What the heck is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker anyway?!?

By Suzanne Staal

In short, an expert clinical psychotherapist, with particular sensitivity to your broader life context, present and past. Let me explain. I am an ACT psychotherapist, AND my extensive training in social work keeps me aware that context is critical. For my clients, their present struggles must be considered in relation to their present context, and past life history.  Your unique socioeconomic background, education, family history, relationships within family and within community will alldynamically influence the struggles that bring you to therapy.  Our pain, anxiety, depression or any life struggle never exists only within us, in a vacuum:  your pain and struggle naturally has a direct and dynamic relationship to your environment.

The point is, no-one’s psychological problems exist in isolation.  Nor do their solutions.  And this is why it is critical for me to attend to your broader life situation while we are actively learning new skills to better handle your difficult thoughts and feelings.

Life’s realities and real issues like race, class, culture, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political beliefs impact not only on the you within society but also within our therapeutic relationship.  My social work training makes me particularly sensitive to power and expertise imbalances that often emerge between therapist and client. Societal and interpersonal conditions that often oppress in the wider world will not find a home in my clinical psychotherapy consulting room.

While my social work training in social systems and psychotherapy sensitises me to context, compassion and real life pressures, my thorough ACT training brings further essential skills.  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has proven simple tools of effective mindfulness and skilful emotional acceptance that not only helps me notice these dynamics in flow, but also to be truly present, truly empathic with your suffering in your context, in the service of helping you ease that struggle, toward living a more rich, full, and truly alive existence.

You may have heard of another mental health focussed Social Worker – Brene Brown. Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent many years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Her work in these areas inspires many to take courageous steps toward more full living. Here’s a 3 minute animation by Brene on the power of empathy, and why it is VERY different from sympathy: “empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection” – check it out!

And that, my friends, colleagues and perhaps you, potential client, is what I strive toward in my particular context at Brisbane ACT Centre – as an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker. Hope to meet you soon! Call 3193 1072 or book online if you’re interested to find out how I may help.



Accredited Mental Health Social Workers are registered providers with Medicare Australia. They have been assessed on behalf of the Australian Government by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) as having specialist mental health expertise. Accredited Mental Health Social Workers have a breadth of experience in assessing and treating people who have mental health disorders If you’d like to learn more about Accredited Mental Health Social Workers check out the Australian Association of Social Workers website.






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Suzanne Staal

Suzanne Staal

Mental Health Social Worker

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