La Trobe Bendigo will not offer psychology course despite city's struggle to find mental health workers

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La Trobe University has no plans to offer a postgraduate course mental health professionals say could increase the number of psychologists working in Bendigo. 

Two of the city’s psychology practices have this month told the Bendigo Advertiser they are struggling to attract employees, lengthening wait times for people seeking mental health care.  

Broughton Consulting business manager Eryn Broughton said a lack of study and training opportunities were responsible for the shortage.

She called on La Trobe Bendigo to offer a Masters course and Bendigo Health to provide more work placements, moves she believed could keep psychologists in town.    

“If people have to move their family down there (to Melbourne) to study, they’ll stay down there,” Ms Broughton said. 

La Trobe’s Bendigo campus offers only undergraduate psychology, which are not enough to qualify students to work in a clinical setting.

It will, however, start offering a fourth-year honours course in 2017, a precursor to further study in the field.

While there were no immediate plans for a Masters of Psychology at its Bendigo site, campus head Rob Stephenson said it could be considered in the future, citing the university’s dentistry, allied health and pharmacy programs as ways the institution had already responded to health needs in the region.  

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If people have to move their family down there to study, they’ll stay down there. - Eryn Broughton, provisional psychologist

Ms Broughton believed Bendigo should model itself on Geelong, a city in which healthcare and education providers had worked together for some years to train new mental health workers.   

Barwon Health and Deakin University have jointly run a clinical psychology training clinic at the hospital since 2011, offering services like behaviour therapy for eating disorders and dialectical behaviour therapy for borderline personality disorder. 

The clinic, which received 220 referrals in 2015 alone, was responsible for a threefold increase in psychology services in the region, a Barwon Health spokesperson said.  

While Bendigo Health offered work placement to students, a spokesperson said the demand for these opportunities outran what its 17 employed psychologists could provide.  

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