Locus of Control is the extent to which people believe they have power over their lives. This concept was developed by Julian Rotter in the 1950s and is widely accepted within psychology today. We have observed that many of our clients who have difficulties with successfully returning to work after an injury have an external locus of control, in other words they believe that outside forces are directing their personal outcomes. They often focus excessively on worries or concerns that are external to their control and don’t tend to take responsibility for their own successes or failures. Most of their energy is spent in the blue section of the image above. This can serve as a barrier to their progress and return to work goals. As a comparison, people who have an internal locus of control believe that they can influence events and take responsibility for their own actions and outcomes. They invest their energy in the yellow section of the image above, focusing on what they can either directly control or have some level of influence over.

If you are noticing a worker who blames others for their lack of progress, puts events down to fate or luck, expresses that other people (e.g. their doctor, employer) are in control of their situation or doesn’t take responsibility for their own actions (positive or negative) it might be that they need some assistance before they are able to move forward. Heightening their awareness of the parts of their life that they can influence is a key aspect of assisting with this. Opening up a conversation about what aspects of their current situation they feel are realistically outside of their control and then discussing the things that they can affect or impact is a great starting point. Positive goal setting can also be helpful as it draws attention to direct action they can take. If you have tried those steps and are finding your client is stuck in unhelpful thinking patterns, it may be that we can help! Adaptive Workplace Solutions have developed a tool shown in the image above which we have used with many clients with great results. When used along with counselling and home activities, we have had an excellent success rate of assisting clients to shift their locus of control, enabling them to gain a healthy level of control over their lives. Many clients have named it as pivotal in changing their perspective and allowing them to take steps towards returning to work.

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