Ballarat Psychological Service, the first private psychological practice in Victoria outside Melbourne, was established by Malcolm Garnett and Jan Schlunke in 1983.
Jan and Malcolm had started work as psychologists in Canberra but felt a need for more complex and nuanced understandings of therapy than their CBT trainings had provided. They were attracted by the teachings of RD Laing whose radical writings proposed that the mentally disturbed had something to say that was worth listening to and taking seriously. With this in mind, they travelled to London to work as resident therapists at Arbours Crisis Centre. There they lived and worked with deeply disturbed clients. The work was confronting and an important part of this training was to be in their own intensive analytic therapy.
This experience would heavily influence their future work and provided the seed from which Ballarat Psychological Service would develop. Jan continued, over the years, to enrich her practice by incorporating a broad range of techniques, always underpinned by psychoanalytic understandings. Malcolm later undertook extensive accredited training in somatic therapies.
After 2½ years, Jan and Malcolm returned to Australia and initially organised rooms within a GP practice in Ballarat. At that time, medical professionals were both curious and wary of what psychologists could provide but, generously, a number of organisations requested consultancies. This was the time before Medicare but, after the first few months, their practice began to blossom.
Within a few years, three other psychologists, Peta Price, Mary Darcy and Monica Maud, joined the practice. This core group of five clinicians continued to practice together for the next 25 years. Gradually some have retired; Peta in 2014, Malcolm in 2016 and Mary in 2018. Two of this original five continue at the practice today, Monica as a treating clinician and Jan as a supervisor of other mental health clinicians in the community.
In 1986, Jan and Malcolm purchased the little weatherboard house at 705 Mair Street that, over the years, would become the welcoming and comfortable home of the Practice.
Clinical supervision was provided to other clinicians throughout the Ballarat area. Some joined the practice to do clinical work and this network has provided the backbone to a continuing robust practice.
The dismantling of psychiatric hospitals occurred during the 1980s. The practice was active in providing supervision to professionals and therapy to ex-patients during the devolution of care from institution to community. Mary Darcy, then a Sister of Mercy, with others in her order, established a therapeutic community to guide and sustain long-term female patients into life after institutionalisation. Mary also helped establish St John of God’s psychology service, Pomegranate House.
During the 1990s it became increasingly common for the psychological disorders of anxiety and depression to be treated via GP referral pathways. Medicare rebates were instigated in 2005, further strengthening this destigmatised process.
Over the 33 years Jan and Malcolm owned the practice, three extremely loyal and valuable receptionists have been employed. Our first, Beth Cliff, died too soon. Since then, Lyn Stafford and then Andrea O'Loughlin, who remains with us today, have provided the efficient and friendly face of the practice.
In 2016, ownership of the practice was transferred to Sue Fraser who shares Jan and Malcolm’s passion for in-depth, thoughtful, relationship-based therapy.
Sue has completed her full academic and clinical child & adolescent psychoanalytic psychotherapy training. Over the years, she has gradually blended other therapeutic techniques into these psychoanalytic understandings . This has culminated in a gentle but in-depth insight-oriented therapeutic approach as she searches for understanding with, and a more comfortable way forward for, her child, adolescent and adult clients.
Sue started her professional life as a paediatric occupational therapist, working predominantly with children with sensori-motor and neuro-developmental difficulties, in Australia and in England. Early in her career, whilst working with children in the care of the state, she became increasingly interested in complex trauma. She was particularly interested in the emotional world of children and the impact of environmental and relational stressors on child development and behaviour, conscious of the potential life-long impact of gaps and trauma in early life. With this, came a move towards child and adolescent mental health and the beginning of formal post-graduate training in this area.
For the next 25 years, before beginning private practice, Sue worked in specialist clinical settings; as a clinician at CAMHS (in both Melbourne and Ballarat) and then later, as a psychotherapist at St John of God’s Pomegranate House. Sue is an accredited supervisor of formal psychotherapy training, has marked Masters’ theses for Monash University and, for a number of years in the 1990s, was involved in teaching and supervision in Melbourne, including within the Developmental Psychiatry Course and with Child Psychiatrist trainees. Sue is a member and past council-member of the Child Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association of Australia (CPPAA) and a past council-member of the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association of Australasia (PPAA).
Eight clinicians now practice under the umbrella of Ballarat Psychological Service. Each has been carefully selected for their shared understanding of the complexity of thinking and courage of spirit necessary to provide effective therapy.
In addition to clinical psychology and psychodynamic psychotherapy, Ballarat Psychological Service now offers a range of other specialist therapeutic approaches, including EMDR and other trauma-based therapies, Schema Therapy, Family Therapy and Parent-Infant Therapy.
Long-established group peer supervision at the Practice continues to nurture professional development and sharing of understandings from our various professional backgrounds and specialist trainings.
Continuity with, and progression from, the psychoanalytic foundations of the practice is important to all clinicians at the Practice and perhaps the key to what makes Ballarat Psychological Service a special place. For Jan and Malcolm, who continue to regularly visit the practice, it is of immense gratification that there is continuity to their initial work.