Ability Therapy Specialists Pty Ltd

Individuals, Couples, Families, Children ~ NDIS Registered Provider of Behaviour Support, Counselling Therapies with Creative Arts, Rehabilitation, Employment Job Readiness, Paediatric Early Childhood Intervention ~ Serving Armidale, New England, NSW, Australia and Online



From Behaviour Support to Trauma Counselling

ATS are NDIS Registered Providers, and we do private work with a wide range of clients.

The NDIS allows participants of the Scheme to access our services under the guidelines of funding. We have developed a number of tailored solutions for people with disabilities and mental health concerns. As specialists in this area our work adapts counselling, psychotherapy, psychology, education, and other methods to individual needs and capacity.

Assessment and offering suggestions for treatment and support planning have become central to our work, and helps to inform many client’s NDIS planning. Addressing complex needs is often part of this work.

We have taken on many psychometric and educational tools for assessment like the ABAS 3. These may assist with diagnostic observations and in some cases may inform funding programs that request assessments.

Clients across these areas from Scheme to private interests access counselling, psychotherapy, trauma therapy, grief and loss counselling, couple counselling, and other specialist methods like clinical hypnotherapy.

Contact us via our contact page form with questions.

Patterns and Perfection

Nature patterns and builds in dys-function to offset atrophy and create opportunity for variation in a species. Imperfections are part of the pattern of perfection even in the most elegant and perfect of systems where observation needs greater detail and precision to pick up the imperfect variation.

Behaviour Support and Counselling Psychotherapy

In many western countries, Behaviour support is traditionally the domain of disability support services that evolved over several generations from the days when families supported their children and banded together to form volunteer associations. The needs they carried attracted the attention of many different professionals. Over time society shifted away from centralised institutions, where behaviour support was often the domain of nurses and mental health practitioners. Community based models of support further evolved into humanist and person centred models, aligning with interdisciplinary efforts in education, counselling, social work, and psychology.

The practice of behaviour support relies on many standardized methods but also quite a variable field of practice tailored to the person needing support. Being an interdisciplinary practice we take behaviour support from the counselling psychotherapy and educational frameworks – deciding on an approach that champions person centred support and positive strengths based methods.

Supporting behaviours of concern requires understanding the hidden drivers of behaviour and not only behaviour but also relationships to people, places, things, and to past, present, and future. Behaviour is not simply a psychological science. Behaviour happens within a living ecology of relationships. Understand the relational origins and ways that concerning behaviours are sustained, and you are a step closer to supporting the person in safe and positive ways.

We find that counselling therapies and psychotherapies are very useful for people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. Tailored to the person’s capacity the therapy approach may include use of creative methods, and may appear “non-traditional.” As you can imagine, working with children in traditional talk therapy is not usually very helpful. In the same way, working with a 40 year old with cognitive capacity of a 4 year old cannot rely on traditional counselling in an office.

The “floortime method” by Dr Greenspan is one example of tailored solutions for people with autism that changes the approach to allow for and engage the person at their own level and understanding. Taken as a metaphor, the method is where our practice has explored various play therapies, music, arts, and creative methods including horticultural activities, drumming and percussive activities, singing (yes we are musical and can engage a story in song that has therapeutic benefits), symbol work and sandplay methods, walking and exploring a park as part of therapy, and engaging various methods that encourage healing for example, the use of neuro-linguistic language to assist in neurological development, or appropriate naturalised Ericksonian hypnotherapeutic language scripts used to encourage relaxation or to address phobias or other unconscious issues that cannot be addressed by other means.

One person said a few months ago, rare are the people experienced or qualified to work with complex needs and various diagnosis including intellectual disabilities. Even more rare are the people engaged in providing proactive and reparative therapy around cases of trauma recovery and the many social and emotional issues associated with living with disabilities and difference in our society. Many have said that the education system has a long way to go to support people with unique needs. As much as there are efforts to support children and young adults with special needs in educational settings and beyond, the general everyday social stigmas and remaining attitudes toward difference and ability or disability may cause over time a great deal of suffering.

Being sensitive to these issues and having suggestions for treatment are two related but distinct domains. They come together for us when we are engaging behaviour support and therapies within counselling and psychotherapy. The two areas are offered now under the NDIS as separate funding allocations. One is clustered under “improved relationships” and the other under “improved daily living.” While simply administrative, the latter clusters a range of therapies including for example occupational therapy.

Insightful for us that relationships is flagged specific to behaviour support. This appears to be a wise move by those in positions to give names to these things. Rarely have we heard of services offering both behaviour support and counselling. Most agencies appear to focus on the first and do not offer the second, or focus on counselling alone without engaging the former. We find that doing a behaviour support assessment and support plan are excellent ways to gather information to help with in-depth counselling and/or psychotherapy intervention. Where funds lack in one area, having both areas in a participant’s NDIS plan provides adequate time to address both the safety and behavioural issues arising plus begin to address therapeutic needs.

Curious that the NDIS has costed behaviour support at a higher rating than counselling. This implies that the former is somehow more involved than the latter, which may be true from a clinical perspective. Behaviour support is usually considered a specialist field. But the crux of the matter here is that counselling with people who have disabilities is also a highly specialised field of practice. When we do counselling work under the NDIS banner we are engaging the same and even higher level of expertise because we combine fields of knowledge into a holistic and professionally advanced model of service. It seems odd to get paid less per hour for counselling than for behaviour support. But such is life and we are grateful that clients can pay for service through these schemes.

Western countries Australia included have not developed counselling therapies within disability services as a field of expertise by any means. Government agencies did not offer these kinds of therapeutic counselling services in past, and the NDIS is likely the first time that such services are available to people with disabilities. Behaviour support has largely been the domain of government departments who developed senior expertise in disability support overall. Translating into the future will entail a great degree of change and hopefully diversity of services that develop these practices further.

There is so much work to be done here to up-skill and train practitioners. Much of this work cannot be done in classes and programs on campus. Specialist services often demand real life practice and experience at the coal face, under well designed and longer term internships. For our part we are writing a book on behaviour support and counselling methods, which we hope might provide resources and practical insights in future.

To contact us for referrals or other reasons please email at Thank you for your support.

Dr Joseph Randolph Bowers

Interview with Dr Joseph Randolph Bowers

Dr Joseph Randolph Bowers

This interview was recorded by a colleague who wanted to remain unnamed. They gathered this information to share in their organisation.

Dr Bowers, may I call you Joseph? Yes, no worries.

Joseph, why did you create Ability Therapy Specialists (ATS)? About three years ago now, the NSW government and the commonwealth moved forward with plans that would create the NDIS. NSW decided to pull out of direct services in aged care and disabilities, so would disband Ageing Disability and Home Care. Managers and mentors encouraged me to remain rural and regional – we all knew most senior practitioners would move away because the jobs would not be found here in the New England. The vision of ATS was born on white boards in corporate offices, dreaming up a model for community based independent practice.

What is ATS all about? People. ATS is about people in our community. And access to high quality counselling and psychotherapy services. ATS is about keeping senior expertise regional and rural. We are about education and capacity building – because we know that helping helpers goes a long way to building community-based skills.

How is Earth Rattle Publishing connected here? ERP was a project started a number of years ago to help new authors get published. It was part of the explosion of online publishing. Back in the late 90s my first exploring websites and virtual media as a doctoral student was thought by professors to be risky. I remember being told to be cautious. But in the years that followed I founded a new online open access research journal – the first of its kind in Counselling in Australia. ERP came about over the years of supporting Indigenous authors, and seeing the need for earth-based ecological resources for human ecology.

But you revived this project recently, you said? Yes. Health issues got in the way a few years back. But recently ERP is reawakened as a partnership with ATS. One provides the publishing expertise, the other a therapeutic edge. ERP is now publishing ebooks only because this is more ecologically sound, and become more popular and accessible. As a small niche publisher we focus on selling direct only – our customers pay for our product that is emailed to them in PDF format. The author actually keeps the vast majority of income, but our own books are all donated to ATS.

You have a community therapy fund, what is that? It is a fund for money from sale of books. We sell books via the Payhip set up. They take a small fee per sale. We keep the rest. For our own books, we give the proceeds to the fund. When the funds grow enough, we can offer clients sessions that are either subsidized or paid for in full.

How will you determine the need for people to use therapy? The number of needs out there are no problem at all. The issue is with how to allocate limited resources. We simply keep a word of mouth approach that over time develops a clear criteria for need and the practicality of offering a service to a person or family.

We see you have published heaps over the years. Tell us a bit about your own writings. That is like asking a truck driver to tell you about his new Mack truck. He looks at you like, are you ready for the long or short answer?!

LOL, OK… let me try again… What are you working on now? Ha ha ha ha, well… actually I am seeing clearly to publish a series on Counselling Sexology. I’ve just launched a book on retro texts in the Christian western mysticism tradition, and I am writing a book on Counselling Psychotherapy, a text book, based in the therapeutic methods that I have developed over about 25 or 30 years.

Wow, tell us about the Sexology project. This seems a bit out there, no? This is actually a growing area of interest for me since my graduate days of doing research on gay and bisexual men’s experiences. That work was back in the mid 1990s in Canada. Over here in Australia my PhD focused in part on LGBT people’s experiences. But even before my graduate research, my first masters degree courses were focused on couple and family life. My first group therapy work was with men remanded by court to deal with their violent behaviour, and the women who were their partners who were recovering from trauma. These different groups introduced me to the darker side of human sexuality – mostly heterosexual in fact. The GLBTI work I have done over the years has been quite inspiring and nothing like the heteronormative cultures that straight people inherit from their parent’s parents.

Are you saying that heterosexual people are more prone to violence? No, not at all. We all could do with less blanket assumptions like this. What I was saying is that we all actually inherit values, beliefs, and practices from our families. We grow up with these internal mindsets. If we do not have a radical reason to question our assumptions, we tend to keep on keeping on. This is human nature! We think, why fix what is working OK. But for most of us humans, what is working OK actually causes us grief. This is to say, our attitudes and beliefs about gender and sexuality are so twisted by past generations of values and beliefs from old and outdated perspectives, we have not yet faced these issues.

So why is this any different for gay people? Great question! Short answer: It’s not! Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and Two Spirit people get the same inheritance as the rest of us. But being different from the majority forces a change. That change is initially as simple as a different way of thinking. This reality makes minority people question assumptions and look at life differently. Nothing comes as easy, so everything is open for revision. What starts as a perceived weakness becomes a strength.

And for straight people, what is an assumed strength is actually a weakness? Perhaps so… Mostly likely an unconscious weakness for most. Things do not come up in awareness around these issues until couples find their marriage breaking down. Or they find they have a child or young adult child who is gay. In later years and in different forms of crisis, people find their value system challenged. Mostly these times do not lead to a real convergence of change and openness to evolution, because the human system demands preparation and training toward the more profound layers of growth.

What do you mean here, that spiritual growth relies on prior preparation? In some ways yes and in other ways no. Someone like Tina Turner carries a great deal of insight and very likely wisdom, based in her life experience. Nothing against her by the way, as she is pretty freaking awesome. But all due respect, Tina Turner is not the Dali Lama of Tibet. But if you got them in one room, sparks of spiritual enlightenment and many other sexy sparks would very likely fly. Two passionate and driven people in one room does that regardless of vows to the contrary. Now few of us are at the height of either of these people. But point be taken, Tina writes music and revolution. The Lama writes silence and awakening. Both are at the top of their game. That does not happen overnight. The Lama becomes a Buddha because he tips the scales on years of practice. The Turner becomes a pop icon and goddess of music because she tips the scales on years of practice. Both people take their game seriously, and both are pretty awesome.

So how does this relate to everyday people dealing with gender stereotypes and attitudes toward sex and sexuality? That is a very funny question, like, don’t you see that already?! What is the matter with you?! LOL Here you got the insight when you see the Lama and Turner in one room. She is all dolled up and sexy. He is in a robe all holy and saintly. But they both shine like stars. Gender and sexuality are here in the room with us too. American family values, at various levels. And Tibetan spiritual traditions, in various ways. When we meet, any of us in real life, we carry our heritage and traditions with us too. Couples who come for therapy because they are fighting and he wants to abuse her and she wants to displace her anger on her kids but holds back, they also carry a lot of baggage like the Lama and Turner do. The difference? Our stars are a bit older and maybe wiser. Those of us still at the coal face have to deal with our reality of lack of practice and lack of preparation. But we all have to start somewhere.

So your child is gay, what do you do? You grow the hell up and realise it is not your fault and that actually, being gay is a freaking awesome thing to be when you fall in love with someone and your life is going well because you got a decent job and your bills are paid. You might even think about having children with your gay partner. So you parents once you grow up and face your attitudes and beliefs are outdated and just plain impractical, you start to realise how bloody unjust the world might be for your child. You start to become an advocate for change. That is what real human evolution is all about.

You are very passionate about this stuff. Yes, and don’t invite me to your workplace unless you want to be enlightened by truth and confronted by passion.

We were thinking you might want to visit. Sure why not.

So therapy, writing, publishing, building a regional practice, NDIS, Earth Rattle Publishing, Ability Therapy Specialists, scholarship, research, you even have a Youtube channel for music you have written in past… what else do you like to do, in your spare time? (with a wicked grin). Well, I love to cook. And this espresso coffee machine is by best friend. I’ve tried my hand at painting using acrylics on canvas. We had a show a few years back in Canada, at Cape Breton University. It was a feature of Canadian Indian and Australian Aboriginal artists called Three Artists: Two Countries: One Heart. It was pretty awesome and very exciting to see our work on the huge gallery walls.

Who were the Australian artists that did that show with you? Dr Dwayne Kennedy and Grace Kennedy, from Guyra NSW. Their work was highly sought after and I had to fight people off to keep some of their paintings.

What are you doing in the next few weeks or months? Funny enough a bit more landscaping and I hope gardening… I’d love to visit family in Canada but that seems a distant vision at the moment…

No dull moments I am sure! How do people find you? We like to be hard to find actually, LOL. But if you insist we can be found via email and phone (0468863740). Email is best as we are actually in session most of the time. We want to stay close to people, so no admin answering service as yet. You get us directly. Surprise, surprise we get back to clients fairly quickly. People see us by appointment only.

Thanks for this talk, much enjoyable. And thank you, I am sure your CEO will raise an eyebrow and wonder why you bothered.

The bother is all mine, thanks again. LOL, no worries mate.

Armidale NSW Counselling in Grief and Loss


Knowledge of grief and loss has advanced over the past 20 years. On one hand, there is now acknowledgement that strict time frames cannot be attached to grief and loss. Generally people may progress through stages of grief and loss. “Time may heal wounds” and this process takes longer or shorter, depending on many factors. Giving people ample time to heal and adjust after loss appears the wise course.

On the other hand, advances in understanding the neurology and resilience of brains has influenced our perception of issues like loss and grief. Alongside neuro-biological processes are human capacities for psychological change. These studies increase our appreciation for methods in neuro-linguistic and experiential psychotherapy. Along with these approaches stands creative arts-based, music, and ritual-as-therapy methods that are supported by transpersonal psychology.

At the basis of these methods in psychotherapy is the way that memory and emotion works in tandem with unconscious emotional states to form associations and responses. These responses arise in unconscious attachment to memories and things familiar. The method suggests that working with this underlying internal process in therapy may create relief and open up choices for people who otherwise tend to feel overwhelmed and “stuck” in patterns of loss and grief or other powerful emotions.

Narrative and Hypnotherapy: The possibility of change

It is striking! After many years of university level teaching of counsellors in the skills of clinical psychotherapy, you might think old classics in the field might have much to be desired. Not true!

When revisiting early literature on Milton Erickson, I’d have to say the work has gained even greater relevance. At the moment, I am reading “My voice will go with you: The teaching tales of Milton H. Erickson,” Edited by Sidney Rosen.


Book Review: ***** Five Stars

A classic in the field of hypnotherapy, reading Rosen now suggests many more insights than when I first read and studied hypnotherapy during the mid 1990s.

Erickson’s therapeutic use of story, metaphor, and symbol is still just as confronting and politically incorrect. Yet also still as stunning, if not dumbfounding. But there is more. Since 1990-ish there has been extensive development of the therapeutic enterprise.

Today when you step outside the stale confines of most university programs that remain stuck in the 1970s or there about, there is now more emphasis on quality, accountability, evidence-based measures, and qualitative developments in theory and practice.

Currently narrative, human identity, relationships, ecology, sustainability, social justice, difference, spirituality, and knowledge of minority issues in practice are all plainly on the table. At least for those who have grown over the years…

Fascinating that Erickson’s methods have also become far more accessible to those so inclined to seek active engagement with methods that work, that are based on evidence, and that engage the central value of client’s feedback. Nothing is more evidence-based than hearing from a client of a major change in their relationship, their habits of thought, their chronic health issue, or their pattern they’ve been stuck in for years.

To people outside the field of any given therapy-change method, “evidence based” is a phrase often used as a condemnation. Closed minds find it hard to re-frame the possible as indeed possible… It is easy to be skeptical when faced with the success of another therapist or a method you are not familiar with yourself.

After two decades in the academe, I have no shortage of skeptical perspectives! Yet while reading Erickson’s stories the reality of an old phrase makes sense. “Our stories are our medicine,” as the Elders of the Mi’kmaq Nation have often said. Not only our medicine, we say, but also our therapeutic wisdom.

Change is possible in often entrenched issues that face the intractable convergence of meaning, value, and energy focused on change. Not conscious, not always. Yet also deeply embedded in the truth and spirit and inner life of the person seeking change or stasis, transformation or mutation, imitation or new learning…



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