About the Author
Complexfamilies is authored and edited by Dr Don Tustin. Dr Tustin is a clinical psychologist who has been registered as a psychologist since 1977 and who practices in Adelaide, South Australia. Dr Tustin has a PhD in Psychology awarded by the University of Auckland, New Zealand in 1978.
Dr Tustin has worked with vulnerable families throughout his career, with an emphasis on both providing individual and family therapy to promote harmonious family functioning, and promoting systems that support family functioning.
Dr Tustin worked for ten years in a community mental health team in a region where over a quarter of clients were custodial parents of dependent children. The role of the community team was to assist clients to function well and to minimise the need for hospitalisation. This role involved working closely with child protection services when parents needed to be hospitalised because their mental health condition became more acute and their children needed to be placed into the temporary care of the child protection system as no family member was available to look after the children. During this period Dr Tustin was awarded a small grant to research professional literature about assessment of parenting capacity when a parent had a mental health condition, leading to formulation of an objective instrument to assess parenting capacity that is relevant to legal standards in Australia, the OK-Parenting instrument.
Dr Tustin was awarded an ongoing grant to fund delivery of short term in-home practical support for vulnerable parents who struggled with their parenting role because of a mental health condition. An evaluation of this Parent Assist programme has been published here.
Dr Tustin was an inaugural member of a Steering Committee of an innovative Mental Health Liaison project where a senior mental health nurse was located in a state child protection service to improve communication between adult mental health and child protection services.
Dr Tustin has been a consultant to the COPMI (Children of Parents with a Mental Illness) programme.
In 2006 Dr Tustin transferred to working primarily in private practice. Dr Tustin regularly receives referrals for parents whose parenting capacity has been criticised in a family assessment report that has been submitted to an Australian Family Law Court, and whose access to their children has been restricted. Dr Tustin provides both psychological therapy to address parenting topics of concern to the Family Law Court, and treatment reports to courts to outline the nature of therapy provided and progress made by the parent.
Dr Tustin is a member of the Australian Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts AFCC and was appointed as Convenor of the AFCC Working Party to draft Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Therapists who provide Treatment Reports to Family Law Courts.
Dr Tustin in Vice President of the Psychologists Association – South Australian Branch PASAB and in this role has liaised with the state Child Protection Service about ways that private psychologists can make an enhanced contribution to families that are vulnerable because a parent or a child has a mental health condition. Dr Tustin authored a submission to the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission in South Australia in 2014 on behalf of PASAB.