HELPING people of all ages to lead well-functioning and contented lives is the main aim for newly-appointed South Gippsland Hospital Mental Health Counsellor and Psychotherapist Karen Santos.
Karen began her new job on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 and is based at the Hospital’s Community Health Centre in Station Road, Foster, where she is now available to meet with clients on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
A native of the Philippines, with a lifelong curiosity about humans, and their thoughts and behaviours, Karen said she had always enjoyed studying, and graduated with honours in her Bachelor of Psychology degree from the University of the Philippines.
She arrived in “the beautiful country of Australia” as an international student some 10 years ago to undertake a post-graduate qualification in counselling at the Australian College of Applied Psychology in Melbourne.
Together with her Filipino husband Jason, Karen later settled in Morwell where both worked in community health in the Latrobe Valley, and where Jason is still involved in disability and aged care services.
The couple’s four-year-old daughter, named Lucia after Karen’s grandmother, was born in the Latrobe Regional Hospital, and both parents are very proud of the fact that she is not only an Australian but also a Gippslander!
Karen is the first mental health counsellor to be employed directly by the South Gippsland Hospital to replace the previous contracted service.
The Hospital’s Director of Community Health, Samantha Park, said she “is thrilled to welcome Karen into the expanding community care team.
“We are very excited to be able to offer Karen’s skills and experience to our community”, she said.
“Karen is really looking forward to being able to offer continuity of care to the people of this area, and for them to develop a sense of supported wellbeing.”
Karen said “I do know how difficult it can be to ask for help, maybe even starting again with a different counsellor, especially after a person has already taken that first brave step.
“Everyone is welcome to make an appointment with me as the mental health counsellor, as there are no eligibility criteria, and no referral from a general practitioner or other health professional is needed,” she said.
“I also understand that some people feel there is a stigma attached to counselling and they are concerned that there must be something wrong if such a course of action is suggested to them.
“Counselling is a profession, with a strict code of practice and confidentiality, and the real value of it is that people can talk freely with a stranger they can trust whom is not a member of their own family or someone they know personally,” Karen said.
“People may speak to me about anything at all, from concerns brought on by COVID-19 restrictions and isolation, relationship difficulties, struggles with toddlers or ageing parents, problems at home or in the workplace, family violence, trauma … every subject is in!
“It’s the chance to vent and know that this person, the counsellor, believes in me, is listening to me, is hearing me, is validating me, and acknowledging me, and is not judging me,” she said.
“There’s a common connotation in many people’s minds that a counsellor will tell them what to do, which isn’t actually the case.
“I believe that clients generally know what’s best, and I have skills and knowledge that can help them to express themselves and to identify goals and what they might do to resolve things,” Karen said.
“What I offer is known as a stepped model of care, which means that I can refer clients on, depending on their level of need, which can range from mild through to acute.
“I’ll also be working closely with local health professionals to develop pathways into my service,” she said.
“Together we’ll be able to help make a difference for the better in local people’s lives.”
For more information about South Gippsland Hospital’s new Mental Health Counselling service and to make appointments with Mental Health Counsellor and Psychotherapist Karen Santos contact the Hospital’s Community Health Centre in Foster on 5683 9780.