by Charlie Stansfield, Social Worker

Social Work is a diverse profession with practitioners employed in various government, non-government and private practice settings helping men, women and children live happier and more fulfilling lives.

The term clinical social worker is not used as extensively in Australia as it is in US and Canada. In Australia, clinical social workers are known as Accredited Mental Health Social Workers (AMHSW) and are employed alongside other allied health professionals (nurses, occupational therapists and psychologists) in mental health services.

The particular strength of AMHSW practice lies in providing a comprehensive, holistic assessment that acknowledges that an individual’s psychological presentation must be understood within context and unique circumstances.

What does an Accredited Mental Health social worker do?

An accredited mental health social worker is an allied health professional who is specialised in assessment and treatment of mental health issues.

AMHSW use evidence based treatments to help people facing a range of issues including depression and other mood disorders, personality disorders, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, substance abuse and post-trauma issues such as in services for people recovering from domestic violence and sexual assault.

Accredited mental health social workers also provide couple and family therapy in a range of organisations and in private practice.

Some AMHSW are additionally qualified to specialise in treating children and adolescents.

AMHSW provide a range of treatments and interventions including psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapies, family dispute resolution, motivational interviewing, relaxation strategies, and other evidence based treatments.

AMHSW, like other allied health professionals attract a Medicare rebate for 10 treatment(s) per year for Focused Psychological Strategies (FPS) if referred by a General Practitioner.

Some AMHSW work longer-term providing psychoanalytical psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis.

Role of an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker

A key role of AMHSW is in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues.

AMHSW have extensive experience and expertise in engaging and providing services to clients with multiple, co-existing and complex presentations.

AMHSW practice using evidence based treatments in counselling and psychotherapy with a range of client populations.

The AMHSW approach would combine clinical and systemic perspectives, drawing on a range of well-researched approaches.

AMHSW’s work in public and private organisations across the breadth of health, education, government and non-government agencies.

How to become an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker?

AMHSW undertake two levels of accreditation; they must be accredited members of their professional body, the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) and then be assessed by the AASW as having specialist mental health expertise.

This involves four years of university study at under-graduate level followed by two years of supervised practice in mental health settings.

A recent review of AMHSW across Australia demonstrated that most practitioners in private practice have more than ten years of clinical experience and almost two-thirds of practitioners have specialist clinical qualifications at post-graduate level.

If you’re looking for further information about Accredited Mental Health Social Workers please contact the AASW.

About the author:

Charlie Stansfield is a Sydney Social Worker. Click here to contact her or to make an appointment.