Common psychological treatments

Different types of mental health conditions require different treatments. Psychological treatments provide either an alternative to medication, or work alongside medication.

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Key takeaways

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy is the most used psychological treatment in workers compensation.
  • There are short-term and ongoing forms of treatment.
  • Injured workers can claim expenses relating to medical treatments and services including sessions with allied health professionals such as a psychologist and medical specialists such as a psychiatrist.
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Common treatments

The most-utilised treatment in the workers compensation scheme are:

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)

CBT is the most widely-used psychological treatment. It's a type of talk therapy offered by psychologists and many other mental health professionals.

CBT key features include:

  • identifying troubling situations or conditions in your life
  • becoming aware of your thoughts, emotions and beliefs about these problems
  • identifying negative or inaccurate thinking or habits
  • reshaping negative or inaccurate thinking or habits
  • developing strategies designed to increase activity involvements and social engagement.

CBT is considered a short-term therapy, with the number of sessions ranging from five to 20.

The length of treatment will depend on how severe your worker's symptoms are, how long they've had these symptoms, how quickly they progress and the support they receive from family, friends and you.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

ACT focuses on assisting individuals to fundamentally accept uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that can't be changed, and stop investing effort and energy into suppressing these, or ruminating and worrying about them.

A key technique here is combining the practice of mindfulness (more on this below) with self-acceptance to develop psychological flexibility.

Mindfulness training

The practice of mindfulness involves spending periods of time deliberately trying to focus on the here and now, the present moment, and non-judgmentally observing passing thoughts, feelings and sensations without engaging with them.

When practiced regularly, there is evidence that this technique can improve the management of anxiety, depression and pain.

Eye movement desensitisation reprogramming (EMDR)

EMDR is a type of exposure-based intervention where the psychologist will ask the employee to bring their mind to emotionally disturbing material, and hold a focus on this, whilst also engaging in a prescribed eye movements.

Whilst this may seem a bit odd, there is significant evidence that it is effective in reducing the impact on current functioning of a past highly stressful or traumatic experience.


Medication can be useful in the treatment and management of mental illness.  Medication is prescribed, monitored and managed by the nominated treating doctor or psychiatrist.

The dosage, type of medication and prescription period may need to be varied to manage any side effects. The dosage and type of medication may also change over time as symptoms change or improve.

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Less common treatments

The below treatment modalities are not used as frequently across the scheme, but are available to injured workers who may need more intensive forms of treatment.

In-patient programs

These programs are normally conducted within hospital or medical facilities (private or public system), and involve a multi-disciplinary approach (medication, group sessions, counselling, goal setting, CBT, leisure).

They are typically utilised for multiple patients of similar diagnosis (for example post-traumatic stress disorder) and background (such as emergency services and armed forces).

Patients are overseen by psychiatrists, psychologists and registered nurses.

The length of stay can vary, dependent on the nature of the referral. In patient programmes may be used for patients at high risk of self-harm, to monitor change and stabilisation of new medication(s) or for detoxification and rehabilitation (for example drugs and/or alcohol dependency).

Out-patient programs

Injured workers may take part in an extended outpatient program following discharge from an in-patient program, or access out-patient services instead of in-patient treatment.

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Other types of treatments

Unfortunately, some injured workers in the scheme may develop what is often termed 'treatment-resistant depression'. In these instances, there may be a stronger biological contribution, a strong psychosocial overlay or extensive childhood trauma.

Electro convulsive therapy (ECT) is still used for individuals who are typically suicidal and do not respond to trials of multiple medications.

A new treatment that is currently being trialled in a number of hospitals is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). It is supported by the Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists for individuals who fail to respond to two or more antidepressants. The evidence-base is still being developed for TMS. Typically, the treatment is carried out in out-patient and in-patient settings. 

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