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PACFA Submission on the Veterans’ Affairs Draft Mental Health Strategy

The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) welcomes the Department of
Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) Draft Mental Health Strategy 2013. With the prevalence of mental illness
among veterans being significantly higher than in the general population, the new strategy is essential
to address the growing mental health needs of this client group. PACFA believes the strategy will help
to ensure effective mental health care for veterans and their families, and will make a significant
contribution to their mental health and wellbeing.

Counselling and psychotherapy are interdisciplinary activities provided by a range of professionals,
including psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, nurses, doctors and psychiatrists, as
well as counsellors and psychotherapists. Counselling and psychotherapy are not ‘owned’ by any one
of these professional groups. It is therefore surprising that counsellors and psychotherapists have long
been overlooked as part of DVA’s mental health workforce.

With the introduction of a statutory registration system for DVA mental health providers, the
workforce successessay has been limited to practitioners with Medicare Provider Numbers. The Veterans and
Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVFCS) has also limited its workforce to psychologists and social
workers, although in PACFA’s view there is no valid rationale for this restriction. Counsellors and
psychotherapists are highly trained and skilled, and those registered with PACFA as Mental Health
Practitioners are recognised as meeting key mental health competencies.

Access to counselling and psychotherapy for veterans and affected family members is an essential
component of the Mental Health Strategy, particularly as an early intervention strategy, to promote
mental health and well-being, and as a treatment option for clients requiring more intensive clinical
treatment. There is an abundance of evidence for the effectiveness of counselling and psychotherapy
and an overview of the evidence is included in this submission. There are specialist therapies such as
family therapy, relationship counselling, art therapy and body-focussed psychotherapy that should be
provided to veterans and their families by PACFA-registered counsellors and psychotherapists.

Recommendations

1. Specialist therapy modalities such as family therapy, relationship counselling, art therapy and
body-focussed psychotherapy should be made available to veterans and their families and
provided by suitably qualified PACFA-registered counsellors or psychotherapists.

2. The Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service should incorporate counsellors and
psychotherapists in its workforce to widen the skills and interventions available to the Counselling
Service and its clients.

3. The DVA should develop evidence-based purchasing guidelines to ensure veterans have access to
evidence-based interventions delivered by appropriately qualified professionals from a range of
professions including PACFA-registered counsellors and psychotherapists.

4. New online workforce training programs should be developed to train counsellors and
psychotherapists to better understand the needs of the veterans client group and their families,
and to build specialist skills to work with posttraumatic stress disorder and concurrent conditions
such as alcohol and other drug dependence.

5. The DVA should consult PACFA as the peak body for counselling and psychotherapy with research
expertise to help build the evidence base for effective mental health care.

6. The DVA should include PACFA as a strategic partner to enable feedback, support continuous
improvement of service systems and enhance coordination and communication.

 

Click here to download the Submission PDF