Psychological injuries

A psychological injury doesn’t necessarily mean that a patient is unable to work.

As the nominated treating doctor, there are several things you should consider when assessing capacity for work for a worker with a psychological injury. 

You should be aware that certifying patients with a mental health condition as unfit to work may worsen the patient’s psychological state.

All workers who are fit to work should aim to recover at work.

Factors to consider when assessing work capacity

Structure and routine

  • Will they be able to attend work regularly, reliably and sustainably?
  • What is their sleep/wake cycle?
  • What are their daily activities i.e. cooking, cleaning, managing children?

Energy and endurance

  • Do they require rest or naps to get through the day?
  • What hobbies and exercise do they do?

Cognitive capacity

  • Do they read newspapers or books?
  • Do they watch television?
  • Do they do emails and interact on social media?
  • What’s their memory like?

Interpersonal functioning

  • What is their engagement with family and friends?
  • Do they engage in social and recreational activities?


  • What’s their frustration tolerance?
  • Do they engage in avoidance behaviours?
  • Do they have a substance abuse issue?

Evidence of work capacity

  • Are they involved in other work-like activities, such as study or volunteering?

Side effects of medications

  • What is the effect of their medication on their daily routine?

Risk of not returning to work

Work brings meaning and purpose to our lives. Without it, too much time and boredom can lead to unhealthy habits and social isolation. If this occurs, a patient’s symptoms can get worse and reduce their capacity further.

Patients with a psychological injury should return to suitable work duties during their recovery to give them the best chance for rehabilitation.

Find out more about the Health Benefits of Good Work

Workplace issues impacting your patient's psychological health

If you believe there are workplace issues impacting your patient’s psychological health it is important you raise this with the case manager, who can consider other ways to support your patient. 

You can also request a workplace rehabilitation provider be involved by requesting this on the certificate of capacity.

Find out how to contact the case manager