In late 2017, during an evening supervision session with my supervisor at the time (shout out to Sanja), I was discussing how my caseload was full of males who in retrospect, really should have sought help much sooner (before shit hit the fan). I cited how I asked a new client recently, why he didn’t seek help 5 or even 10 years prior? His response was simply “Where is a bloke to go?”. Naively, I queried this, highlighting that there were plenty of mental health clinics and support services around. The client, again very matter of fact replied “Yes mate but they’re all mindfulness this, cognitive behavioural that and all seem very touchy feely”. I’ve tried them and they just weren’t for me.
And he was right. Most clinics, whether it be their approach to engagement, or website branding, colours or language, were very clinical and often targeted those who were ‘ready’ for therapy or at least familiar with what it involved.
In reflection, so does most of our tertiary psychology training; but that’s for another post.
I then expressed my thoughts about this to my supervisor - “It’s like there needs to be a blokes psychology clinic just for males…” Without hesitation, Sanja simply replied “So why don’t you do it? … There’s a spare room down the hall.”
I then played with the idea for a few days and chewed my partners ear off about it in the meantime. What the client said to me had really struck a chord, highlighting a real gap and failure in our current health system. And it seemed so obvious now!?
Witnessing so many male friends and family members struggle with mental health from a young age, I had always been interested in mens health, as it sparked my initial interest in psychology.
I was also familiar with some emerging research at the time, into mens mental health and health seeking, and it really spoke to what I was seeing anecdotally in my male clients. In addition, I always knew I wanted to do ‘my own thing’ at some point.
So after roughly 9 months since the conversation with my supervisor, and 6 months of non stop networking, presentations and talking to anyone in the local community who’d have me about the idea of Blokes Psychology, on July 1st, 2018, we officially opened our doors and had the first day of clients.
Everything from our colours, branding, website and intake forms were designed with males in mind. No clinical jargon, keeping everything simple and straightforward.
We began in a humble consulting room (which I’m told is now a store room).
I was doing everything from taking calls on my mobile, taking payment, making bookings, doing brochure drop offs at local car parks and train stations on my breaks & multiple GP & school presentations each week - all to get the word out.
After 6 months, we moved down the road to a bigger room in a local neuro-physio clinic. We then brought on our first clinician to assist with the client influx (shout out to Julian) and shortly after two more (Ash & Waz), in addition to virtual admin so I could finally hand over juggling phone calls.
Mid 2019 and we’ve moved into our own premises in Cheltenham, brought on 3 additional clinicians and a full time in house admin on the front desk.
By the time the 2020 pandemic hits, we’ve brought on more clinician’s, bringing our clinical team to a size of 8ish, and more admin staff.
Mid 2021 and we’re building more ikea furniture, this time in our new clinic in Hawthorn; with my 4 week old son by our side (not the greatest timing on my part, sorry Rina..!).
Fast forward to the present, as some staff love to remind me despite the discomfort it brings, we’re the biggest mens mental health provider in the country.
In addition to the clinical work, we’ve had amazing opportunities to feature on a range of podcasts, radio & tv, to speak and present to various community groups and workplaces both in Victoria and interstate, and collaborate with various organisations and charities in the mental health / mens mental health space on some incredible initiatives. I’ve been lucky enough to meet an array of incredible people in this space, who are doing phenomenal things for mental health overall.
Along the journey I’ve developed a burning passion and love (and hate at times) for the rollercoaster ride that is running a small business (what a learning curve!).
I also thoroughly enjoy being able to witness, nurture and support other clinicians growth and passion for male mental health, whether it be our staff internally or clinicians externally that I supervise.
I often spruik that Blokes Psych isn’t ‘just another private practice’ and I love continuing to strive towards our ongoing goal of providing a kick ass workplace culture.
One where we genuinely care about our staff, their wellbeing and development. Priding ourselves on being a place where staff look forward to coming to work, where they feel supported to provide our clients with the best standard of care, and a place where they can have fun in the process.
It’s always been my belief that if people are happy at work, feel appreciated, valued & supported, then they’ll provide the best possible care and services to our clients possible - which is our ultimate goal.
With all of that being said, when reflecting on the past 5 years, the most rewarding part of the journey thus far has definitely been seeing how many males in need that we’ve been able to help and support from across Melbourne & the country.
In presentations and in talking with our team, I regularly highlight just how hard it is for many of our clients to make that first call and walk through our doors. At times a client will break down early in their first appointment, as it’s the first time they’ve allowed themselves to feel everything that’s been going on for them or even acknowledge that things aren’t right.
Other times you’ll see it when a client enters the clinic, you can feel how hard it was for them to walk through that door and take a seat in the waiting room. On one hand I feel extremely proud of the team and what we’ve all created. A place where blokes of all ages can feel comfortable enough to reach out and get professional support, by a team who are extremely passionate about male mental health and who tailor their approach accordingly.
Yet I also feel saddened, knowing how much need is out there.
SO WHY AM I TAKING THE TIME TO DOCUMENT ALL OF THIS?
Firstly to take a moment to force myself to reflect on how far we’ve come and our achievements to date but primarily to say thank you.
Since day one, we’ve received overwhelming support from almost everyone we’ve come into contact with.
So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. To our clients, referrers, community groups, those who follow our socials or tune into the podcast, to our partners, to those who have blokes psych stickers on their cars or rock our blokes psych hoodies or beanies, to those who have had us speak to your workplaces, sporting groups, schools or charity events, those who feature us in your waiting rooms or staff newsletters and of course to my supervisors, mentors, and friends and family who have always been unwavering in their help & support.
And a special thanks goes out to those who supported and believed in us from the early days, you know who you are!
You’ve helped us in not only expanding the impact we have but in also putting mens mental health on the agenda more broadly.
Lastly - a huge thanks to our entire team, both past and present. It’s because of all of you that Blokes Psych is what it is today. Whether that be the amazing culture internally or our external reputation both locally and across the country.
So what next?
Stay tuned as we continue to make exciting strides in the field of men's mental health.