In the past, evaluating psychological injuries which occurred in the workplace has proven to be a complicated task.
Issues surrounding harassment and discrimination were topics for discussion at the Australian Psychological Society Conference in April 2013. Jane Goodman-Delahunty, PhD, is a research professor at Charles Sturt University’s School of Psychology in Freemantle and spoke at the conference.
Challenges for Psychologists
Professor Goodman-Delahunty explained how psychologists often encounter challenges when they are employed to determine the nature and truth of worker’s compensation claims relating to psychological injury. However, she discussed a recently developed five-stage model which aims to provide psychologists with a more accurate and efficient assessment.
This new assessment method gives psychologists better equipment for dealing with a variety of issues which result in serious psychological injury for workers. Perpetrators are likely to be held criminally liable for aggravated assaults. Psychologists are now able to compile accurate reports by utilizing this model.
The new model has yet to become a method of choice as there is not much awareness of the technique. Professor Goodman-Delahunty is optimistic that change is on the way. She said “By documenting the status of the claimant at different points in time – before, during and after the injury – and by focusing on changes in functioning, impairments or problems resulting from the alleged harassment or discrimination are distinguished from other events in the claimant’s life.” This methodology aims to reduce any doubt as to where the individual’s psychological injury first occurred.
Reports compiled using the five-stage model may become useful tools during tribunals and court proceedings. Those bringing compensation claims due to workplace harassment and discrimination will stand to benefit from this added support.
Managing Bullying, Harassment, Discrimination and Abuse in the Workplace
Dr. Martha Knox-Haly identifies three primary tasks of the therapist when providing counseling and support for victims of chronic bullying. These are:
- Working to help stabilize the sufferer’s condition.
- Acting to help the victim mange the situation linked to the bullying behaviour
- Aiding the individual while they work through and make sense of the bullying situation.
Many people live through years of bullying behavior without acknowledging the situation or seeking help. When people use talk therapy to start working through what has happened, they tend to become aware of the emotional suffering they have experienced and endured. In cases of chronic bullying, the benefits of talking to a professional counselor cannot be underestimated.
Victims of bullying abuse often suffer with unanswered questions such as “why me?” or “what did I do to deserve this?” A counselor will be able to reinforce that the bully’s actions are by no means justified under any circumstances. Those who suffer physical and psychological abuse sometimes experience depression, and it may take several years to fully overcome the damage.
Sometimes a therapist will be working with an individual who is still being bullied or harassed at work. When this situation occurs, the therapist will help to develop the client’s self-confidence to seek help and behavioral change within the context of the organization itself. If a sufferer wants to confront the tormentor, the counselor can advise the best way to go about this.
Dealt with by the Law
The new methods for evaluating psychological injuries which happen in the workplace will be invaluable when a case goes to court. It is now far easier to pinpoint exactly what has caused the psychological damage and when the damage occurred. Bullies perpetrating psychological and physical abuse will now learn to fear the psychologist’s report. Victims of chronic bullying suffered at work need to speak out to counselors so that their harassers can be dealt with appropriately and so that the bullying can be stopped.
Fishman, J. (2013). Evaluating Workplace Psychological Injury. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2014, from http://pro.psychcentral.com/evaluating-workplace-psychological-injury/005556.html
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Oct 2013