NDIS Specialist Behaviour, Spirituality, and Mental Health Assessments

Several requests have come forward in the past few years from people seeking a more comprehensive and holistic assessment of mental states and behavioural functional capacity in light of more broad views on human developmental capacities. In other words, how do we describe and assess functional behavioural capacity, mental health, and spirituality?

Spirituality we define here as various expressions of personal growth and awareness as well as intuitive, spiritual, psychic skills or phenomena. We would define subjective versus objective expressions, and work toward a mutual understanding of mind-body states.

This article is very brief, and intentionally so. But it does provide a glimpse into a thirty + year study of these issues that informs a modern secular ecological perspective.

James Fowler expressed a model of developmental stages of faith that provided a bridge between western secular and Christian cultures. His work is a classic resource. Ken Wilber provided an expansive developmental mapping of human agency and capacities, and his work stands in the nexus of integrative and transpersonal psychology that is quite advanced and of great utility. The Grofs wrote about spiritual emergency and its various criteria, following a long tradition of spiritual discernment and discernment of spirits.

Older western and eastern models arise from the Christian traditions going back to the middle ages. We have found the voices of various scholars and mystics to be quite insightful, including the developmental and increasingly scientific-observational and analytic models of Bonaventure, Aquinas, Scotus, Bacon, and mystics like Francis and Clare of Assisi, Meister Eckhart, Hildegard von Bingen, to name a few. And the west owes a great deal to the more ancient origins including the biblical traditions as well as the Roman and Greek perspectives.

All these aspects provide useful frameworks to assess and observe phenomena happening in everyday life. These particular models emerging in contemporary studies parallel and need to be taken within the study of a large body of contemporary work during this and the last century on psychological states, personality studies, consciousness studies, and on an ever increasing detailed study of mental states and disorders.

Photo by lil artsy. Behaviour capacity, mental health, and spirituality are integral to life.

Likewise, and what is often overlooked in secular studies, is that all of these western advances stand within the longer and even ancient traditions of western and global cultures. Acknowledging and integrating these layers of relevance has become increasingly important as humanity awakens to a global ethic of care for the earth and for each other.

In the west, we have integral theories arising from medieval scholars and mystics with many and varied models of spirituality and culture. These have in many ways translated into modern integral and depth-psychology models of contemplative studies, human growth, and awakening. In the wider sense, we acknowledge Aboriginal and First Nation traditions of Australia, New Zealand, North America, and Europe, and within the wider global context – all of which hold important and practical insights to assist a more culturally appropriate and less colonial-minded analysis of human agency and capacity.

The modern secular and scientific mapping of mental disorders can be understood alone or in light of the above traditions. When we take different views, our perspective shifts. Making a wider ecological and inclusive analysis requires a lot more work, more study, and more experience to practice. The outcomes of these different perspectives also can be blunt or more seasoned and balanced.

Over time, we experience in our work that the more seasoned and balanced views tend to be more person centred, less clinical in the blunt-edge of the term, and more practical, comprehensive and meaningful to the actual contexts of life. Of course, in most assessments, all of the above factors are not addressed in an overt way. To do so would take 40 to 100 pages of analysis, where most of our comprehensive assessments range around 20 pages or more. These get to the focus of the needs and issues arising using the dominant models of the day.

Suffice to say that a more in-depth analysis of human developmental status, behavioural capacities and skills in daily living, mental health status and illness, can go alongside a reasonable acknowledgement of the established criteria and expressions of spirituality and/or spiritual-type phenomena. It is entirely reasonable to assess mental health and mental disorders in light of these various perspectives while attending to the core criteria of psychotherapy, psychology, and science.

Having said all of this, under the NDIS there are established and dominant professional models and criteria for the assessment of behavioural capacity, skills, and mental health frameworks. Spirituality is not usually acknowledged in an overt way unless a participant seeks this level of assessment or support.

NDIS will fund only services that are directly related to the disability criteria and that can demonstrate utility for improving quality of life, daily living skills, and capacities.

Having said this, we have worked with NDIS clients who ask for spiritual-level analysis, discussion, to learn about meditation and mindfulness work, to engage art and creative therapies that include a level of ‘hands on spirituality’ or personal growth. Some clients and parents ask to have these layers of their personal or family experience and culture as an overt part of their behavioural or counselling support.

Other clients are recovering from religious or institutional or other forms of socially manipulative environments. In these cases, taking a sensitive view to recovery while encouraging personal growth and healing are quite relevant.

In many of these contexts, clients demonstrate greater progress when their worldview, values, and needs are actively acknowledged and are a central part of the work at hand. At the end of the day, this is the heart and soul of person centred practice.

Features image Photo by Dhivakaran S

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