As of April this year, a new Code of Practice and Regulation, Managing the risk of psychosocial hazards at work, was applied to all workplaces covered by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

The new level of legislation is intended to create psychologically healthy and safe workplaces. While this move is primarily geared to support staff wellbeing, workplaces that manage psychosocial risk factors tend to have healthier, happier employees, with common benefits for the employer including improved productivity, performance, client satisfaction, and higher retention … and now of course, reduced risk of liability. 

So aside from being bound by legislation, managing psychosocial hazards seems a sensible business decision all round. However, how many employers (or employee for that matter) know what psychosocial hazards are? 

 Based on my experience in organisational psychology, I’d say not too many. To clarify, a psychosocial hazard is anything that could cause psychological harm (e.g., harm to someone’s mental health). Harm can include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic-stress disorder and sleep disturbances. 

 If you’re wondering if your workplace is at risk … it is. All workplaces have psychosocial hazards, in fact there are up 14 common hazards in any work environment. 

 Work related hazards include the way work is carried out, such as workloads, deadlines and methods. Equally important is the context in which work occurs, including relationships and interaction with managers, supervisors, colleagues and clients or customers. 

 It’s important to understand that just working has inherent risk of psychological harm to the worker, particularly if they care about their role and we hope they do. Also, employers cannot eliminate all psychosocial hazards, however they can, and are now required, to eliminate risk where possible and minimise risk as far as is reasonably practical.  

 This process involves:

  1. Identifying hazards 
  2. Assess the level of risk 
  3. Taking control measures 
  4. Review of control measures

Organisations have a duty of care to provide a safe place for their employee to work, but from a business perspective it’s important to note that workplace related psychological injuries typically have significant longer recovery times, higher cost and require more time off work than physical injuries. 

 With that in mind any steps taken to manage psychosocial hazards should be multi-faceted, the good old staff survey on its own just isn’t going to cut it. 

 A science-based assessment methodology is required for valid results and meaningful, effective control. If you don’t have the internal resources/knowledge then consider engaging an external consultant who specialising in this area.    

So, you’re going through a difficult time, things are getting on top of you, and you’ve decided to get professional help from a psychologist.

Good on you! It takes enormous courage to reach out and you’ve just taken the first step. Where do you go from here though? Do you know how to access a psychologist? Do you have an idea of what type of psychologist is suited to you?

A visit to your GP is a good place to start. They will talk it through with you, while assessing your eligibility for a Mental Health Plan (MHP), and the Medicare rebate, which can reduce the expense.

Your GP will also be able to provide you with a list of Registered psychologists to contact.

Let me start by saying, a registered psychologist is a qualified one, and this should be your minimum requirement. Once you’ve determined their qualifications, the next step is to find the right ‘fit’. This can vary from one person to the next and is about personal choice.  Finding your best fit psychologist  can feel a little daunting though, so here’s a few things to consider in your search.


Location, accessibility, cost, etc., are all relevant. For face-to-face sessions, consider distance, ease of access, parking etc. Some psychologists offer virtual sessions, and if this is your preference, consider privacy, internet reliability, and the best time of day when you can fully engage. What’s important to remember is that visits to your psychologist shouldn’t feel like a burden or an additional pressure.


Think about what you want help with. Are you looking for someone who specialises in relationships, anxiety, workplace stress, trauma, gender-related issues, or something else? Consider what you want to talk about and what you want to change, then narrow the search to those who specialise in that area.


Would you feel more comfortable talking to a female or male psychologist? Yes, you can factor in gender, age, culture, and religion, etc. when choosing a psychologist. This is not discrimination. Similar backgrounds and experiences can support understanding and relatability, which will assist in the therapeutic relationship. Decide what demographics (if any) are important to you and go with your preference where possible.


Psychologists often have different delivery styles. Some are more structured, planning 3 months in advance, while others take a session-by-session approach depending on the clients’ progress. Neither is better or worse, but simply based on what the clients wants and needs are. Communication styles also vary across psychologists, this means language, mannerisms, tone, etc. Go with the style you’re most comfortable engaging with, as this will support open conversations.

Give it a go

Once you’ve narrowed your search down, where possible try a few out. We test-drive cars before committing to one, do the same when looking for a psychologist. Some psychologists offer an initial phone call prior to booking the first session, it doesn’t hurt to ask if this is an option.

In and after your first session

Successful counselling requires openness, honesty, and a willingness to be vulnerable, so it’s essential that you feel at ease with your psychologist. When and after you meet with them ask yourself:

  • Do I feel heard?
  • Do I feel understood?
  • Do I feel hopeful that positive change can occur?
  • Do I like them?

Sometimes it’s necessary to meet a couple of times to see if you’re a good match. But if after 2-3 sessions if you’re not finding it helpful, either talk to your psychologist about it or move on.

Most importantly, don’t be discouraged if you don’t find your ‘best fit’ straight away, this is not uncommon. If your sessions are not benefitting you, give up the psychologist, not the process.

Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error but when you find the one that’s right for you dive in headfirst.

There are 13 psychosocial risk factors that impact on the health of a workplace and its staff, and the pandemic has highlighted just how important some of them are to us. While working from home has reduced the risk of some factors – environmental factors like noisy workplaces for example – it has exacerbated some other risk factors like job design. Workers feel safe when they feel connected to their leader and teammates, and when they have a sense of purposefulness, but these factors have been greatly impacted by lockdowns, restrictions, and working from home. Psychologist, Kim Cullen, explains how we can identify the psychosocial hazards that affect every worker, and why they’re an important piece in the puzzle of understanding how Covid is impacting our mental health.

It’s often said that you can see physical illness, but you can’t see mental illness. This is only half true. While you can’t always see the cause of mental illness, it’s possible to see signs that someone is suffering from it. Look for social withdrawal, poor concentration, prolonged sadness, changes in mood, behaviour, and mannerisms. Ask yourself “How does this person behave when they’re happy compared to how they’re behaving now?” From there, start a conversation. If you’re not sure how, the best advice is to be direct. Mental health conversations don’t need to be subtle. You can simply say “I’ve noticed you’re not your usual self (give examples), what’s happening with you right now?” Don’t worry if you don’t have a solution, it’s more about trying to understand what they’re experiencing, listening without judgement, and making sure they know they’re not alone. When in doubt, try “Let’s find the help you need together”.