How Semiotics Affects The Return To Work Process

How Semiotics Affects The Return To Work Process

A brilliant essay submitted as part of his study for the Graduate Diploma in the Psychology of Risk – by Hayden Collins – http://riskintelligent.com.au/

The Essay Question: What is the semiotics of the return to work industry?

DOWNLOAD THE ESSAY: Semiotics and RTW

Extract:

Blue botThe current approach to rehabilitation and return to work is based on the reductionist medical model where the human body is symbolic of a machine comprised of divided parts. Wellness is then considered to be the absence of physical – and occasionally mental – symptoms, and treatment for illness involves the systematic elimination or management of these symptoms based on a predetermined treatment plan. This reductionist model does not recognise the individual as a whole person who is part of a family, community and culture, rather as a set of symptoms.

Recovering from injury and illness and returning to work is multifaceted. Effective rehabilitation requires a holistic perspective towards health and wellbeing, taking into consideration the physical, psychological, spiritual and social factors of the individual. The individual must be understood in their entirety, and as all factors are inextricably linked, if one is not being attended to, the others will certainly be affected

This paper will argue that labels used in return to work Guidance – in particular ‘injured worker’ – and the failure to acknowledge the importance of social connectedness, frames the return to work process as a reductionist and mechanical system that does not recognise the complexity of human beings or the significance of a holistic approach towards successful rehabilitation. I will also show how this same language creates a discourse of control, power and dehumanisation, that essentially alienates and isolates the recovering individual, damages effectiveness of relationships and return to work outcomes, and increases the likelihood that the recovering individual will experience secondary psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Labels or stereotypes shape how we see the world. They unconsciously affect our perception of objects, nature, individuals – including ourselves – social communities and cultures, and subsequently influence our relationships and behaviour. Labels simplify the complexity of the world through categorisation. Once a label is in place it is extremely difficult to remove. When a label is applied to an individual, they are seen as an object – something to be used, possessed, fixed or controlled. The uniqueness and humanness of the individual is lost – along with it the opportunity for building relationships based on care, trust and respect – and enables the exploitation and exclusion of the individual that has been labelled. Labelling affects everyone; even physicians who have taken the ‘Hippocratic Oath’ unconsciously treat their patients differently depending on the label and stereotype that has been applied. With kind and friendly personal treatment provided to those who are perceived as having no responsibility for the injury and impersonal treatment to those seen as negligent with no excuse. I will now deconstruct the label ‘Injured Worker’ and explore how it can influence the return to work process and the potential social and psychological implications of its use.

DOWNLOAD THE ESSAY: Semiotics and RTW

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