return to work consultant

9 June 2020 posted by Recovery Partners

As a Recovery Partners Rehabilitation Consultant and psychologist in our Newcastle team, Jessica Abel is quietly changing lives. She has been helping them upskill to find new employment or return to work in their pre-injury jobs. We’re really proud of the work she’s been doing and the results she’s helped facilitate for customers in her region. Here are just a few of their stories:

Laura upskilled and gained confidence

*Laura had been employed in childcare when workplace stress and extreme anxiety led her to make a claim for worker’s compensation. When Jess met Laura, her GP and psychologist had agreed that Laura had no capacity for work, and she had not worked for a period of about six months. Then, a nasty dose of the flu put her out of commission for even longer. ‘At this point, Laura had become deconditioned to work,’ Jess explains. ‘She’d lost a lot of confidence.’ Jess arranged for Laura to undertake a computer skills course, and it proved to be just the boost Laura needed. ‘I was able to provide Laura with some job-seeking support, which she seemed to really appreciate,’ says Jess. ‘She’s now found part-time employment as a driver and we’re also exploring other options now that her capacity has increased.’

Janice stayed with the same employer but moved locations

*Janice was a retail worker who had also experienced workplace stress and bullying that led to a psychological injury. When she was first referred to Jess, Janice had no capacity for work. ‘Janice had been bullied by a supervisor and was very upset and angry about the treatment she’d received,’ says Jess. ‘She wanted to continue working for the same employer, but she was also seeking retribution. She didn’t think she should have to move workplaces, but that was the only option her employers could come up with.’ As a psychologist, Jess offered Janice the empathy and understanding she needed to accept the proposed change, but her GP disagreed and wouldn’t sign off on her return. ‘I think he’d been her doctor for her whole life and was quite protective,’ Jess says. At around this time, COVID-19 shut retail outlets across Australia and Janice’s return to work was further delayed. Jess stayed in contact throughout the lockdown period and managed to get everyone on the same page to support Janice’s return to work at an alternative location. Janice is now back to her pre-injury duties.

A physical injury turned psychological for Michael

*Michael worked in sales for a building supplies store when he sustained an ankle injury that required surgery. When he was due to return to work, his employer let him go and Michael found himself jobless. ‘Michael was quite upset with his employers,’ says Jess. ‘He felt that he’d been treated unfairly. He’d also developed a dependency on the painkillers he was given for his ankle, and that was impacting his lifestyle quite a bit.’ Jess conducted a vocational assessment to explore employment options with Michael and he identified that he’d like to change careers. ‘Michael had been enjoying cooking as a hobby and thought he’d like to move his career in that direction,’ Jess says, ‘but he was in denial about his opiate dependency and not addressing that.’ Jess learned that Michael was quite isolated socially and hadn’t really talked to anyone about what was happening, so she made sure he knew he could talk to her. ‘My approach is to always be supportive and non-judgemental,’ says Jess. ‘In time, that allowed Michael to begin to trust me and he eventually asked for my help to make a medication reduction plan with his GP. He told me my support was the thing that had helped him get to that place. That’s the most rewarding part of my job.’ Michael is now undertaking a work trial in the hospitality industry and has begun to reduce his medication.  

Jess approaches every situation with empathy and understanding

‘People who have experienced psychological injuries due to workplace bullying or stress often feel very frustrated about their circumstances,’ says Jess. ‘They can also become quite fixated on what’s gone wrong. I always start by acknowledging that frustration and making sure they feel heard and understood. Then, I try to help them channel their energy into something they can actually change. I help them refocus on something more productive, like canvassing for new jobs or upskilling themselves.’   Well, it’s clearly a successful approach!


If you’d like the assistance of Jess or another Recovery Partners consultant to help your employees or clients to overcome their psychological challenges, get in touch.

Our services are available nationwide. For more information about our services contact us.

Our consultants love to have a chat, so go ahead and give us a call on 1300 OHS RTW (647 789) or email

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at