Dilip Balu


Vicarious Trauma | Supervision | Collaborative Care | Trauma Aware Schooling


Dilip is a Senior Clinical Social Worker and Team Leader of the Child Protection Counselling Service based in the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District. Dilip also practices privately as a trainer and clinical supervisor for individuals and groups. His clinical experience ranges across Child Protection, Out of Home Care, Child and Adolescent Mental Health and long-term psychotherapy. Dilip has a special interest in relational perspectives on understanding human development across the lifespan, specifically with people who have experienced complex developmental trauma in the context of abuse and neglect. He works from a systemic perspective that views the person’s experience as embedded within, and influenced by the systems that support them. This systemic perspective also drives Dilip’s clinical and research interest in understanding and mitigating the impact trauma exposure on clinical practice. As an extension on this, he is currently undertaking a PhD studying the interpersonal factors that drive collaborative care.

Dilip also holds a significant interest in educational settings which stems from his clinical experience, love of working across disciplines and agency boundaries, and a deep and enduring interest in human systems and trauma. Dilip strives to keep things balanced with the help of his wonderful young family, good friends, mindfulness practice, following cricket (actually, sport generally), writing and reading poetry, practicing environmental sustainability, and having a good laugh (amongst many other things, including fried chips).



STAYING WARM IN SUB-ZERO TEMPERATURES: Using attachment theory in the classroom

We know that students with a trauma background often bring big management challenges into the classroom. Being effective across many such students with limited resources is often a conundrum. As professionals, we accurately perceive that we are not in a position to meet all of the need these students have; nor should, or could we ever be without risking professional burnout. However at the other end of the spectrum, reactive ‘spot fire’ approaches can leave students and teachers feeling even further away from the change they desire. It can be difficult to see ourselves as attachment figures for these kids however when we as adults reach out and take risks to connect empathically with where these students are at, they can invite us to join them in their worlds. This joining can be emotionally taxing so how we can maintain the firm, bounded and consistent warmth needed to stay connected to their worlds without our own fire of compassion burning out through repeated push back of our efforts? How can we justify the deep investments of time and effort required to do this in a resource-scarce environment? The evidence base shows that reparative attachment and trauma sensitive relational approaches are much more likely to achieve change in the longer term. Understanding attachment and the impact of early trauma can encourage our continued efforts even when we as adults feel the most uncomfortable and out of our depth. By viewing our role as adults clearly through an attachment lens, we begin to see trauma aware, compassion infused classrooms as not only a possibility, but a necessity.

DEPTH WITHOUT DROWNING: Going beyond self-care to sustain quality clinical practice with traumatised clients

Working with clients who have experienced the worst in other people can impact on clinicians in many ways. Although hearing stories of survival can be inspiring, it is in fact the chronicity of exposure to traumatic material in the form of severe and horrifying abuse and neglect can result in gradual and insidious changes in internal states and world views of clinicians. We know these changes as secondary traumatic stress (STS) and vicarious trauma (VT). These phenomena are well known, as are their relational impacts such as boundary transgressions and violations on the part of clinicians and compassion fatigue and burnout. The language of self-care is one that contemporary clinicians are becoming increasingly fluent in, as is the language of trauma informed care, however what do we actually mean when we talk of these concepts in practice? We also know that putting these theories into practice is often more difficult than anticipated.

What are the barriers to making clinical resources sustainable instead of finite? What fuels sustainable practice? How can we stop digging deeper into the depths of the reserves that we bring into our professional careers and instead renew these reserves each time we see our clients? Relational approaches have traditionally emphasised person centred and intersubjective therapeutic processes which sit on a basis of empathy. Sitting below all of these processes is the foundational human experience of compassion. This workshop will refresh these foundational concepts with and present an ecological model of sustaining effective clinical practice in complex trauma saturated contexts. It will present both vertical and horizontal approaches and strategies to maintain compassion under duress, which clinicians can take away and incorporate into their ‘in the room’ practice with clients within their unique agency contexts.

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"We have all enjoyed the group supervision. Dilip is a wealth of knowledge."

Manager, Child and Family Support