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6.4 Relationship between psychosocial and vocational rehabilitation

Last amended 
2 November 2016

Psychosocial rehabilitation activities need to be flexible, customisable and responsive because recovery is too complex to be predictable from one client to the next.

A focus on return to work activities too soon in the rehabilitation process can be counterproductive, and can often extend the length of a rehabilitation program. Each person’s circumstances must be taken into account, when considering the rehabilitation activities to be undertaken.

DVA clients with moderate to severe physical and mental health conditions may be physically fit and able to re-enter the workforce if their recovery is such that they can meet the demands of employment. However, it could be difficult for them to focus on achieving vocational goals until, for example, their housing, health and family issues are under control.

In order to commence their recovery journey, many clients need time to come to terms with their changed circumstances, and to regain their self-confidence before they are ready to plan for the future. For example, writing a résumé or job-seeking can be daunting for a client who has mental health issues or is experiencing grief at the loss of their career. Being asked to do these activities could provoke anger and the client may become unwilling to engage in any aspect of their rehabilitation program. In these cases, it is important that the pace of progress from psychosocial rehabilitation and medical management to vocational rehabilitation be guided by the professional expertise of the client’s treating medical professionals and rehabilitation service provider.

That said, there is no need for a rehabilitation program to be ‘sequenced’—with medical management and psychosocial rehabilitation activities completed before vocational rehabilitation is started. When a particular rehabilitation intervention is introduced should be determined on a case-by-case basis and tailored to the individual needs of the client. For example, when a client is recovering physically and looking ahead to their future goals, it may be a good time for that individual to start exploring pre-vocational activities, such as retraining or volunteering.

For an overview of the rehabilitation process see Chapter 3.

For more information on vocational rehabilitation see Chapter 9.