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

Australian Counselling and Psychotherapy

People from around the world ask me whether there is a distinct form of Australian counselling and psychotherapy. My response is immediately, yes!


Over the past three decades my work has brought me to many conferences. Over time presenting and doing keynotes has given me a unique perspective. Teaching counselling training at universities, and maintaining interest in the field long after leaving full time academic work, has given me many strengths in understanding Australian approaches to psychotherapy and counselling.

For one, Australian Aboriginal culture is unique around the world. Nothing exists like Aboriginal ways arising from the Dreamtime, deeply connected with Country as Sacred Place, and the many quite profound ways this translates into familial values, community identity, and as time goes on influences within mainstream Australian culture that are often overlooked by people who grow up in this country.

Secondly, Australia is completely unique in its very landmass, and how this holds a great deal of influence, meaning, and inspiration for Australian music, art, science, and culture. Australians have an existential basis in this place we call home, our country, our land and sea. Australians unconsciously and often in full awareness gravitate and hover around the Centre, the desert as heartland, the place of unconscious, that tends to dominate our consciousness. This forms a rich compost layer within the Australian psyche. A hinterland for dreams, vision, and mysticism. A source of enormous power in creativity and problem solving.

Thirdly, Australian counselling and psychotherapy has its own unique professional traditions within the fields of education, public health, and ironically as an offspring of the psychology professional body’s decision to become highly exclusive and begin shutting down their grandfather clause during the late 1990s. Besides, the profession of counselling in Australia grew very quickly to be extremely diverse due in large part to a great deal of healthy competition between factions. This resulted in hundreds of smaller professional and specialist bodies being formed – something that is still sorting itself out as the next couple of generations of therapists cope with the confusion and mess handed down to them by their senior founders.

Finally, Australian counselling and psychotherapy are often places of advanced innovative research and advancements in our understanding of qualitative issues. We can think of a dozen studies that match this criteria, across the areas of child sexual abuse, abuse recovery, trauma and healing, Aboriginal cultural methods in therapy, sexuality and identity, sexual health counselling, ageing and community practice, couple and relationship issues, depression and anxiety, just to name a few. Perhaps in contrast, as a professional body psychology tends toward advancements in quantitative research outcomes.

Unlike psychology perhaps worldwide, counselling in Australia is unique because as a profession counsellors and psychotherapists are not as interested in “rats and stats” as the focus is on human relationships, understanding the dynamics of healing and change outcomes, and actual practice based outcomes that advance our knowledge of evidenced based therapeutic strategies.

These are just a few of the ways that Australian counselling and psychotherapy are unique around the world. There is much to be thankful for in Australia. And most Australians are not aware of the incredible resources we have in our communities and across our nation in the form of counsellors, whose work is often hidden and unassuming, but whose efforts form part of the social fabric of our community.

Who Comes from Where?

Our service is based in beautiful Armidale. But we find that our clients come from all over the New England and now from Coffs Harbour and Mid North Coast. We have had several from Tenterfield in the North. To the West we see people from as far as Moree. The South brings people from beyond Tamworth, and of course Tamworth itself.

We are now doing a fortnightly clinic in Inverell due to the excellent efforts of Individual Ability Supports (IAS Inverell). They asked our service to come over and they provide clients with supports to attend the clinic.

We are interested in helping via a clinic in Tamworth or Coffs Harbour, should providers in those areas seek to engage with independent senior therapist expertise. The model of independent professional practice and the wide range of services available to NDIS participants are actually not that well known or understood by NDIS providers and participants. People have little awareness of what is actually possible, and what best practice actually looks like.

At the cutting edge of the therapeutic fields of counselling, psychotherapy, and behaviour support there are many options for people. We suggest you explore this site for ideas. And get in touch if you have an NDIS Plan, or are looking for private therapy. If we can help or suggest another option, and if we cannot assist ourselves, we are happy to refer to other providers across the region.


Inverell Community Clinic

Ability Therapy Specialists begins this Monday providing a fortnightly clinic in Inverell focused on participants of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We are hosted by Inverell’s own Individual Ability Supports (IAS). We also have participants coming via other organisations like Brighter Access.


If you know of people interested in attending the clinic, the way to connect is via our Contact Page on this website, or via staff at IAS Inverell.

The clinic provides counselling therapies, behaviour support, and some informal group and community social time depending on who is around and whether people have time to share a cuppa. In some cases, individuals decide the clinic is not for them. They may decide to visit us at our Armidale studio.

By providing a regional clinic, IAS Inverell and our therapy service are working to address the sad lack of adequate NDIS funding for travel and therefore the lower rates of access to senior therapist assistance in the New England North West. By hosting this clinic, we are able to drastically reduce travel costs per participant.

Importance of Independent Behaviour Support

So many people rely on professional supports. We all need doctors, nurses, therapists of many disciplines, and specialists.

Yet in disability support many still accept in house practitioners for behaviour support and counselling. Even though these fields are highly specialist – or should be… the complexity of therapy in disability and mental health really requires at least masters qualified and experienced practitioners. But most orgs are lucky to have a bachelor qualified person on staff with little experience.

At Ability Therapy Specialists we have two doctoral qualified specialists on staff. We are independent. So we no longer need to be influenced by the policies and cultures of organizations and the politics this invariably brings. Having worked many years in different settings we have a heart of compassion for ways to deal with institutional cultures – but our focus is on advocacy for the NDIS participant and their family.

Contact us via our Contact page. We look forward to hearing from you.

Year End Reflections for 2017

Looking at 2017, many changes and developments followed just as many challenges and accomplishments. Ability Therapy Specialists (ATS) had its first year in full time practice. We have growth to include two practitioners, one full time, the other engaged part time. Our clients come from privately paid requests, government paid services under the NDIS, corporate and training clients, and educational and tutoring needs.

During 2017, the majority of clients came via the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). These people asked for help with Behaviour Support, Counselling Therapies, and associated Clinical Assessments and Reports. We found by end of year that we were providing a wide range of clinical assessments, with new requests to engage the Adaptive Behaviour Assessment System 3 (ABAS 3) as well as other psychometric and educationalist assessments.

Clients used their assessments for a wide range of purposes. Some needed reports to share with Psychiatrists or Clinical Psychologists to assist with case reviews and planning, others needed reports for helping to evaluate what funding was more necessary and relevant to their needs under the NDIS Plan Review process, and other clients were seeking evaluations to share with primary care providers like Paediatricians for the purposes of diagnosis and/or to help with school/educational programs.

Our work during 2017 focused on Armidale and regional New England. Being based in Armidale we are slowly becoming known by families in the area, and word of mouth is always the best. We work with people of all ages, including children, individuals, parents, couples, families, schools, agencies, and NGOs. Much of our work with disability agencies and schools actually goes back many years within our specialist educational, therapeutic, and disability work – and we are excited to re-engage under this new and independent service.

We fairly quickly expanded beyond Armidale by offering a fortnightly day clinic in Inverell, hosted at Individual Ability Supports (IAS) across from the Inverell High School. The clinic had great success and many clients will be returning during 2018 to continue their awesome projects. The clinics run on the Monday beginning 22 January, but are by appointment only. No drop-ins please. Clients book in a month before usually, and each client tends to have at least an hour to engage in therapy activities. A sense of community is growing and participants do tend to visit with each other in a common room and have a cuppa at some point during the day. Contact for the clinic is via Dr Bowers (see this site’s Contact page), or IAS Inverell (see phone directory).

We were also excited to offer tailor made education and training for NGO staff during 2017, having designed modules in disability behaviour support and in trauma informed disability practice. Major shifts away from block funding create challenges for NGOs to find funding to pay for staff training and development. On behalf of clients we are grateful for those exceptional managers and team leaders who have taken the additional time necessary to find options during this transition.

The year also saw us using Skype for client meetings via distance. This had great success for certain client’s needs, and was useful for staff at regional NGOs. Using video/audio technology allowed these individuals to feel important, to gain better use of therapy and consultation services, and to save heaps of money that would otherwise go to travel time and costs. We hope to see greater interest by New England residents in 2018, as this form of working really does make a lot of sense for people who can communicate via this method.

Our geographic footprint seems to be in-flux given the only two year roll out of the NDIS in New England, and only first year roll out in Coffs Harbour and surrounding locations up to Dorrigo in the mountains, and along the coast north and south of Coffs. This being said, during 2017 we have calls from Coffs in the East to Moree in the West, and from Tenterfield in the North, and from Quirindi in the South and Gunnnedah in the South West.

Travel is an issue cost-wise given already inadequate funding packages under the specific line items that we can use, with inflexible terms for participant use of core funding allocations. But we have found a few work arounds for these issues. For one, we created a regional clinic out of Inverell which may assist people from Moree up to Tenterfield if they are able to travel to Inverell. We have also tended to provide significant discounts for travel costs where participant needs warrant and we were able to assist.

All up 2017 was an eventful and memorable year, with many amazing gifted people crossing our paths. We are inspired and encouraged. We wish everyone a peace-filled and healing 2018 for personal growth, and for family and friends.

Dr Joseph Bowers and Dr Dwayne Kennedy

GLBTI2S Couple and Marriage Counselling – Video

On the cusp of Australia’s revealing the results of our postal vote on same sex civil marriage, show host Dr Joseph Randolph Bowers discusses the dynamic of professional supportive counselling and psychotherapy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Two Spirit couples, marriages, and families. His message is profound and provocative. Intentional relationships and families are places to grow mature loving human beings. At the same time, he concludes that minority couples face many of the same dynamics and issues that straight couples and marriages deal with.

Ask A Therapist Episode 6 Couple Counselling vs Mediation? What is Available for Couples?

Episode 6 What is Available for Couples? looks at the enrichment-to-counselling-to-psychotherapy-to-mediation-to-litigation spectrum in couple relationship services. With five areas on the spectrum Dr Bowers offers couples a realistic view on how to seek help depending on their needs at the moment.

Ask A Therapist Episode 4 What is “Ability” AKA “Ability” Therapy Specialists

Episode 4 What is “Ability” explores this amazing word and what this means for people today – and what it can mean for you…

Ask A Therapist Episode 3 Workplace Stress – Help Please?

Episode 3 Workplace Stress looks at the natural ways we can work with our mind for a change, to de-stress, and find a new perspective.

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