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6.5.3.4 Counselling

Document
Last amended 
15 May 2018

Legislative authority

The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Family Support) Instrument 2018

"Section 12 - Counselling

  • (1) A member or former member, or a nominated person of the member or former member, may be provided with counselling.
  • (2) The family group of a person (see subsection (6)) may be provided with up to 4 counselling sessions per year during the 5 year period starting on the date of the first counselling session.
  • (3) A counselling session may be provided to an individual member of a family group, or to more than one member or all members of the family group.
  • (4) Counselling is to be provided by a counselling provider and any amount for counselling is to be paid to the counselling provider.
  • (5) To avoid doubt, an amount for counselling is not payable to the member or former member, or a nominated person of the member or former member.
  • (6) In this section, “family group”, in relation to a member or former member, means the group consisting of the member or former member and any nominated persons of the member or former member."

DVA’s existing counselling policies

DVA provides for a range of counselling services for veterans through a psychosocial rehabilitation plan – see section 6.5 Psychosocial activities for DVA clients and their families.  

DVA also has specific policies for the consideration of brief intervention counselling, generally 6-8 sessions, for veterans:

  • under a psychosocial rehabilitation plan, to provide early intervention counselling to assist a veteran to adjust to disability or injury by teaching them a range of self-management strategies for coping with the life changes that a disability or injury can bring.  Counselling aims to provide options and alternative ways for looking at and managing situations in their daily life, and to provide support to a person during their rehabilitation.
  • under a psychosocial rehabilitation plan, to provide early intervention counselling to assist a veteran to learn how to manage their pain, so they are able to function the best they can in their life despite the presence of pain.  Counselling can focus on helping a person to predict their patterns of pain and to learn how to manage their pain through the use of psychological and behavioural strategies – see 6.5.1 Brief intervention counselling to assist with adjustment to disability or injury and/or pain management

Counselling provided under the Family Support Package is additional to the policies outlined above and are aimed at the families of veterans.

 

6.5.3.4.1 Nominated family for counselling

The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Family Support) Instrument 2018

"Section 12 - Counselling

  • (1) A member or former member, or a nominated person of the member or former member, may be provided with counselling."

As outlined in section 6.5.3.1, an eligible veteran is able to nominate the following family members to receive counselling support under the Family Support Package:

  • the veteran’s partner;
  • the veteran’s parent or step-parent;
  • the parent or step-parent of the veteran’s partner;
  • the veteran’s grandparent;
  • the veteran’s child or stepchild;
  • the veteran’s grandchild;
  • the veteran’s sibling including brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister;
  • the child or stepchild of the veteran’s partner;
  • a person in respect of whom the veteran stands in the position of a parent; or
  • a person who stands in the position of a parent to the member.

In the last two instances, where the nominated person is not actually a family member, but stands in as a family member, veterans will only need to clearly articulate their relationship with the person, and do not need to provide any evidence.

While technically the veteran is entitled for counselling under The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Family Support) Instrument 2018, they are already able to access the same range of counselling support through their rehabilitation program.  Therefore, the counselling services provided under the Family Support Package is intended exclusively for the veteran’s family.

If a Rehabilitation Coordinator receives a request for counselling and they are unsure whether the person is eligible to be a nominated person, please contact the Rehabilitation Policy Development and Advice team at family.support.package@dva.gov.au.

 

6.5.3.4.2 Consideration of counselling requests

The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Family Support) Instrument 2018

In this instrument:

  • "Counselling means any form of brief intervention counselling, including, but not limited to, mental health counselling, financial counselling, life skills counselling, counselling to provide mental health first aid and counselling focusing on caring for veterans with specific disabilities."

Circumstances where counselling can be approved

The intent of providing time-limited counselling to the family members of a veteran, is to assist the family with managing their life circumstances following the veteran’s Defence service.  The counselling should provide the family unit with support during challenging situations and also equip the family with skills to manage these situations effectively.

In order to access counselling, the veteran must have an approved DVA rehabilitation program.  This means that the Rehabilitation Provider plays an important role in assisting the family to identify whether they may require counselling support.  To facilitate these discussions and prompt the Rehabilitation Provider to consider counselling, a Request for Services form will be available to guide the Rehabilitation Provider through the eligibility requirements and explaining the purpose of counselling.  This form will be sent to Rehabilitation Providers by DVA Rehabilitation Providers on request.

Types of time-limited counselling

Counselling is a generic term used to describe various professionals who offer types of talking therapy.  Counsellors can talk through different problems a person might be experiencing and help identify possible solutions.

Outlined below are some of the most common types of counselling that may be appropriate for the families of veterans.  These types of counselling should be used as a guide only and if a Rehabilitation Coordinator receives a request for counselling that is not listed below, provided there is an identified benefit of the counselling for the family, a flexible approach should be used.  Please contact the Rehabilitation Policy Development and Advice team at family.support.package@dva.gov.au if any advice is required about the suitability of a type of counselling.

PurposeOptions
Common types of counselling that may be appropriate
Development of life management skills
  • Personal and relationship counselling
  • Family counselling
  • Parenting skills and support counselling
Management of mental and emotional health
  • Resilience training
  • Grief and loss counselling
  • Drug and alcohol counselling
  • Mental Health First Aid Course
  • Counselling to assist with adjustment to living with disability and pain management
Management of finances
  • Financial counselling
  • Counselling intervention for gambling issues

These services are generally already funded by either Commonwealth or State and territory Governments.  The rehabilitation provider is expected to assist the veteran and their family to find a counsellor in their area, and facilitate a face-to-face meeting as and if required.

 

Services that are not counselling services under the Family Support Package

Financial Advice/planning or financial management services, cannot be funded under the Family Support Package.  Financial advice/planning is quite distinct to financial counselling and addresses complex financial issues including investing, superannuation, retirement planning, estate planning, risk management, insurance and taxation. Note: Financial counselling provides more straightforward information, support and advocacy to assist people in financial difficulty, particularly those with debt related issues.

As outlined in section 5.3 of the Rehabilitation Policy Library, clinical medical treatment costs cannot be funded under a veteran’s rehabilitation program.  Additionally, ‘alternative’ therapies, which DVA does not fund for veterans as medical treatment, cannot be funded for family members under the Family Support Package.  DVA Factsheet HSV131 - Alternative Therapies contains further information.

 

6.5.3.4.3 Funding for counselling

The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Family Support) Instrument 2018

"Section 12 - Counselling

  • (1) The family group of a person (see subsection (6)) may be provided with up to 4 counselling sessions per year during the 5 year period starting on the date of the first counselling session.
  • (2) A counselling session may be provided to an individual member of a family group, or to more than one member or all members of the family group.
  • (3) Counselling is to be provided by a counselling provider and any amount for counselling is to be paid to the counselling provider.
  • (4) To avoid doubt, an amount for counselling is not payable to the member or former member, or a nominated person of the member or former member."

Free counselling

Some of the types of counselling previously outlined are free counselling services, such as financial counselling and gambling support.  If the family member of a veteran requires counselling services that are provided free, it is expected that the Rehabilitation Provider will assist the veteran and their family to find a counsellor in their area, and facilitate a meeting as required.

Number of counselling sessions

The family unit of a veteran can be provided with no more than four counselling sessions for each year and the year will commence on the date of the first counselling session.  Access to counselling will cease at the end of a consecutive five year period provided the veteran is still participating in rehabilitation.  This means that over the course of a five year rehabilitation program, the maximum amount of sessions that can be utilised by the veteran’s family, is 20.

While technically the veteran is entitled for counselling under the Family Support Package, they are already able to access the same range of counselling support through their rehabilitation program.  Therefore, the counselling services provided under the Family Support Package is exclusively for the veteran’s family and any sessions for the veteran do not count towards the four annual sessions for the family.  For example, a veteran may undertake pain management counselling, resilience training and financial management counselling in a year.  This means the veteran’s family still has four sessions available for use if required.

Where the counselling service is of a kind that needs to be provided over multiple sessions, the course of counselling is taken to be one counselling session.  For example, Mental Health First Aid courses and resilience training usually run for a period of weeks a few hours a week.  The course itself is considered one counselling session.  If a family member visits a financial counsellor and a follow-up session is recommended, these visits are considered to be one counselling session.

Closure of a rehabilitation program

When a veteran’s rehabilitation program is closed, access to counselling for the family also ceases because there is no legal mechanism to pay for services without an approved DVA rehabilitation program.  Keeping a rehabilitation plan open solely to provide counselling services, is not a reason in itself for rehabilitation to continue.  The veteran must be working towards their own personal rehabilitation goals.

Where counselling has been included on an approved DVA rehabilitation program and the veteran’s rehabilitation program ceases unexpectedly, any counselling that has not taken place and has not been paid for, cannot be funded by DVA.

Payment of counselling costs

Where counselling for family is an approved activity on a veteran’s rehabilitation program, the cost must be included as third party cost and invoices submitted by the Rehabilitation Provider.  Veterans or their nominated family members cannot be reimbursed for counselling costs they may have incurred, it must be processed under the rehabilitation program.

 

6.5.3.4.4 Counselling providers

The Military Rehabilitation and Compensation (Family Support) Instrument 2018

"In this instrument:

  • counselling provider means a person accredited (however described) to provide counselling by the professional body of which the person is a member."

Appropriate counselling providers

Any counselling services provided under the Family Support Package, must be provided by an appropriately qualified person.  This could mean:

  • a person who has relevant qualifications, tertiary or otherwise, to provide the type of counselling service; or
  • a person who is required to be registered through a state or territory board or a professional body within their field of practice/ industry.

Rehabilitation Providers must take care to ensure that the most appropriate counselling providers are used.  Below are some examples of how to determine that a provider is an appropriate counselling provider:

  • Mental Health First Aid Course
    The course must be provided by instructors who have current accreditation from Mental Health First Aid Australia.
  • Financial counselling – free service
    A financial counsellor must have at least the nationally-accredited Diploma of Financial Counselling.  The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) MoneySmart website has facility to search for financial counsellors and who hold an Australian Financial Services licence.
  • Personal and relationship counselling/Family counselling/ Parenting skills and support counselling
    These types of counselling can be provided by qualified counsellors, psychologists or social workers with specific training in certain areas.  Registration with AHPRA is also required as necessary.

Veterans residing overseas

As per section 11.3.2 of the Rehabilitation Policy Library, veterans who reside overseas are able to access rehabilitation support and services.  While nothing precludes these veterans from accessing counselling under the Family Support Package, Rehabilitation Providers will need to ensure that any counselling provider is appropriately accredited with their relevant professional body in the relevant country.  Where accreditation requirements cannot be met, the counselling should not be approved as there is no certainty that the counselling is being delivered by an appropriately qualified person.

 

6.5.3.4.5 VVCS and other counselling

VVCS

The Veteran and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) has a wide range of counselling services available to eligible veterans and their families.  The intent of the counselling support provided under the Family Support Package, is to supplement existing VVCS services, to ensure veterans and their immediate family members are supported to move towards achieving greater stability following injury and subsequent separation from the ADF.

VVCS provides a range of services, including:

  • individual, couple and family counselling after-hours crisis telephone counselling;
  • case management services;
  • group programs for common mental health issues including anxiety, depression, sleep and anger;
  • psycho-educational programs for couples including a residential lifestyle management program;
  • Stepping Out, a 2-day transition program for ADF members and their partners preparing to leave, or who have recently left the military;
  • Operation Life suicide prevention workshops; and
  • Resources – information, education and self-help resources.

Below are VVCS programs which may be particularly relevant to this cohort, noting that these sessions are free for eligible veterans and their families:

  • Family Consultation: One to three sessions, each between 60-90 minutes, where the veteran, partner or other family members and the appropriate VVCS counsellor work together to identify a family’s goals, strengths and areas of difficulty and develop strategies for more positive family relationships.
  • 'Let's Talk About Children': One to two structured sessions, each between 60-90 minutes, with the relevant VVCS counsellor to help the veteran and their partner talk about the family’s children’s well-being and general parenting issues.

More information about services provided by VVCS can be found through the following link: http://www.vvcs.gov.au/

Mental Health Care plan - Medicare

Where the family member has a mental disorder which has been diagnosed by a doctor which requires management, they can be referred to their GP to be placed onto a Mental Health Care Plan.  Further information about Mental Health Care Plans can be found on the Department of Health funded website Health Direct.