queensland Health in 2002 as a Psychologist this was my first psychology position. Again, I started working locally at the Redcliffe Adult Mental Health Team. Over the next 20 years, I managed to work clinically in nearly all the community mental health teams across Redcliffe and Caboolture. I then worked my way up to being the Team Leader for many of those teams also. I had an opportunity to complete my Masters in Health Services Administration after being selected for an Internship with the Australasian College of Health Service Management. That was a tough time, I was working 7 days a week having to study on the weekends as I still worked Full-time and my little boy had only just turned 3. The internship was a 2-year stint and during this period I was successful as the Operations Director for Metro North Mental Health Services – Redcliffe Caboolture. This was a huge job but very rewarding. I was a part of really exciting times for the service. We commissioned several new facilities during this time (both inpatient and community). I was so pleased that our area was getting much needed additional resources which had been lacking. I loved advocating and agitating for our area to continue to get additional funding. The hardest part for me as a Psychologist is when family, friends and the community lose someone to suicide. The devastation that occurs cannot be measured. I am passionate about de-stigmatising mental health and suicide and ensuring people have access to high quality and evidence-based health care.

4. Why did you decide to come onboard at Newport Physio and Health?

When I saw this opportunity, I knew this was meant to be. To be the first Psychologist at a new service where locals have access to psychological treatment and still be a part of a multi-disciplinary team was perfect. I get to do what I love and be close to my family. Newport Physio and Health are driven to provide the highest quality of care, ensuring staff are up to date with professional development and are outcome focused. This was exactly what I wanted to be apart of. I also wanted to contribute to the vision which of course is ambitious, but to influence the lives of every person on the Redcliffe Peninsula and make Redcliffe the healthiest and best place to live. I wanted be one of the Psychologist’s that make that happen. I already know that Redcliffe is the best place to live so we are well on our way.

5. You have started at Newport Physio and Health this week – tell us about what your first 3 months will look like here in the business?

My first week has been amazing. I have already met such wonderful people. The staff here are all very supportive and we are all on the same page. We want every person that comes to the clinic to feel welcomed and receive the best service possible. Health care isn’t just about providing the best assessments and treatments but is also about providing great customer service. Over the next 3 months, I will focus not only on ensuring every person that needs to see a Psychologist has an urgent appointment (or as requested) but will also be connecting with the local community. I have already visited 5 GP surgeries with a total of 35 doctors and provided each of them with a personalised letter that details the Psychology services offered. It is about ensuring people have access to timely assessment, treatment and care.

6. Tell us about some of your special areas of interest?

I love working with people with mental health concerns. This includes depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and people who may be suffering a psychotic illness. I have an interest also in self-harm which we have seen a large increase in particularly among teenagers. People who have challenges with addiction is another interest of mine. ADHD, especially women who may not have been diagnosed or have only been recently. I enjoy working with people who have Personality Disorders but also people with low self-esteem, parents struggling with their tough job, domestic violence, workplace bullying and grief and loss. People do not present with just one concern, humans are complex with a number of areas requiring intervention. I always conduct a mental health assessment when I first see someone so we can work out the best care plan moving forward. The care plan always needs regular reviews to update as people progress in their treatment or other things happen in their life. As I worked for Queensland Health for over 20 years I am especially passionate about the mental health of our healthcare workers. They have such a touch gig. I understand the issues they face and want to focus on these important people in our community. Another option I provide is Executive Leadership Coaching for health care workers to help them become the best leaders they want to be.

7. What is one thing that most people don’t know about you – something interesting or quirky?

I had to think really hard about this one just because I am pretty much an open book. I did think of 2 things. The first one is that I was bald until I was about aged 3. I had no hair. Mum has told me she could even dress me up in a pink dress and strangers would still come up to her and ask her ‘What is this little fellas name’? To this day, my hair is the slowest growing hair of anyone I have ever known. The other weird thing is about 10 years ago, while seeing a Dentist they told me one of my teeth is a baby tooth. There is no adult tooth growing underneath. It is not one of my back teeth so am worried about it falling out. The Dentist did say it had strong roots so fingers crossed.

8. And finally, for those that aren’t sure if seeing a psychologist is for them, what advice would you give them?

It can be daunting for people to consider seeing a Psychologist. There is still stigma attached to mental health which impacts people that need it to seek help. Most people fear the unknown and it is completely normal to be anxious about the thought of spilling your guts to a complete stranger. There are many reasons that people feel apprehension such as unpleasant past experiences, wanting to solve our own problems on our own (especially men) or worried it may not be confidential. There are strict protocols that dictate confidentiality and Psychologists are bound by these. It can be such a relief to talk to someone that is not invested in your life or the outcome, but only interested in you achieving your goals and for you to be the best version of yourself. A good Psychologist will put you at ease. Psychologists can assist in so many different ways to improve someone’s quality of life. You do need to find someone that you are comfortable with. If you have mental health concerns or there are aspects in your life you want to improve, seeing a Psychologist is one of best steps you can take.