La Trobe University Industry panel on Rehabilitation Counselling
- Michael Lacovino - President of the Australian Society of Rehabilitation Counsellors
- Janette Kinahan - Rehabilitation Counsellor and Director of Work Health Systems.
- Regina Fitzpatrick - Allied health professional from La Trobe University, CRS Australia and Occupation Rehabilitation Consultant.
- Professor Greg Murphy – A leader in the profession of Rehabilitation Counselling from La Trobe University
- Carly Harrison – A second year student from the Post Graduate Masters Program in Rehabilitation Counselling at La Trobe University.
- Dr Paul O’Halloran
Paul: Welcome to the La Trobe University panel on Rehabilitation Counselling. My name is Paul O’Halloran and the purpose of today’s session is to provide insight into Rehabilitation Counselling as a profession. We have five experts from the field today to discuss Rehabilitation Counselling. I would like to welcome our five panellists who will provide valuable insight into Rehabilitation Counselling.
From the perspective of experienced people working in different settings in the field from the leaders of professional and educational organisations and the perspective of a student. I would like to extend a warm welcome to Michael Lacovino, President of the Australian Society of Rehabilitation Counsellors and also he works as a Rehabilitation Counsellor in private practice. Janette Kinahan, a Rehabilitation Counsellor who works in private practice as well and who is a Director of Work Health Systems. Regina Fitzpatrick and Allied health professional from La Trobe University who’s worked for many years within the federal government main rehabilitation service, CRS Australia as a Case Manager and Occupation Rehabilitation Consultant. Professor Greg Murphy, a leader in the profession of Rehabilitation Counselling from La Trobe University and Carly Harrison, a second year student from the Post Graduate Masters Program in Rehabilitation Counselling at La Trobe University.
I’ll be asking the panel a series of questions and there will also be the opportunity for the audience to ask some questions following this.
Michael – just some brief introductions from the panel. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself in relation to Rehabilitation Counselling?
Michael: Thanks Paul. I’ve been involved in the Rehabilitation industry for quite a long time. Probably around 24-25 years. I am currently the serving President of the Australian Society of Rehabilitation Counsellors – ASORC which is the peak professional body for Rehabilitation Counselling in Australia and my role in Rehabilitation has been quite diverse in the sense that I have worked as a Rehabilitation Counsellor also as a Rehabilitation Team Manager and most recently I have done a little bit of rehabilitation counselling work as well as EAP mediation work conflict resolution and I also do some work in the Centrelink DES JSA jurisdictions. I have been involved in the industry a very long time and find it’s a very enjoyable profession and would commend it highly to anyone who is considering undertaking it.
Paul: Thank you Michael, Janette.
Janette: Thanks Paul. I’ve been in the industry a long time, similar to Michael and essentially I have specialised over a long period of time in the management of personal injury. Whether that’s from transport accidents or workplace injury or acquired injury and disability from other sources. I set out a long time ago to work all around the spectrum. So, I’ve worked in the regulatory role setting legislation and regulation and guidelines and developing standards for providers of services and evaluating and reviewing services for efficiency and effectiveness and I’ve also spent a long time working on conflict resolution within personal injury management. More so, I would say in recent years utilising that in a risk assessment and risk management role in disability prevention approach in the workplace. So there is a lot I have done in the field that has brought me here today. Like Michael, I love this industry and the work that we do and equally congratulation you on wonderful choices.
Paul: Thank you very much Janette, Regina?
Regina: Thank you Paul. Well, I was a Case Manager for CRS, starting my career back in 1988, I think. I worked as a Case Manager for people who had a broad range of disabilities not in the compensable market. That might be people on disability, support pensions etc. Then I moved into a WorkCover area and worked as an Occupational Rehabilitation Counsellor and a Senior Advisor in CRS in that area and then went onto my own company which I did for 15 years as an Occupational Rehabilitation Consultant. So dealing with people that had a range of physical and stress-related injuries for WorkSafe Victoria. But also, then finally with the Federal ADF(Australian Defence Force) and I finished my career there last year and have been at La Trobe University four days a week. I had some very interesting experiences as a Case Manager. It fed me very well in many ways and has certainly helped me in my academic work in the type of work that I do as a Clinical Educator. Again, I would highly commend you for taking on Rehab Counselling. It has its challenges but it also has a lot of rewards, which will talk about later.
Paul: Thank you Regina, Greg?
Greg: Yeah thanks Paul, I got involved in Rehabilitation Counselling at the start of what they call ‘No Fault’ – workers comp legislation. Victoria was the national leader and no matter whether it was your fault or not, you were guaranteed to be covered for medical expenses and you would have rehabilitation offered to you if you had a complex or chronic condition. That was in the mid – to late 80’s. I mainly was in workers comp rehab. I then did work with the Commonwealth in what would be called Disability Employment Services. These are people on a Commonwealth benefit, pensioners trying to get real work - Welfare to Work. They are trying to move from being a pensioner to a proper citizen. Working, getting some money, looking after themselves. Then I moved onto a lot more research and I’ve done a lot of research with vocational rehabilitation, serious injury rehabilitation and tried to turn the ship around because when you're injured there are a lot of services given to you but they forget how important your family and your work is. A lot of our research is the whole person, not just the injury, the social support, all focused on the Return to Work. So that’s why I am here and a pleasure to talk with you all here today.
Paul: Thank you Greg, Carly?
Carly: Thanks Paul. I completed a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Psychology. Then I saw this course on the La Trobe website and thought that it really complimented my interests and my undergrad degree. So I am now in my second year of the Master – the final year and I am doing a thesis of Professional Dancers, their attitude towards pain and injury and the implications that pain have on their transition into new employment when they can no longer be a Professional Dancer anymore. So that’s where I’m at.
Paul: Now to the panel generally – how would you define the role of a Rehabilitation Counsellor? To have heard little bits and pieces about what people do and that’s great, but if you had to define it in maybe a few sentences?
Michael: Rehabilitation Counsellors are specific Allied health professionals who work within a counselling and case management framework. So, basically, that’s how we define it. But that can mean a lot of things. The important part of that is that – it’s a profession, and the idea is that we can assist people that are injured or disabled, who are socially disadvantaged – to participate as maximally as they can in life and in the community. So that’s the underpinning principal behind what we do, but the form that takes and how people do that and depending on the jurisdiction whether its WorkCover, transport accident, Commonwealth vs State or whether it’s a private setting or a rehabilitation hospital that can be done in different ways. But I guess the underlying principle is the restoration to the community and as full participants by the injured or disabled or health affected individual.
Paul: It’s about people reaching their full potential.
Paul: Thanks Michael. Anyone else want to say anything else about how we define…
Greg: I think it’s important to remember full potential means that 80 percent of the community needs paid work. People lost that message in the 1960’s and people concentrated on adjustment. Adjustment is not enough. Because, without work, people develop chronic pain problems, somatically pre-occupied, relationship breakdowns, depressed affect, popping pills so the highest force of participation is labour force participation. So everyone is pushing for Return to Work. They are a small group who mainly psychiatric participants who cannot handle responsible jobs. So you have to be very thoughtful about that.
Paul: So that’s the main thing - getting people back to work and they will be operating effectively.
Janette: I think the other aspect, the really important aspect is around the persons own goals for themselves. Even if you take something like Return to health and we don’t know what the person’s health was prior to injury and an idealised view of what a Return to Health might look like might not be realistic for that person. So really, at the outset it’s around working with the person as an individual as oppose to the collective. So that is the other aspect to rehabilitation counselling that differentiates the work that we do.
Paul: Janette, would that be the counselling role, that one on one with the person to get an understanding of their perspective.
Janette: Absolutely. The first thing as a practitioner that you do, is sit down with the person on a very personal level about broad-ranging topics to understand who they are and where they have been and what’s important to them in their life and their goals and aspirations are for the future. Then, understand the context within which you are working with them to really come to a plan as to how to maximise their recovery and Return to Work or Return to Community or resuming the life goals or the life activities that are important to them
Paul: Many students are interested in the distinction between a Rehabilitation Counsellor and a Case Manager. How would you see that distinction?
Michael: Look, it’s a very important point. A Rehabilitation Counsellor as I mentioned earlier is an allied health professional, so they are recognised as a professional under the heads of Workers Compensation Authorities which is HELCA they actually stipulate one of the 10 or 11 professions in the Return to Work jurisdiction in the WorkCover jurisdiction so it’s important to note that it is a distinct profession whereas a Case Manager or a Rehabilitation Consultant can be an allied health profession, can be a rehab professional, counselling professional, but not necessarily. So you can’t assume that someone who has the title ‘Rehab Consultant’ is a bona fide ‘Rehab Counsellor’. They could be from the allied health areas, they could be a Physio OT or could also be someone who has worked their way up the ranks or in an admin role so they may not have the recognised qualifications or background to actually practise as ‘Rehab Counsellor’ which is the profession. So, there is a distinction between the two and rehab counselling has been a profession recognised for over 40 years in Australia and generally, universally since the 1950’s.
Greg: Rehabilitation Counselling is a profession invested by the American’s in the 1950’s after all their soldiers came back, a lot of them were injured and the industry had changed. The American government put a massive amount of money into creating a new profession. They are in every big hospital in America. They are very highly regarded as part of the hospital team. In Australia, a Rehab Counsellor is not in the hospital, they are not a hospital therapist. They are in the community. That’s a big difference. For the first time ever we’ve got two people covertly operating in a hospital in Sydney or three hospitals and we are just evaluating it. It’s been going very well. At the moment, all the jobs in Rehab Counselling are in the community.
Janette: I might just add in there that case management is actually one of the skills or inherent part of the Rehabilitation Counsellors day and our profession. So it’s very necessary to be a very efficient and effective Case Manager. That describes more around the coordination role that you have. I think the distinction that plays out with an understanding that it is a profession in and of itself in having a background that helps you to appreciate the evidence and translate that into practice. But also having a background where you understand the mechanism of injury, illness, disease and recovery and are able to incorporate that background knowledge and orientation into assisting somebody with a particular set of circumstances to navigate their way through recovery and Return to Work. So it is a very important part but case management is a discipline all on its own.
Paul: Just to the panel generally now, Rehabilitation Counselling has been viewed as quiet variable in terms of the clients, the issues they present with and the settings in which they operate. Can you please tell us a little bit about some of the core settings in which a Rehabilitation Counsellor might work?
Janette: There’s no limit. I don’t see a limit to the value of a Rehabilitation Counsellor. In my own background, as I’ve said, I have worked in Occupational Rehabilitation, I’ve had my own Occupational Rehabilitation business, I’ve worked in self-insurance, I’ve been the Rehabilitation Manager within an insurance company. I’ve worked for the ‘Regulator’ in terms of forming legislation, regulations and setting standards. From practice to academia to any setting that you can think of in terms of injury, illness, disease and disability there is a place for Rehabilitation Counsellors.
Paul: So it’s more than just Return to Work?
Janette: Absolutely. The difficult thing is you probably won’t hear us calling ourselves ‘Rehabilitation Counsellors’. That might be part of the core competency that we have. But, different settings have different terminology for describing the work, if you like.
Michael: The inherent skills and qualities that are required of a Rehabilitation Counsellor lend themselves to a variety of allied health kind of settings jurisdictions. Could be hospital public, public vs private, it could be Commonwealth vs State. I too have worked within TAC(Transport Accident Commission) as a Regulator for compulsory third party claims and I’ve worked in DES which is what Greg referred to earlier which is Disability Employment Services, JSA(Jobs Services Australia) model, so working with the Commonwealth, Centrelink clients. I also do mediation, I also do conflict resolution and I’ve done some training. I work in private practice, so I guess the skills and confidence that I have picked up as a Rehabilitation Counsellor have given me that confidence to be able to jump into different things and get qualifications in related areas to be able to work in those areas. And again, informs and feeds my knowledge and understanding. I take a very holistic approach to injury and a social individual and their recovery.
Paul: So it sounds incredibly varied in terms of I guess the setting and an opportunity for people to create their own pathways?
Janette: Absolutely. I think that has been a huge attraction for many of us over many years because you evolve in your practice and your interests and move into different sectors and there is always opportunities opening. So the people that I know, that have been in the field for a very long time, continue to build on qualification and knowledge and learning and therefore expands opportunity again. You find we are in institutional settings or community-based settings or industrial or occupational settings. We are everywhere really.
Michael: One of the key things I think you learn and experience and hewn as a Rehabilitation Counsellor is the ability to negotiate and problem solve. Whether it’s with a doctor, whether it’s with an insurance claims person, an OT or a Physio, allied professionals are involved with that particular client. It’s that ability to have oversight over all the modalities and treatment modalities that are involved and be able to coordinate those and negotiate successful outcomes. Whether it is Return to Health or Return to Work or it could be non-work related, a-vocational goals, training, volunteer work if it’s not possible for that person to return to paid employment. These are all very important things you learn as a Rehabilitation Counsellor which you then apply to different settings - Career Counselling - you do Vocational Assessments. With the budget that was released last night, where they are looking at transitioning Welfare to Work model for the DSP recipients (I think they are under 30’s) that’s going to present a really good opportunity for Rehab to put their stamp on things in terms of being able to assess and assist people in making that transition. It’s very exciting times.
Paul: So what I am hearing is there are so many settings in which a Rehabilitation Counsellor can work and I just thought it would be useful for the audience to hear a little bit about your most recent work setting and what role that you had and what partners you interacted with etc. So can we start off with you Michael?
Michael: The example that comes to mind most recently for me is I was called on a WorkCover case and what happened is that the previous Occupational Rehab provider had not followed through on a number of things and so I was called in to fix things. This was in the WorkCover jurisdiction. So immediately what I had to establish a rapport and restore trust and faith with the individual client because they had been let down, the Occupational Rehab Consultant (They were a ‘Consultant’ as appose to a ‘Counsellor’) they let them down, they promised things they couldn’t deliver. So my role was to come in, restore that trust and then basically work with their Psychologist and their Doctor to try and facilitate a Return to Work. The person was at work(but because of what had happened), the person was at 20-30 hours, almost back to full-time work when something went wrong with the relationship with the Occupational Rehab provider which set them right back. So when I came on, they had started at 30 and then were back to 15. So it was kind of like - having to rebuild that faith, that trust. Then slowly increment their time working with the allied health professionals and with the Psychologist and claims person(that was jumping up and down to get things moving because they have timelines they have to follow) to be settled or back to work within a year and a half in Victoria. So anyway, having taken on that case over a period of 2 – 3 months, a Return to Work was put in place, regular meetings and schedules - the client’s faith and trust were restored and that was basically by being in touch more regularly, doing what I said I was going to do, when it was going to be delivered. Setting expectations that are realistic and then delivering on the expectations is another key thing that I have learnt through my career of counselling work. So, not just saying something and then not following it through. So, by doing that and liaising with the claims people, negotiating things with the Claims Manager, we were able to expedite or facilitate a return to full employment within 3 months.
Paul: So very successful outcome?
Michael: Successful outcome and I only contacted the woman involved last week and she is really happy at work and was very grateful, so it was a win/win.
Janette: I have had a really exciting year. About 12 months ago a client came and asked me would I assist them with addressing psychological injury in the workplace. So over the last year, my organisation has partnered with this particular organisation – they are a large disability service provider in Victoria. So very highly complex and challenging working environments. Lots of occupational assault and other types of psychological stresses. So we have, for the last year, developed and implemented a work well. So I have worked from the bottom up. In terms of working directly with individuals experiencing issues and concerns related to their work that have impacts on their health and well-being. In a very, I call it – First Response. Dealing with issues at their source, whether it be workplace stress or injury or chronic health conditions that are impacting their ability to remain productive in the workplace. And from the top, down. So, utilising all of the information, the themes and the trends from what we are working with on the ground. So the real effects of what see are current policies and procedures and leadership skills and the culture of the organisation to impact the transformation of their management systems. So we’ve had about 60 of their people go through this program. We have also worked with teams. So teams experiencing dysfunction that impact the team's productivity and in some circumstances lead to injury. So the whole emphasis is about preventing injury but if there is injury – preventing disability. So not letting incapacity or impairment lead to disability. Keeping people at work while their issues and concerns or health concerns are dealt with. So it’s been a really exciting year because it’s working with people on the ground but also influencing the organisations from a systems perspective. We are just evaluating our program at the moment and over the last year we can see that over 550 less, lost time, work days which is a significant impact in an organisation with low margin who can’t afford anyone to be away from the workplace really. And, about 1.2 million dollars in claims costs – Workers Compensation claims costs. So this is what is going to excite the organisation because their insurance premiums are lowering, productivity is increasing and they are not spending as much money on replacing staff and dealing with the impact of lost time. Importantly, the way that the workforce is being supported in the workplace is being transformed. And, that’s where the real impact is in a professional sense that the workforce is actually being better supported, that injury is prevented from a psychological perspective and where somebody is injured because the work is complex and highly challenging that disability is being prevented. So, that’s been a really exciting year for me and we are moving into phase 2 of this program, so it’s fantastic.
Paul: So you are delivering tangible results?
Janette: Absolutely. You really have to demonstrate the value of what you are doing. Not just for the individual that you are working with, but for the organisation to keep them invested in the whole program. They can see the value for their workforce, but also the bottom line.
Paul: Carly, I’m sure that there are many people interested to hear what it’s like from a student’s perspective. What was it like on your last placement?
Carly: As part of the course you have to do 20 days of placement. I did my placement at CAC(Counselling Appraisal Consultants). They are an Occupational Rehab provider. That was really great. They have Vocational Consultants there, Occupational Therapists and then they have got the Rehabilitation Consultants/Psychologists. So I got to go out on work-site assessments with them, where they would go to the workplace and see how the workplace runs and exactly what tasks and roles that person has to do in their job. I also got to go to the physio appointments to where the Rehab Counsellor and the client and the Physio all sat together and talked about what they would be able to do when they returned to work and what barriers and what they maybe had to modify when they went back for the first couple for weeks and then after that. That was really great - those 20 days. Then they asked me to stay on in an administrative role for the duration of this year. I might even get a Rehab Counsellor role there - that would be nice. So that’s been really beneficial as well. I do a lot of the invoicing and administrative roles there so I get to see that side of it and then I’ve also got to experience a lot of it on placement as well.
Paul: So you get to see the full spectrum?
Carly: Definitely. Also the statistics that have to be done at the end of the month and reaching the KPI’s and everything like that.
Paul: So Carly, I was wondering if you could tell us about what you found the most rewarding or enjoyed most while on placement?
Carly: I actually really enjoyed going out to all the workplaces. I got to go to a couple of manufacturing companies and I got to go to a florist. So it was really different and I think that’s what’s important, which I think you have all mentioned, which is the opportunities you have and the variability – it’s just great to see other workplaces and you think that so and so in their job role, this is what they would do, but when you go out there and you see it, it’s actually quite different.
Paul: So, you’re not stuck or chained to a desk?
Carly: Exactly. There is a lot of flexibility and I enjoy getting to talk to the Physios and seeing their perspectives. One of the clients was saying to their Vocational Consultants “there’s no way I could possibly lift that” and then we went into the meeting with the Physio and the Physio was saying “yeah, yeah, you can do it, of course you can”. So then from that perspective the client was sort of like ‘well, maybe I can do it’ and because the Rehab Counsellor was there to hear that as well and they could no longer play on that ‘oh I can’t do that’, yeah so I found that really enjoyable – getting out there and to be able to meet a lot more people.
Janette: Can I just say too Carly, a very important point that you have just brought up, every clinical placement is potentially a job interview and you have been fortunate enough to be taken on in terms of administration but your very likely to be taken on as a Rehab Counsellor as well.
Paul: It’s a very good sign.
Michael: If you look at our core competencies, if you’re interested you should visit our website ASORC – www.asorc.org.au. I guess that’s part of the whole professional approach we are taking is that we have core competencies and there are 15 major key core competencies including case management, knowledge, anatomical knowledge, all those aspects of working with a client by a social elements etc, etc. Knowing the legal framework around which you are working. All those core competencies form part of how we asses people as to whether they become members or not. In a sense – get a leg into the profession. So it is important that we observe those core competencies and in fact, we use those to accredit those University courses like the one that you are doing. We make sure that the course content matches up with those key core competencies that we expect a qualified Rehab Counsellor to demonstrate. So, that’s important. We also have a core set of ethics, conduct and ethics that actually guide Rehabilitation Counsellors and the work that they are doing.
So it isn’t just a Mickey Mouse type of profession - it’s very rigid, it’s regimented, you need to be university qualified, we do accredited University courses in Rehabilitation Counselling and that’s why in a sense and speaks to about what Janette was just saying about case management being a very important aspect of the role but not the only aspect of the role. There are so many parts to it. In fact, that’s what’s so interesting and dynamic about the role and about the profession.
Paul: Ok, so we have heard about some of the settings that Rehabilitation Counsellors work in and some of the potential challenges you have to face when dealing with all these different stakeholders etc but what do you consider to be some of the best things about the profession of Rehabilitation Counselling?
Michael: Well, I think that we have touched on it in the discussion to date, is that there isn’t one best thing about it. I think it’s the combination of all the different facets of Rehabilitation Counselling - the direct counselling involvement with the client, the liaison role, the negotiation role, the visiting of different workplaces, the interaction with the Doctors and the allied health professionals, with the claims side of it. It’s such a diverse role with so many arms to it, that in fact, you can launch from this role - a Rehabilitation Counsellor role - to so many different areas related areas like Human Resources, Management, running your own business. I do a bit of EAP (Employee Assistant Program) work as well. I love the counselling side of it but I also like rolling up my sleeves and getting out there in the factories. I’ve been to chicken farms in the middle of nowhere, I’ve been to military installations with people on tanks, I’ve kind of done a lot of things that are exciting and interesting and you wouldn’t get that in any other industry where you get that kind of diverse range of experiences in a professional setting and it’s all so great fun. That’s the other part of it. I found it was always interesting and varied and a lot of fun. I enjoyed doing it. There is travel as well which is important. You’re not in the one place at the one time all the time. You’re not administratively burdened all the time. Yes, you have to do reports as Greg mentioned but that’s just part of your role – it’s not everything. Also, the phone calls, the meeting people, the going out to workplaces and seeing people sometimes at their home or within the Allied health practice. So I don’t think there is an easy answer to say that there is any one aspect of the job that really is most rewarding or exciting – I think every aspect is good. As I said earlier, I commend it to everyone. I notice that there are more women in the audience than there are men. I don’t know if that is what that industry is like. I’ve got a feeling that it’s a bit more evenly spread than it is in the audience today. But I certainly encourage men who are considering this profession to really step up and give it a go because I found it so rewarding and exciting. I have grown through the profession if you like, and gone in so many different directions as a result of it. It’s given me the confidence in a number of areas, which I probably wouldn’t have had, had I not experienced all the different aspects of the role. Learning all the medical jargon, being able to talk to Physios and Doctors at their level without feeling intimidated. So, it’s given me this level of confidence I suppose. And in my own medical management, in helping family members – it’s got a lot of pluses to it. So, I’d highly commend it, I really would.
Paul: So there is no stagnation – you are constantly learning, constantly developing, constantly experiencing?
Michael: Exactly, exactly.
Paul: Would anyone else like to say something?
Regina: You have a lot of autonomy. I think that’s the other thing. When you initially start, you would be mentored, particularly under the new framework - it’s important that everyone is mentored into the role - that you are writing your reports correctly, liaising properly etc. But you have a lot of autonomy, a lot of influence as well – to positively impact on someone’s life and I think that’s a great aspect of the job.
Janette: Absolutely. I love the transformational aspects of the work that we do. There is so much diversity as Michael said. The workplaces that I have been to, I couldn’t tell you them all – they are absolutely fascinating. If you are at all a curious person, then this is the profession for you because you get to go and do the most amazing things in the quest to solve problems and create pathways and work with people. And, it still touches me very deeply, the human interaction. We work with people who are at the lowest ebb of their life and they cannot see a future and we work with them through those periods and it’s incredibly rewarding and humbling to be part of that. Even just yesterday, a young fellow that I am working with told me that he finally engaged with a Psychologist and I felt tears come to the back of my eyes. It was just an emotional reaction to – that is a breakthrough. That still gets me after many many years.
Paul: He’s on the pathway to recovery?
Janette: Absolutely. That told me that he had engaged, for himself and I think that’s the best thing.
Paul: Greg, what do you think is the best thing about the profession?
Greg: You can create your own role and everyone is different. I really love going out to workplaces, talking to supervisors, talking to co-workers, they can solve all the problems – not the Doctor. The Return to Work plan had to work in the actual workplace and that’s what I like. Going to the workplaces and talking to the supervisor and the co-workers and the person who is coming back and they would work out “Greg we can do this, we can do that”. Australian workplaces are pretty fair - they are not as fair as they used to be but they are still very fair. If you are a regular worker they will help you get back to work. They will change the job to suit you. So that’s very good.
Paul: Thanks Greg. Carly, I won’t ask you to reflect too much on the profession as you are just a student, but what attracted you to Rehabilitation Counselling?
Carly: I think that it was that it complemented the Psychology that I had already learnt and definitely the human interaction with other people. One of the subject that we had to learn – Motivational interviewing and Paul and Greg ran it – that was fantastic, apart from the fact that we had to do simulated role modelling, I hated that. But, it was really beneficial and really fantastic because instead of just reading and reading and reading all of the material we had to work together and pretend that someone was the client and motivate them to come to the goals that they wanted to achieve as we’ve all mentioned earlier – the goals that they wish to achieve and what’s going to best for them in the long run and working with them to get that goal at the end or suggesting things along the way. But I think also from a course perspective, the course is organised really well. All the Lecturers are really really interesting and have a lot of background behind them and most of the subjects are taught in block mode so it allows you to still be able to have a casual or part-time job which I think is really important as we have been talking about work as well. So it’s really important to have that and study and not feel like you’re totally run down. Also, obviously having the placement as a requirement has definitely been beneficial. Also, one more thing – in the second year you can choose thesis or a different kind of study but that allows you to choose something that really interests you so you can take the path you’re interested in. So I’m interested in transition and once you’re interested as Professional Dancer – once you're injured you can no longer be a dancer anymore if your legs are no longer working for you. So what happens? For Dancers especially, that’s their identity. Not even for Dancers, but for everybody in the workplace - that becomes your identity when you go there every day and that becomes who you are. So when you can no longer be there anymore, I think it’s really important to work with people and see what other skills they do have - what’s transferable to a different kind of workplace and working with them to find that.
Paul: How would you rate the current and future career prospects of a Rehabilitation Counsellor? What do we think as a panel?
Michael: I’m really excited about the future of Rehabilitation Counselling and I suppose being involved in the peak professional body part of what we’re doing is engaging with the Federal Government and the State Government to have a seat on the table. So when they are considering legislative changes to WorkCover or transport accidents or Compulsory Third party or their policy on rehabilitation generally we’d like to be there. So we’re more and more pushing for that. But with the NDIS that’s coming on stream, I think this whole thing I mentioned earlier about this budgetary change where they are going to be looking at people transitioning from DSP which has been an ongoing thing, but that’s obviously been targeted for the moment – that’s an exciting area for rehabilitation. But as I said earlier because Rehabilitation Counselling lends itself to so many different areas, you don’t necessarily need to be employed in the Rehabilitation sector per se either and that’s what’s good about it. My background is in Psychology, in fact, I did my Behavioural Science degree here at La Trobe University many many years ago. So, I’ve developed a specialisation in Psychological Injury. So stress claims, Psychological injury, people who have got mental health conditions – assisting them make the transition back to work and to normal life and that’s very rewarding. So, the skies the limit really and there are opportunities evolving all the time. It’s a matter of having your ears to the ground all the time and making sure you are in the profession and by being involved in the profession, like ASORC for example, you get some exposure to PD’s, network, you become a student member, you progress through the membership ranks through to associate, then to full and those have advantages for you in terms of professionally, those categories. The idea is, I suppose is to improve your professional standing, have your network with people, continuous development. We’ve introduced the CSPD system which we are launching in July. We are really becoming a lot more rigorous and I guess in preparing us for the next move which is really trying to improve our profile nationally and as I said earlier, to have a seat on the board or a seat at the table where important decision making happens. So I am really looking forward and am optimistic about the future of Rehabilitation Counselling.
Paul: So you’re saying career prospects are excellent and the National Disability Insurance Scheme is likely to have a positive influence as well.
Michael: For sure.
Paul: In what ways do you see that having an influence?
Michael: Well, I think because clients are going to have more say over their treatment and over their rehab and what goals they set themselves, we can become involved, Rehabilitation Counselling can become involved in that and offer services – whether it be on a contractual basis, I don’t exactly know how the model is going to operate at this point, but there are going to be opportunities for people to be able to tender or to offer their Occupational Rehab or Rehab services to the NDIS and to clients individually. In a way, to be able to then work with these clients to assist them and to rehabilitate them.
Paul: What advise would you have for someone who is interested in a career as a Rehabilitation Counsellor?
Janette: I would say, to remain open-minded and curious and see where opportunity takes you. I started on a particular pathway myself and I don’t think that determines your future. So if you pick a place to start in terms of your career, it’s perhaps the stepping stone to where you might be next. I think that really, it’s entirely in your hands to what your interests, motivations and passions are. If we work with our passions then we are likely to remain engaged for longer.
Paul: To find yourself a career, you’re better off doing the postgraduate course…
Greg: If you want a career you’ve got a whole career, an identity – a Rehab Counsellor. And professional associations to help you, businesses everywhere throughout Australia, it’s all set up.
Audience: I was wondering if there are any volunteer positions that you can access whilst still at Uni that would increase our employability.
Janette: That might depend on the type of field or area or practice that you might be interested in. For example, there are lots of opportunities to volunteer in health in various ways. Either in health organisations or the larger metropolitan health services. Consumer participation and consumer engagement is a fundamental aspect of health service these days and the same would be in justice – there are lots of opportunities to volunteer through community visitors programs. There is a wealth of volunteering opportunity out there really, the skies the limit. Organisations are crying out for assistance for lots of different tasks in which they do not have to pay a salary.
Greg: Probably the best place to go would be to Wheelchair sports people, playing rugby in a wheelchair - they are always looking for people to help out. Like the Para-Olympics, that sort of thing. Everyone’s into sport, we are Australian, we love our sport. There are lots of sports for people with disability – Riding for the Disabled, Horses, that sort of thing.
Regina: Just on that, on Moodle today I noticed that it’s Volunteers week and they had a whole list of volunteer organisations so worthwhile having a look at that list and there is quite a few of them here in the northern suburbs as well.
Janette: Lots of Disability support organisations are always looking for volunteers to support one on one with community access or perusing recreation activities. They are really great experiences and stepping stones that you will utilise in your career.
Michael: I think one of the important aspects too and not to be overlooked is you don’t necessarily have to find a volunteer position in a counselling or allied health setting per se. I think any volunteering you do is going to be good because you are out in the community, meeting people – and more often than not, meeting people who are disadvantaged in some way. So it doesn’t matter what you do, in a way, it’s all going to help you. It’s about professional development but it’s also about personal development. So the skills you learn from doing that make you more rounded and make you more resilient, you see situations that you wouldn’t normally see. So I would say, you don’t need to be so prescriptive. Yes, if you can find volunteering role in an allied health setting – great but if you can’t, it’s not the be all and end all.
Janette: Yeah, I totally agree. In the ability to be exposed to as many people as you can and to really be honing your communication skills and building rapport because that’s probably one of the biggest things we do is building rapport with our clients.
Paul: I’d like to thank our five panellists for providing valuable insight into Rehabilitation Counselling. Thank you Michael, Janette, Regina, Greg and Carly. In summary, I think it’s clear that Rehabilitation Counselling is a very rewarding and hands-on profession with many opportunities to work in a range of setting with different client groups. There is a great opportunity for people to create their own employment pathway based on these interests and it’s a profession that has a lot of diversity in your role. Rehabilitation is a growing profession with excellent employment prospects. Thank you.