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6.2 Overview of psychosocial rehabilitation

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Last amended 
21 November 2016

‘Psychosocial rehabilitation’ is a broad term to describe a set of rehabilitation interventions used to maximise a client’s quality of life and their independent functioning.

Psychosocial rehabilitation has different definitions in different settings. In most health literature it is linked to mental health conditions. In DVA, psychosocial rehabilitation has a wider meaning encompassing the whole person, and it is delivered within a continuum of support—including treatment, vocational rehabilitation and medical management—that is used to address all a client’s health and wellbeing needs.

Findings from research indicate that psychosocial factors are often the main predictors of successful rehabilitation outcomes, particularly vocational outcomes. Inclusion of psychosocial interventions in a rehabilitation program is therefore important to progressing recovery, achieving positive rehabilitation outcomes and maintaining long term wellbeing. In most cases, psychosocial interventions will provide relatively short term support with the aim of helping the person to self-manage their accepted conditions, focus on their strengths and move forward from a service related injury or illness.

The meaning of "short term" is flexible and will be determined by the client's individual needs and circumstances, and the barriers that need to be overcome to assist the person to make progress towards their rehabilitation goals. For example, if a person has been experiencing severe mental health issues, has a very complex family situation, and/or has become very socially isolated, a longer period of psychosocial rehabilitation support is likely to be required. In contrast, if a person is generally well and resilient, has good family support, but needs some specific assistance in learning to self-manage their accepted conditions, then they are likely to require a shorter period of support through a psychosocial rehabilitation plan. The key is to ensure that the plan is individually tailored so that it is appropriate for each specific client and provides support for a sufficient duration to assist the client to achieved the objectives identified through the Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) process.

Appropriate professional advice is essential in determining the duration and direction of any psychosocial activities. Given that some psychosocial services are often provided to address complex behaviours and perceptions, it is likely that these services may be more involved and of a longer duration than other rehabilitation interventions. As each client’s needs and circumstances differ, there is also an expectation that the types and duration of service may vary significantly, even for clients experiencing similar injuries or conditions.

For DVA clients, the goal of psychosocial rehabilitation is to develop and improve:

(a) life management skills;

(b) self-management of health conditions;

(c) family functioning;

(d) social connectedness; and

(e) meaningful engagement with family and the broader community.

It is important that psychosocial rehabilitation activities are always focused on achieving outcomes and overcoming barriers to return to participation. Utilising the GAS process is a vital component of identifying a client's rehabilitation goals and objectives, and measuring progress and life satisfaction as they participate in psychosocial rehabilitation activities.

For clients with severe disabilities due to their accepted conditions, who require 24 hour care, an ongoing psychosocial rehabilitation plan may be required to ensure that they are able to access support to participate in community and recreational activities. More detailed guidelines about this support can be found in section 6.10 of this library.