Psychological support for people with vision loss

The loss of vision can impact your emotional well-being – but there is psychological support to better understand your thoughts and behaviours and overcome barriers.

Psychologists help you understand new challenges you’re facing, providing you with the tools to better cope while also supporting capacity for the future. Capacity building is the concept of developing processes, abilities, instincts, skills and resources to adapt to life with vision impairment.

Psychologists might not be able to give you the answers you want, but they can discuss and explore questions to discover more about your thought process, working through problems to find solutions.

As VisAbility Registered Psychologist Bristi explains:

“Often a psychologist’s goal is to make themselves redundant. Our role is to coach, upskill and empower our clients to the point where a psychologist is no longer needed.”

Kristie and Bristi (we love that they have rhyming names) can offer psychological support to you on your journey with vision impairment. We gathered them together for a Q&A session.

Kristie and Bristi stand next to each other underneath a pergola
Kristie and Bristi are two of our registered psychologists

Why did you become psychologists?

Bristi: I was born in Assam, in the north-east region of India. Psychological services weren’t widely accessed or widely available back then. There was a stigma attached to it. In addition, there was very limited mental health funding available in India

Growing up, I would volunteer at special education schools, the Junior Red Cross Society and not-for-profit organisations working with social issues and similar groups. I found it immensely rewarding. My experiences made me keen to pursue a career in a profession helping others, outside of medicine. Psychology took my interest.

I completed my clinical psychological post graduate qualifications from India and worked for a few years in New Delhi as a clinical psychologist prior to moving to Australia for a PhD and registering as a psychologist (link opens in a separate window) in Australia.

I saw how the NDIS, was improving the quality of life for people with a disability because it offered provision of access, community participation and values to promote independence.  It motivated me to start working in the disability sector. I wanted to contribute to making a difference in other people’s lives. At VisAbility I enjoy working with people across different age groups (both children and adults) coming from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Kristie what was your motivation?

Kristie: Growing up and having a family member with a serious medical condition, meant I spent a lot of my childhood in and out of hospitals. It made me appreciate and admire the work of the many medical and allied health staff supporting my family. This is what initially sparked my interest to work in a profession that supports people, often when they’re at their most vulnerable. 

Ultimately, a series of fortunate encounters with various family, friends and colleagues led to me working in the disability sector. Early opportunities provided me with a wide range of experiences that helped me discover my true passion for supporting children with disabilities and their families. For me, it’s a distinct honour and privilege to be part of their lives – this role goes far beyond anything I ever expected.

I completed my Bachelor of Psychology degree at Murdoch University in 2007 and – just for fun – I also completed a Bachelor of Sports Science at Edith Cowan University. I am a registered psychologist and at VisAbility I work with children, adolescents and their families. In addition, I am a registered behaviour support practitioner. 

What happens at a first session?

Kristie: Clients will have already received a diagnosis of vision impairment. However, every client is unique and at they will be at different stages in their vision loss journey.

During the first few sessions, the main focus is on developing rapport, creating a safe and secure environment, building trust and getting to know each other. The client can then feel comfortable and confident knowing they are being supported and listened to by someone who understands the impact of vision impairment and the emotions they may experience.

Bristi: For adults with vision loss, psychology sessions work around the grief and loss process. A lot depends on when they lost their vision, the stage in life. I want to build a good therapeutic rapport, trust and understanding of their lived experience.

For example, if they lost their vision later in life, there will be a great deal of unlearning and re-learning. It could involve working through frustration, distress and resilience. With sudden vision loss, such as an acquired brain injury, there’s very little warning and there’s no time to prepare yourself for that adjustment to vision loss. It’s a very different process than someone who was born with vision impairment.

Sudden vision loss may mean they can’t drive any more. Psychology support facilitates a sense of psychological flexibility – working on building strengths and resilience to build independence.

What psychological support is available for children? 

Kristie: Discovering that your child has a vision impairment can be an emotional roller coaster. Psychology support involves working in partnership with families to get to know and understand their child. I enjoy working collaboratively as a member of multi and transdisciplinary teams. I use person/family centred practice to promote a child’s learning and development, well-being and community participation and inclusion.

Psychological support can help by:

Bristi is in the CAYS play area at VisAbility standing next to a wooden maze puzzle type toy with outdoor area in background
Children can show their emotions through play
  • Supporting families, carers and others to gain a greater understanding of their child’s vision impairment and the impact it may have upon their learning, development and behaviour.  
  • Working with and providing support and strategies to children, adolescents and their families in areas of:
    • Emotion and self regulation
    • Anxiety and depression
    • Social skills
    • Positive behaviour support
    • Achieving developmental milestones
    • Parenting support, coaching and capacity building
  • Working collaboratively as a member of a multi-disciplinary team to ensure a holistic approach to help children, develop, learn and participate in everyday activities.
  • Liaising with and providing consultation and advice to other professions, service providers – school daycare staff etc.

Incorporating play with child psychology

Bristi: Children often project thoughts more naturally through play rather than words.

With children, we undertake a lot of play-based activities, incorporating games and activities to explore how children think and feel. We use what’s known as micro-counselling skills to bring about helpful and meaningful discussions.

What techniques do you use to help adults?

Bristi: Psychology uses evidence based therapeutic frameworks to support individuals overcome negative feelings and barriers. Living with vision loss can be difficult and complex.

For any psychologist, active listening is an essential tool. When working with adults, I work on the premise that that every client knows himself/herself and their challenges better than anyone else.

Bristi and Kristie sit next to each other around a table with back of client in the foreground
At the first appointment, people are still coming to terms with vision loss

They have the potential to become their best version of themselves if provided with a safe non-judgemental space to grow psychologically. Sometimes due to negative experiences, they can stop believing in themselves.

Improving wellbeing

Psychology sessions aim to facilitate an overall sense of wellbeing by:

  • Being fully present during a conversation.
  • Noticing non-verbal cues.
  • Showing interest by maintaining good eye contact.
  • Reflecting on what the client says.
  • Asking open-ended questions to prompt continued conversation.
  • Withholding judgment and advice.

Psychology support can help by:

  • Building resilience and ways to manage anxiety/depression.
  • Working on emotional regulation.
  • Facilitating independence, exploring strengths and supporting individuals in their life pursuits.
  • Developing a sense of purpose.
  • Encouraging capacity-building abilities and coping skills.
  • Finding ways to improve overall well-being for better mental health.
  • Being a better advocate for themselves and making more informed decisions.

Experiencing and dealing with vision loss is an emotional process, but psychological support can help you through the transition, no matter your age or stage in the process.

Psychology services can be funded through NDIS, My Aged Care (HCP/CHSP), DVA, Medicare or fee for service. Learn more about funding options.

How to get support

Please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about the low vision services and support we can provide. Our Client Experience Team will contact you to discuss your individual needs both now and into the future. Our Psychologists can visit you at home, school, in the community or at VisAbility in Victoria Park. Contact our Client Experience Team for more information.

There are a range of low vision support groups in the Perth area and across the state.

If you are a provider and wish to refer a client, please use our low vision medical certificate (online referral form) to make your referral.

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