How rehabilitation counselling drives intervention for returning veterans

By Kara Blackburn


As a specialised rehabilitation counsellor at Konekt Workcare, I assist veterans in uncovering and managing their medical, psychosocial and vocational goals after a career in the military. 

Each veteran's situation is unique. They all have extensive skills and qualities. It is important to give them a sense of self-worth on their own, not just as a member of the military where group tasks and constant routine are ingrained.  

Care and support needs must be customised for each veteran, especially in light of the various complexities of their experiences.

My work

My work is focused on those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and physical ailments that have taken them out of the forces and make it hard to regain a sense of purpose. 

I provide an unbiased human connection to listen and support veterans to clear a path and help them to engage in treatment, new hobbies and activities and find meaningful studies and employment. I also assist with sourcing appropriate accommodation, engaging with charities or services there to support their needs, and battling the barriers that COVID-19 can cause such as limits on social activities and utilising telehealth services instead of in person services.

My work is both one-on-one with the veteran and also with their family, friends, employers and treating parties. I ensure they are being well supported and able to address concerns as they arise, many of which are related to reintegrating into the civilian world and routine as well as finding satisfaction and joy in daily life.

The biggest challenges to veteran’s health and wellbeing

There are three main challenges I see impacting veteran health and wellbeing. These are:

  • A lack of treating parties and services with knowledge of military life and the psychosocial complexities and specific stressors experienced by veterans.
  • The long time spent waiting for their claims to be processed – there can be extensive delays of many months, even years, before they are able to access the appropriate compensation, treatment and support. Many veterans report they feel like they’re just a number getting passed through a system, which can add to feelings of worthlessness and frustration, and worsening mental health.
  • The uncertainty of the future and finding a meaningful career that can accommodate their medical restrictions and needs.

Overcoming challenges with a clear rehabilitation framework

The rehabilitation process for veterans works to understand their position and concerns, determine goals and help them understand their entitlements and requirements. There must be regular communication with the veteran to walk them through their recovery.

One-on-one counselling sessions are integral. These build a rapport between the counsellor and the veteran, allow for a whole of person approach to consider unique circumstances, establish the current mindset, allow for motivational counselling and enable the setting of appropriate goals.

Regular case conferencing with the veteran’s doctors and treating parties is also required, to create shared goals and ensure all parties are working within the veterans best interests, in a medically safe manner.

Other parts of the process include arranging new activities and hobbies and assisting engagement with social or healthy routines (such as exercise, joining a local sporting team, family outings, or learning a musical instrument). Additionally, there are vocational assessments and help with job seeking (for example, resume preparation and interview training), in order to find a suitable new and meaningful career. 

Finally, it is sometimes necessary to support the veteran with practical aspects such as moving house, reducing their cost of living, engaging with new treatment parties, and engaging with family and friends to encourage support networks.

Rehabilitation counselling really is crucial for veterans

It is quite a shock to suddenly be on your own and forced to adapt to civilian routines with unclear goals or pathways forward. This new lifestyle can also often not be as exciting or high-pressure as military life, leading to boredom and uncertainty. 

It’s a hard battle for veterans, growing and accepting themselves as an individual of worth outside of the environment and responsibilities they are used to. It is therefore critical to be able to tackle the many challenges that come with adjusting to civilian life, and rehabilitation counselling provides essential support and guidance for this process.

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