psychosocial disability

Psychosocial Disability

What is a psychosocial disability?

A psychosocial disability is the term used to describe the experience of disability as a result of mental health conditions. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over one-quarter of Australians experience some form of psychosocial disability. While not everyone who has a mental health condition will experience psychosocial disability, individuals who do typically experience severe psychological and social effects.


Although psychosocial factors impact most types of mental health conditions to some degree, there are many conditions that involve significant long-term psychosocial impact, including:

  • Anxiety disorders including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobia and agoraphobia.
  • Mood disorders including major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar.
  • Schizoid disorders including schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.


What are the impacts of psychosocial disability?

People affected by psychosocial disability may experience challenges setting goals, making and following through with important appointments, engaging in education/training or employment, negotiating household needs, and functioning in a social capacity within the community.


Working Memory and Psychosocial Disability

A common contributing factor to these difficulties relates to the capacity to utilise working memory. Individuals with psychosocial disabilities associated with severe mental illness often experience deficits in this area. The working memory is the part of our cognitive system responsible for holding onto our conscious thoughts while going about our daily activities, a skill that lets us work with information without losing track of what we are currently doing (for example, recalling steps of a recipe while cooking a favourite meal) – like a temporary sticky note in our brain! The consequences of this deficit can make navigating daily life incredibly difficult for an individual with a psychosocial disability.

Recovery for Psychosocial Disability

The term recovery is used broadly throughout the mental health field, with different meanings in different contexts. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) defines recovery as “achieving an optimal state of personal, social and emotional wellbeing, as defined by each individual, whilst living with or recovering from a mental health condition”. Recovery for psychosocial disability acknowledges that recovery is not necessarily a cure due to its episodic nature but is able to assist people to live a full and meaningful life.

Psychosocial Recovery Coach

A psychosocial recovery coach is an individual trained in various complex psychosocial disabilities and mental health, with a holistic understanding of the day-to-day challenges faced by individuals living with psychosocial disability.

Recovery coaches aim to support individuals and their families in improving their quality of life, working collaboratively to create and implement an individually tailored recovery plan including:

  • Increasing personal capacity and independence
  • Strengthening resilience, decision making, motivation and self-confidence
  • Engaging in coping strategies to aid mental health recovery
  • Create frameworks to help manage complex challenges of day-to-day life
  • Setting short-term and long-term psychological and social goals
  • Source and utilise various mental health resources and services
  • Supporting engagement with the NDIS

Recovery coaching combines the principles of recovery-oriented practice with coaching principles, with the aim of assisting individuals to build on their strengths and increase their capacity to control their lives.

Learn more about how we can help those with a psychosocial disability here.

Find out more about Australia’s NDIS program here.


Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2020). Psychosocial disability. Retrieved 7 July 2021

National Disability Insurance Scheme. (2021). Mental health and the NDIS. Retrieved 7 July 2021