NEST's specialist Perinatal Psychiatrists provide expert psychiatric care across all aspects of the transition to parenthood.


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Dr. Fran Arcuri - NEST Director

Consultant Psychiatrist
Dr Arcuri consults at Elsternwick and Hawthorn across four days of the week

Professional Background / Experience

  • Medical Degree gained from Monash University.
  • Worked in a variety of medical and surgical jobs before embarking on specialist training in psychiatry over 10 years ago.
  • Completed psychiatric training in General Adult Psychiatry at Alfred Health.
  • Has held positions as Consultant Psychiatrist at Alfred Health in acute inpatient and outpatient mental health care settings, as well as the role of Coordinator of Psychiatry Training and Education. 
  • Played a pivotal role in the development and set up of Southern Health’s Parent Infant Mental Health Service.
  • More recently worked as Consultant Psychiatrist at St John of God Health Care’s ‘Raphael Centre’, an outpatient peri natal mental health service. 
  • Passion and commitment to peri natal mental health now extends to the current position at NEST, which is combined with a consulting role at the Masada Mother Baby Unit.
  • Is also a credentialed psychiatrist with admitting rights to the Albert Road Clinic Mother Baby Unit.             

Professional Interests

  • General adult psychiatry with special interest in peri natal mental health. 
  • From pre-conception to pregnancy and the postnatal period, comprehensive mental health assessment and individually tailored treatment options for women, their partners and their families are offered. Dr Arcuri is particularly focused on working collaboratively with patients and offering a holistic approach to treatment so as to achieve optimal outcomes for both parents and their infants. 

Areas of particular interest and expertise include:

  • Adjusting to pregnancy and parenting
  • Depression, Anxiety or other mental health disorders during pregnancy and the post natal period
  • Parent infant attachment issues
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Psychotropic medication during pregnancy and breast feeding
  • Emotional difficulties related to infertility, including assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF
  • Peri natal Grief / Loss

Treatments offered include:

  • Individual psychotherapy, including Supportive, Cognitive Behavioural, Interpersonal and Psychodynamic Therapies      
  • Family and Couples Therapy
  • Medication when needed

Personal Interests Outside of Work

Outside of work, Fran is devoted to her family which includes her husband and two young children.  When she gets a spare moment, she enjoys keeping fit and relaxing with a good book.

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Dr. Sam Margis - NEST Director

Consultant Psychiatrist
Dr Margis consults at Elsternwick and Hawthorn across five days of the week

Professional Background/Experience

  • Studied Medicine at the Monash University Medical School.
  • Internship and residency in Surgery, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Paediatrics and Psychiatry. 
  • Specialist Psychiatric training predominantly at the Alfred Hospital Melbourne.
  • Consultant General Adult Psychiatrist at the Alfred Hospital.
  • Turned attention to Perinatal (Mother-Baby) Psychiatry building a prolific private practice at the Albert Road Clinic with a pivotal role in both the inpatient and outpatient Parent Infant programs.
  • Focussed on Early Parenting Programs in order to “catch” women with Postnatal Depression who were “slipping through the cracks”.
  • Developed interventions, procedures and protocols in those facilities to minimize the number of women who were going undiagnosed and untreated, resulted in assisting with the expansion of the Masada Mother Baby Services to one of the largest such facilities in the country.
  • Led to becoming passionate about and helping develop the NEST philosophy of perinatal healthcare.

Professional Interests

  • All aspects of Perinatal Psychiatry including, emotional hardships of preconception (including fertility treatment), and the antenatal and postnatal periods.
  • Associated perinatal issues including relationship difficulties and perinatal loss and grief.
  • Particular interest in ensuring early detection and intervention for postnatal depression and anxiety as well as difficulty with transition to parenthood without psychiatric illness.
  • Experienced in an extensive range of Psychotherapeutic (talking therapy) approaches including, supportive, cognitive-behavioural, interpersonal and psychodynamic.
  • Also expert in Pharmacological (medication) interventions when required – including during pregnancy and while breast-feeding.
  • Dr. Margis is renowned for having a highly collaborative approach with his patients regarding choice of treatment empowering them to be central to the decision making process.

In May 2014 Dr. Margis was appointed a Board Member of the Mercy Health Foundation.

Personal Interests Outside of Work

When not at work Dr. Margis spends most of his time with his family including his wife and his three children. In winter he takes great delight in helping his kids learn how to snow ski - one of his other great passions, and in summer spends most of his spare time in the water with them.

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Dr. Chantal Esnault

Consultant Psychiatrist
MBBS (Hons), MPM, FRANZCP, Cert. Cons. Liaison Psych.
Dr Esnault works at the Hawthorn clinic only

Professional Background/Experience:

• Medical degree completed at Monash University, Melbourne
• Specialist training in general psychiatry completed at Alfred Health
• Master of psychological medicine completed at Monash University, Melbourne.
• Fellowship in psychiatry completed at the Royal Women’s Hospital to pursue interest in women’s mental health, in particular in perinatal mental health. 
• Additional sub-speciality certificate in consultation and liaison psychiatry.
• Previous position as Consultant Psychiatrist in the consultation and liaison unit at Monash Medical Centre.
• Current positions as Consultant Psychiatrist at Masada Private Hospital in the Mother Baby Unit and NEST family wellness clinic.
• Credentialed psychiatrist at Albert Road Clinic should women and their infants require a Mother Baby Unit admission.

Professional Interests:

• Special interest in perinatal mental health and working collaboratively with women and their families to assess and manage a range of emotional and mental health difficulties arising during the preconception, pregnancy and postnatal period.
• Special interest in consultation and liaison psychiatry, particularly in women’s mental health, and the interaction between physical and psychological health.

Areas of particular interest and expertise:

• Adjusting to pregnancy and parenting.
• Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders in pregnancy and the postnatal period.
• Psychotropic medication during pregnancy and breast feeding.
• Grief and emotional difficulties related to issues such as infertility and perinatal loss.
• Parent infant attachment / bonding issues.
• Relationship issues.

Treatments offered include:

• Individual psychotherapy (‘talking therapy’) such as cognitive behaviour therapy, interpersonal therapy, supportive therapy and psychodynamic therapy.
• Couples therapy during the perinatal period.
• Medication review and management during pre-conception, pregnancy and the postnatal period.

Personal Interests outside of work:

• Caring for her young children and spending time with family and friends.

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Dr. Karen Gaunson

Consultant Psychiatrist

FRANZCP, MBBS (Hons), MMed (Psychiatry), Advanced Training Certificate in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (CATCAP)

Dr Gaunson works at both Elsternwick and Hawthorn and sees patient up to the age of 11 years old only

Professional Background/ Experience:

  • Qualified in Medicine on the Deans Honours list from the University of Melbourne in 1994. 
  • Fellow of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (including the Child & Adolescent Faculty).
  • Completed her psychiatric training in general adult psychiatry with Advanced training in Child Psychiatry at Austin Health in 2003.
  • Consultant Psychiatrist for the Multi-disciplinary Infant Team at Thrive to 25, the Child and Youth Mental Health Service, through Alfred Health since 2003.
  • Her Alfred Health VMO role involves consultation to other agencies, research & supervision of staff, in addition to direct clinical work with infants, toddlers & their families.
  • Private practice in Child Psychiatry & Adult Psychotherapy in Glen Iris then Brighton since 2004
  • Currently she is acting as Team Leader during the innovative redevelopment phase of the Alfred CYMHS multidisciplinary  infant program extending to school entry.

Professional Interests:

She works with people to improve their sense of connection and to enhance their resilience & wellbeing. She uses a strengths based holistic approach to reduce distress & to address emerging or ongoing mental disorders.

Areas of particular interest and expertise include:

Karen's approach is informed by a variety of effective therapeutic models which she will explain & adapt to your needs & preferences.  She is experienced in working with people across the age span from infancy to those who  are parenting young adults.  She is skilled in identifying & ameliorating developmental difficulties, relationship based distress as well as common mental disorders including anxiety & depression.

Given her work in the public system she is used to working alongside other professionals from different disciplines to improve the outcomes for young people. Occasionally if it is appropriate she will suggest using medication as part of the treatment package, though she will ensure other strategies are utilised first. Often this is in conjunction to monitoring by a Paediatrician.

Karen will work with people at a pace that suits them & explore issues to the degree they prefer. She finds that people may return at different times in their lives to address what is coming up when feeling stuck or overwhelmed. Others prefer to resolve underlying issues & to reach a new level of ease & wellbeing once their symptoms resolve.

Treatments offered include:

  • Dyadic & Trilogue therapies
  • Couple &/ or parenting therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual therapy short or long term with older children, adolescents or adults.
  • Case conferences with parents & other professionals in different settings
  • Professional Supervision - individual or groups by request & arrangement on your site or clinic based (currently supervises a range of people from different disciplines including MCHN, psychiatry trainees, allied health professionals)

Therapeutic approaches include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy adapted for children
  • Mentalisation based therapy
  • Mindfulness and other meditative techniques
  • Strategies based on taking advantage of neuroplasticity to enable sustained change.
  • Psychoanalytically informed psychotherapy.
  • Sensorimotor psychotherapy
  • Given her medical background she is also interested in promoting health & physical wellbeing

Personal interests:

Karen engages in her broad range of interests including creative outlets & multiple sports, both as a participant & parent. She likes to learn new things & to apply them where relevant to her personal life or professional practice.

When referred to Dr Karen Gaunson it is useful to have a referral that includes all family members to allow for Medicare rebates for parent and family sessions.

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Dr. Barbara James

Consultant Psychiatrist
MBBS, FRANZCP, MP (Psychiatry), Certificate in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Dr James works at the Hawthorn clinic only

Professional Background:

• Completed medical degree at the University of Melbourne 1998

• Undertook Internship and Residency initially at the Austin Hospital, and subsequently at the Alfred Hospital, in a variety of roles

• Completed Psychiatric training in General Adult Psychiatry with Advanced Training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry through the Alfred Hospital in 2007

• Joined the Adolescent Team Service at Albert Rd Clinic in 2008, and subsequently established a private practice specializing in the psychiatric care of children and adolescents.

Professional Interests and Area of Expertise:

Through her work at Albert Rd Clinic, Barbara has developed a collaborative approach to the care of children and adolescents, and finds liaison with and referral to other health care professionals often adds important ideas as they recover from episodes of mental illness.

Individualised therapy as well as family therapy is often a key component of care, and Barbara is experienced in providing this therapy. She has developed particular experience in Dialectic Behaviour Therapy, as well as incorporating other evidence-based therapies. She works closely with young people and families to find the level of care that best suits their family. She has accreditation at Albert Road Clinic for day programs and can assist in facilitating admission where this is appropriate.

Barbara is interested in a holistic perspective, incorporating evidence-based nutrition, mindfulness and lifestyle change to assist in optimizing recovery. She takes a keen interest in the addition of nutritional supplementation, where indicated, and supporting positive, manageable changes in a persons' lifestyle. She is also a member of the Australian Integrative Psychiatry Interest Group.

Barbara is experienced in supporting young people and families in decision-making around psychotropic medication, where this is indicated.

Personal Interests:

When she is not caring for her young family Barbara enjoys taking time in nature and enjoying the benefits of a healthy approach to living.