Getting back to working: Enableworks

If you have had an accident or experience chronic pain, returning to a regular work schedule may seem impossible.

Loss of confidence, feeling stressed, depressed, or out of control because of pain, compound the difficulties experienced in committing to a work schedule.

Fortunately, local company EnableWorks holds the licence in New Zealand for an excellent work rehabilitation programme called Abilita. “Dr Pam Garton, an occupational therapist, developed the programme in Australia,” says

Randa Abbasi, director of EnableWorks. “Abilita offers a pathway to building resilience to barriers to working, and to gaining fulfilment at work.”

The team has brought Abilita to organisations throughout New Zealand. “We have worked with a range of companies which have identified concerns relating to employees’ mental and physical wellbeing with respect to their rehabilitation into the work environment,” says occupational therapist Ngaire Allan.

Ngaire cites a recent client whose pain improved, but even more so her sense of coping, being in control, and understanding her emotions. The 45-year-old woman was employed full time as a butcher, as well as being a mum. “She was experiencing pain as she was lifting, carrying, bending in the shop. She very often found herself unable to come into work,” says Ngaire. “It resulted in a pattern of consistent absenteeism.”

The first assessment enabled Ngaire to establish the degree of pain and the effect it was having on her client’s life. “That first snapshot covered all aspects. We discovered her sleep pattern was terrible and a big reason for her not getting out of bed in the mornings. She also disclosed that while separated from her husband, he still lived in the home and subjected her to physical abuse.”

The Abilita programme educated her on physical pain, and her brain’s response to the pain.

In talking about her thoughts and feelings, the client experienced the ‘Aha!’ moment the programme always produces. The client’s final assessment showed a 62% improvement in confidence, understanding of emotions, as well as physical pain. She was able to get up in the morning, remove the abusive husband from the home permanently, and change the family’s functioning. Sleep, energy, and relationships all improved and she was able to return to the workplace.

“Pain can cause a fight, flight, or freeze response”, says Ngaire. “The Abilita programme creates the ‘Aha!’ moment, where you understand pain and its broader effect on you.

It is a collaborative process that helps you relax and understand what is really going on in an ordered and statistically proven way.”

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