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KINNECT adds Facilitated Discussion to Workplace Rehabilitation Services to smooth the journey back to work

Announcements 29 Apr 2024

KINNECT has begun offering Facilitated Discussion as part of our workplace rehabilitation services in Victoria, helping workers and employers find solutions to the barriers preventing a full return to work.

The path to rehabilitation is not always smooth, and it is not uncommon for conflict and confusion between workers and employers to bring this journey to a standstill. Common barriers to returning to work after an injury are interpersonal conflict and relationship breakdown between the employer and worker, a lack of understanding about what supports the worker needs, and conflicting opinions about what happened leading up to, during, and after the incident. Not only do these barriers make a worker less inclined to want to return to work, but the mental health toll it takes can slow down recovery.

Fortunately, Facilitated Discussion – a mediation-style process – can help people work through sticking points, repair relationships and, in the best cases, get the injured worker back to work sooner. KINNECT is now one of only a handful of Australian occupational rehabilitation providers to offer this service.

What is the Facilitated Discussion process?

Melbourne-based Lead Consultant and Rehabilitation Counsellor Sima Gharibi who delivers the service for KINNECT’s clients, describes the process:

Facilitated Discussion involves myself as the mediator to guide two or more parties – including the worker and the employer – through a very structured conversation to achieve a specific objective and help the parties see each other’s perspectives. It promotes collaborative decision-making to resolve conflict.

The process is carried out in two parts:

  1. The facilitator meets with each party separately and asks “reality check” questions to help them clarify their objectives, and understand what will happen if they do, or do not, meet them.
  2. The facilitator runs a structured session that creates a safe environment where the worker and employer can discuss their concern, how the incident has impacted the worker/employer’s life and, ideally, come to an agreement.

Sima is emphatic about the importance of structure and ground rules set by the facilitator to ensure constructive, respectful conversation, such as having a clear objective of what the discussion aims to achieve, maintaining eye contact, practicing active listening and following the structure of the meeting without skipping sections or circling around. These are vital to ensure everyone is heard and understood.

“The main challenge that Facilitated Discussion tries to solve is that the parties do not feel like they have a safe space to share concerns and get clarity or closure about the problem.

“I have no interest in the outcome of the meeting – I’m impartial. I’m there to create a safe environment and a structure that gives equal opportunity to each person to speak without interruption. This makes it easier for them to say what they need to say as no power is given to a person’s job title.

“The facilitator’s job is also to summarise what was said. If we have conflict with someone, we might not really hear them or we make assumptions about the meaning. A big part of my training was learning to repeat back what was said, not what was perceived to be said,” Sima explained.

While an agreement or solution to help someone return to work is usually the desired outcome, Sima expresses that this does not always occur.

“Sometimes people just need to be heard in the right way to get closure and avoid the anxiety and depression that can come from unanswered questions. It is up to them [the worker and employer] to choose a pathway with a clear mindset to understand how to move forward.

“The process acts as a bridge to connect diverse perspectives, allowing a collaborative flow of ideas towards a solution – whether that is returning to work or leaving that employer to find a more suitable role as their long-term goal,” she says.

Sima reports that Facilitated Discussions have been successful so far and that parties commonly offer apologies to each other: “Parties regularly come to understand how seemingly innocuous things, even one simple sentence, can cause a psychological injury at work.”

Who delivers Facilitated Discussions at KINNECT?Rehabilitation Counsellor & Facilitated Discussion Coordinator Sima Gharibi

KINNECT offers Facilitated Discussion in Victoria, which must be conducted by an accredited facilitator who has undertaken appropriate mediation training and assessment, such as that offered by the Resolution Institution.

Sima, who has background as a rehabilitation counsellor, has six years of workplace rehabilitation experience and works at KINNECT with primary psychological claims. She describes her role working with clients who have a variety of challenges from PTSD to critical health conditions as needing “…a lot of problem solving. It is very solution-focused work.”

In assisting with return-to-work cases, Sima sees her role as helping the workers by hearing them: “Workers may have been hurt at work physically, but there is a lack of understanding in terms of their psychological state. I listen to their perspective of incident to make sure that I can tailor my services to give them all the support that they need to recover,” she says.

Sima’s own holistic perspective on psychological services reflects KINNECT’s approach to treating rehabilitation: “The psychological component to rehabilitation is very important – the way you feel about something, whether you trust the people around you. If my workers trust me, they’ll take my suggestions or advice to get better. Without that, there’s a big gap between the rehabilitation phase and getting better and going back to work.”

Learn more about Facilitated Discussion

If you’re in Victoria and are interested in referring a worker for a Facilitated Discussion, please complete this form.



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