My name is Philip Benjamin. I am an Australian mental health nurse (trained at Larundel Hospital in the mid-seventies, which meant working in acute and long-term wards in a mental asylum for nine months per year and three months of classes), also with a degree in secondary teaching (majoring in Drama and Media Studies) and a Master of Mind and Society, which is a cross-disciplinary post-graduate degree from the faculties of Arts and Psychological Medicine at Monash University. This Masters was taught on the theme of “the mind as contested territory” by professors with Freudian and Lacanian approaches to ‘the mind’.

I was Convenor of the ISPS Australia Steering committee, and founding chairman of the ISPS Australia Board, but left that position in June 2105 to work independently (see www.isps.org, www.isps-us.org and www.ispsuk.org for more details, and check the isps.org.au web site to see if it is still under re-development).

This blog seemed to be a logical extension of some work I was doing for this group – compiling emails with links, similar to these posts, for the ISPS Aus-NZ email discussion group on yahoo.com. I work part time in a early psychosis prevention at intervention service on the Gold Coast and part time in psychiatric assessment roles in the Emergency Departments of three general hospitals in Brisbane, in Queensland, Australia, where the tourism slogan is “Beautiful one day, perfect the next…”

The views here are entirely my own and cannot be taken as representing those of my employers.

My professional interest is now almost exclusively in Open Dialogue and the Hearing Voices Approach. Open Dialogue (OD) is a form of Dialogical Practice devised to work with serious mental health crises (psychosis or suicide) in Finland, originated and developed by groups led by Yrjö Alanen and Jaakko Seikkula.

This work is based on the “need adapted” approach, which says that every crisis is unique and must be solved through careful and detailed examination of the situation, rather than through applications of labels and formulaic responses.

This is coupled with the idea that through “Open Dialogue”, the resources of the family and social system from which the patient comes can be harnessed for a complete recovery and re-integration into normal life, without residual symptoms and disabilities.

This idea may seem strange to those used to the idea of mental illnesses as genetically based progressive brain disorders, but after careful thought, this accepted model of mental illness seems to be totally inadequate and the paradigm on which the Open dialogue approach is based a much stronger and more sympathetic force.

The Hearing Voices Approach is based on the discovery that the content of the voices some people hear (which are not necessarily due to mental illness, but can be very distressing for people who have been exposed to overwhelming trauma, some of which does occur within mental health services).

More on this to come – see the links to current workshops above…


5 responses to “About

  1. Phillip there were no asylums in the mid 70s ie mental hospitals You have not mentioned the effects of anti psychotics and sedatives in high doses on humans Not discussed by those who prescribe them, yet alone nurses.
    My first experience with mental illness 1959 as a student nurse Qualified as General trained nurse 1974 Qualified as psychiatric trained nurse 1984
    Psychiatry dependant on pharmaceuticals, long way to go.

  2. Even when i worked at Callan Park 1959 it was not offically an asylum even though strait jackets were used due to lack of drugs My mother was in Callan Park in 1941 this is why i was interested
    I worked in Melbourne and Adelaide and eventually qualfied at Gladesville 1984
    I worked in Community Health Prisons
    When you did your training i was a qualified General nurse I trained in hospitals more expensive though i am all for nurses learning on the job much better for patients as better staffed and safer Too many short cuts and errors now due to lack of experience on qualifying
    Sarah Newland

    • I resonate with Philip’s expression that there were many institutions that ‘felt like’ asylums, even if they weren’t officially given that terminology. The Royal Derwent Hospital in New Norfolk, Tasmania, was, in essence, an asylum not closed down until the year 2000. Whilst it may not have officially been termed an ‘asylum’ in its later years, I can attest that patients were treated horrendously, consistent with asylum style treatment (in the spirit of the word). A dear relative of mine was kept there (having been surrendered to the ‘care’ of the state as an infant) until a younger generation of family members were finally able to mount an argument to extricate her from that environment and place her in a much healthier, more positive group home environment. When she left the Royal Derwent, she had no language except for repeating a phrase that had been yelled at her throughout her time at that institution (“You shut up!”). After years of loving, caring treatment in her group home, she was eventually able to communicate lovingly with her family and friends.

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