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Disability may be described as a disadvantage that prevents normal achievement, or an inability to pursue an occupation because of a physical or mental impairment.

Psychological symptoms associated with disability

Suffering from an injury leading to physical or psychological disability is similar to going through a mourning process and is similar to mourning the loss, for example, of a loved one. The mourning process involved in the adjustment to disability can be divided into a series of four stages or major tasks (outlined opposite). These are shock, denial, anger / depression and adjustment / acceptance.

These stages are normal and expectable, however they are not neat and orderly. People progress through the stages at different paces and may skip stages altogether. Adjustment difficulties exist when an individual has difficulty with resolving one of the stages, or getting “stuck” thereby halting further movement toward the final stages of acceptance.

How can Psychological Health Interventions Help?

Psychological intervention will assist individual’s progress through the stages of disability, and help in resolving any difficulties experienced along the way. As a result, clients will experience an increase in confidence and self-esteem.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be used to assist with the correction of distorted assumptions about what it means to deviate from norms about appearance and bodily function. Cognitive approaches provide a modality for focusing on core issues in the adjustment process, to help reduce the tendency to magnify risks associated with new activities, and to change dysfunctional belief systems that impede adjustment.

Timeframes and anticipated outcomes

The counselling timeframes will vary depending on the severity of the disability and the coping ability of the individual.

The emotional aspects of disability are often a major factor in determining the outcome and benefits of all rehabilitative efforts. Accordingly, effective psychological intervention is beneficial in ensuring optimal recovery from an injury causing disability.

To initiate a referral please call 1800 424 635, email assist@psychi.com.au or send a doctors referral form or rehabilatation providers referral form to fax: 1300 782 393 with a mark in the box: “Adjustment to Disability”.


The Four Stages of Adjustment

1.Shock – A state of numbness, both physical and emotional. This period may last for a few hours to several days.

2.Denial – Can last anywhere between 3 weeks to 2 months. Denial is a defence mechanism that allows the implication of an injury to be gradually introduced. Denial is only maladaptive when it interferes with treatment or rehabilitation efforts.

3.Anger / Depression – A reaction to loss, and to change in social status and treatment. This may include withdrawal, internalised hostility, self-blame, worthlessness, suicidal ideations or grief. Individuals may grieve for their change in body image, function, former satisfaction that may be derived, or for the loss of future expectations based on the function that is lost.

4.Adjustment / Acceptance – This stage does not necessarily imply happiness about ones disability, however allows the relinquishment of false hopes and successful adaptation of new roles based on realistic limitations and new potentials. May benefit from seeing other people in similar situations. The individual feels comfortable with the changed self.
 
     
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