J A N E M O N A C H
I had always wanted to do a job that involved working with people; I did an array of voluntary ‘helping jobs’ while still at school, then chose to study at Trinity College, Dublin in the mid-sixties, where the undergraduate course was one of the first to include social work practice. After working in a family agency in Toronto, I specialised in psychiatric social work at London School of Economics, worked in London, in Australia’s Northern Territory and then Sheffield, England, in a range of statutory, voluntary sector and teaching roles. I spent later years working as a counsellor/ psychotherapist in various settings, latterly in NHS Primary Care, where the focus was on what I have always held as two vital aspects of working with people: the quality of relationships with clients and within a multi-disciplinary team approach.
I chose a Tennis ball because …
… when I began work in 1970 as a joint appointment social worker (with Southwark local authority and the Maudsley Hospital), I was also a member of the hospital multi-disciplinary tennis team. It represents those two vital aspects. The joint appointment transcended the unnecessary boundaries between professions and organisations to an extent I don’t think has been bettered. The tennis team did the same!
In addition to getting to know and working with dozens of people with serious mental health issues as inpatients, day patients and outpatients, a jointly-appointed social worker worked to promote good communication between community and hospital staff and resources. This benefitted clients hugely, providing informed, ongoing and seamless services. We did individual work, family work and groupwork.
It was in the days before Community Psychiatric Nurses, when the social worker was the link with the person, their family and community. When someone was known to be experiencing serious mental health problems, contact was maintained, through good phases as well as difficult ones. The emphasis was on time spent really trying to understand people’s unique situations and struggles, and to provide care in a pro-active way.
Over-arching the service were the respectful and positive working relationships between the Maudsley’s Principal Community Psychiatrist and Principal Social Worker, Douglas Bennett and Margaret Eden, and Mary Day, Southwark’s Chief Mental Welfare Officer. The value of both team tennis and multi-disciplinary team work still endure.