How do I do a “functional assessment” on a psychological injury claim?

“Ms Brown* can lift up to 5 kg with her right arm, squat occasionally, and not sit for more than 25% of the work day…”

That information is all well and good when you are supporting the return to work and health of a person with a physical injury. Traditional Functional Assessments tell us the physical capacity of a person to allow upgrading processes, and a return to pre-injury capacity. Weights can be lifted, squats counted, and bending measured to obtain objective information about a worker’s functional capacity. But how do we assess the psychological capacity of worker with a mental health injury or illness?

“What do I do if restrictions need to be determined around a claimant’s cognitive capacity? How can I measure what Ms Brown is capable of undertaking from a psychological perspective?”

Resilia has created a unique “Psychological Functional Assessment” to help guide injury management and return to work recommendations. A detailed clinical assessment is undertaken by one of our Registered Psychologists, and the cognitive elements of tasks and activities of daily living are identified, measured, and translated into functional work goals. Information from treating practitioners, via interviews, is obtained, as well as results from objective testing to confirm the conclusions and recommendations being made.

A worker’s current capacity is determined by eliciting evidence about their pre-injury functioning, current activities and functioning, treatment considerations and prognosis, and comparing that evidence with information about their pre-injury role requirements.

This information and recommendations contained in our report can be provided to treating health practitioners to guide their interventions, much like physical work demands can be provided to physiotherapists to guide their physical therapies.

“That is helpful, but how am I going to know if Ms Brown can return to work in a new role as a Sales Manager?”

If there are pre-identified vocational options following the completion of a Vocational Assessment, our assessing Senior Psychologist is able to utilise the evidence gained from the assessment to determine if a rehabilitation goal is psychologically suitable for a claimant to pursue.  The assessor will therefore determine Ms Brown capacity to complete the duties of a Sales Manager after assessing current activities and functioning, administering psychometric inventories, interviewing treating practitioners and then conceptualising the results and findings.

Case Study  – Mr Jones*

Mr Jones was referred to Resilia for a Psychological Functional Assessment, as his psychological capacity was unclear, he was certified as being unfit of work and the treatment team had varying opinions about a suitable rehab/recovery goal. While Mr Jones’ remained employed as a First Responder, given his ongoing PTSD symptoms, he was yet to commence a return to work program and it was unclear whether he could return to his pre-injury duties or pursue employment options identified in a vocational assessment.

A Psychological Functional Assessment was undertaken, and after interviewing his treatment team (including NTD, Psychologist and Psychiatrist), it was determined that the personal vulnerabilities which led to his susceptibility in developing PTSD remained, and therefore redeployment was recommended. Three vocational options were identified in a Vocational Assessment and provided to the Psychological Functional assessor for consideration, Mr Jones was considered to have immediate work capacity for two of the options identified base on his current activities and functioning,

A medical case conference was undertaken with all parties, during which the justification and recommendations from the Psychological Functional Assessment were debriefed, and all parties agreed to support the new employer vocational goal. An upgrade in the Certificate of Capacity was provided in line with the capacities determined by Resilia’s report and vocational counselling services commenced to support Mr Jones’ return to work.

If you would like to learn more about Resilia’s Psychological Functional Assessment, or to consider a specific case which may benefit, please contact us on (02) 8243-1550 or via email for a confidential discussion.

*All names have been amended to protect anonymity.