The assessment of a worker’s psych injury workcover claim involves much more than a diagnosis it involves verifying whether the injured worker is not exaggerating or faking it! In this article, a research psychologist explains how an injured worker’s credibility and functionality are measured.
Is that alleged psych injured worker faking it?
Jane Goodman-Delahunty, a professor at Charles Sturt University School of Psychology, says that employers (and others such as workcover insurers) are often very skeptical about psychological injury claims, often suspecting that the worker is exaggerating or malingering, rather than experiencing a genuine stress or psychological injury.
According to Goodman-Delahunty psychological assessors generally seek to ascertain whether any exaggeration is beyond what is expected or normal.
A psychological (or psychiatric) assessor will determine an injured worker’s credibility in several ways, often including interviews with the injured worker’s friends, family and colleagues, looking for inconsistencies and corroboration of accounts.
Psychometric tests can also be used to assess an injured worker’s credibility as they have built-in scales to assess the accuracy of the injured worker’s responses.
Apparently if an (alleged) injured worker produces scores that are outside of those norms, the psych assessor can deduce that this person is potentially exaggerating their symptoms.
Interesting there is something called “faking good” and “faking bad”, meaning that at times injured workers want to appear better than they really are, and conversely, some are motivated to well… exaggerate.
According to this researcher: “It’s actually very normal in an assessment in a workcover claim situation to engage in some exaggerating.” (huh?)
Goodman-Delahunty developed a 5-stage model for psychological injury assessments and states it is important when assessing these claims to understand how the alleged injury has affected the injured worker’s functioning.
This (effect) can be measured using multiple sources of information, including medical and mental health records, workplace records, and third-party interviews (with colleagues, friends and family) to identify any changes in the injured worker over the relevant time period.
There are, however, problems in “looking backwards”, Goodman-Delahunty says.
“One of the difficulties is accuracy of people’s memories and accessing how [a person] was feeling at periods several months or years back,” she states
“Sometimes, if someone has had a very traumatic experience there can also be memory disruptions.”
There are also “he-said, she-said challenges”.
According to the researcher, psych injury claims create difficulties for assessors because causal factors such as workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination are rarely clear-cut.
“They’re difficult not only for psychologists but for lawyers and courts because in those cases, the injuries are… invisible and intangible… and the background is often one in which there are typical he-said-she-said disputes over what transpired”
They also tend to involve more than one incident, with a variety of participants, witnesses and behaviours.
“That makes it problematic or difficult in terms of assessing the liability and then, naturally, the causation, because in conjunction with a cause of injury that might take place over multiple incidents… the injured worker has other things going on in their life at the same time, which are all potential sources of stress or trauma.”
However, Goodman-Delahunty urges employers to be aware that the consequences of bullying, harassment and discrimination can extend beyond psychological injury symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fear and hostility, and a wide range of symptoms such as sleep disturbance, weight gain/loss, increase alcohol intake, even teeth grinding etc.
[Source based on various research abstracts]
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