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A New Face Behind Therapeutic Services

We recently welcomed Alyssha Fooks to Thorne Harbour Health as the Manager of Therapeutic Services and Capacity Building. With a portfolio that includes family violence, counselling, alcohol and other drug use, and building the capacity of mainstream services – Alyssha took a moment to talk about her work and coming to Thorne Harbour.

What have you been doing prior to joining THH?

I spent the last three years working in the sexual assault sector. I’m a social worker and Narrative Therapist, and I’m really passionate about working towards creating safe spaces for all victim-survivors of violence. During my time at CASA, I actually met some people at THH when we collaborated on a training about responding to disclosures of sexual assault.

Over the last 12 months, I was also working as a supervisor for a number of people working in the family violence sector, and I really enjoyed supervising people doing this kind of important work. I love bringing people together in conversations with room for safety and expansion, and I found that I got a lot out of this work.

Of course, I also spent the last couple of years surviving lockdowns, like the rest of us!

What motivated you to come work for THH?

I was interested in coming to THH mainly because I wanted to work in the community again. I did a solid stint in public health where I learned a lot, and I wanted to be involved with work that was fast-paced, responsive and where I was going to be invited to be accountable to my community in different ways. I found the thought of being part of a community organisation very inspiring!

Family violence, alcohol and drug use (AOD), and mental health counselling – these are all pretty heavy and complicated areas. What attracts you to this work?

This is a question that I have often been asked. I think the same would be true of many of my colleagues working in similar areas! I find that the question of what brings us to our work is a fascinating one, and one I like to ask myself and my colleagues. I find that usually when we start unpacking it, it is our values, hopes, or insistence for change that give us our passion and commitment to this work. For me, it is also about imagining that something else is possible. What I mean by that is that I believe in the possibilities of changing the conditions that make people in our community suffer. I believe that people can live free from violence, that it is important to disrupt the ways that violence, harm and abuse impacts our whole community. I have to imagine and create possibilities for change. I also agree that this is complicated work, but that’s part of why it can be so rewarding.

Do you think there are any common misconceptions about these areas?

I definitely think there are many misconceptions and myths surrounding family violence and sexual assault, for a start. Even in 2022 there are still some troubling and pervasive myths, even within our community. Some examples might be ‘Family violence doesn't happen in LBTGI relationships or families’, ‘Men can’t be victims of family violence’, ‘Women aren't violent’, ‘People of the same gender are always equal in relationships’, and these kinds of things. These myths can be very silencing for people who are looking for help or to speak about their experience. Luckily, now we have plenty of facts to counter them, for example research such as The Private Lives Study, which highlighted that a disturbingly high percentage (32.7%) of respondents in this sample reported having been in a relationship where the partner was abusive.

Even in 2022 there are still some troubling and pervasive myths, even within our community.....These myths can be very silencing for people who are looking for help or to speak about their experience.

Alyssha Fooks

I also think there are plenty of common but unhelpful myths and misconceptions about AOD use and mental health in general, particularly within our LGBTIQ community, and these can have a detrimental impact when people are seeking support. Often stigma, discrimination, racism and homophobia go hand in hand with these misconceptions.

Do you think it is important to have services and programs created specifically for our LGBTIQ communities?

I do think specific services and programs for our community are vitally important. This work is about creating spaces where we are seen, safe, included and celebrated. I’m interested in the ways LGBTIQ specific spaces can offer safety from the impacts of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. I think there is always work we can all be doing to make organisations, programs and services culturally safe, as well as honouring intersectionality in our work.

What do you think THH services are able to offer that you might not get at other services?

I hope THH services are able to offer a place where people are celebrated and welcome. Where your gender, sexuality and relationships can be part of your care and what is important to you. I’m a huge believer in the importance of community work. I can see that the long history of community care at THH plays an important part in what makes our services accessible and inclusive.

When you’re not working as the Manager of Therapeutic Services & Capacity Building, what do you get up to?

My COVID survival was to read all the beautiful stories – and reading continues to be a ritual in my life. I am about to start reading Holding the Man (thanks for the recommendation THH people). My recommendation for you all is SJ Norman’s Permafrost it is a must-read for 2022! Other than that, I am just enjoying the small moments of being out and with people in the world.


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