Psychological injuries

Work is a part of your life, and a workplace injury can disrupt your life's routine. Our goal is to help you recover quickly so you can return to work and to life. To achieve this goal we offer specialized injury support if you are recovering from a back, shoulder, psychological or severe injury.

A correctional officer witnesses a violent attack by inmates.

A social worker is exposed to repeated reports of trauma against children.

A first responder lives through a traumatic event one night but relives it each and every day.

There are no visible injuries. No casts or crutches—but each of these individuals have one thing in common. They all experienced a workplace injury.

Not unlike physical trauma to your body, psychological injuries can be devastating. We are here to let you know that we recognize these injuries just like we do a physical injury or illness. If your psychological injury is the result of a workplace event or series of events, we can help you.

Getting a claim started

Psychological injuries are unique and require specialized care and treatment. We have teams dedicated to managing these types of claims and who offer an additional level of expertise to what can often be very complex and emotional circumstances.

If you believe you’ve experienced a psychological injury as a result of an event or series of events at work, it's your right to report it. You can submit a report to us quickly and easily online, or by fax. If you’ve missed time from work, it’s important to share this with your employer so they can submit a report as well.

What you can expect after you submit your claim

We will contact you and your employer to get information about the events you experienced at work and will review reporting from your treatment providers to determine if your injury is related to these events. If information is missing, we may carry out more investigations or refer you for additional assessments to determine if the events you experienced at work caused your injury.

We may also help you start treatment immediately, when needed.

How we make decisions to accept claims for psychological injuries

Psychological injuries are accepted when you have been formally diagnosed with a psychological injury after exposure to a traumatic event(s) at work or you have experienced an accumulation of stressors at work or a significant stressor that occurs over a long period of time. A confirmed psychological injury may also be accepted if it develops due to an emotional reaction from being injured and/or undergoing treatment for your injury.

WCB also provides presumptive traumatic psychological injury coverage for workers employed in specific jobs. This means that if you meet certain criteria and you are diagnosed with a psychological condition following exposure to a traumatic event(s) at work, we will presume the diagnosis is related to your work, unless proven otherwise.

Please see the Resources section at the bottom of this page for additional information.

How we can help you recover

We work with a number of community psychologists across Alberta to help you access the best care for your individual needs. We can help you select a provider and WCB will cover the costs of treatment and reporting on your claim.

Contracted services are available throughout the province—in both urban centres and rural areas, which means we will always do our best to connect you with a provider that is in your community if that is your preference. Treatment providers offer a variety of counselling specialities, including:

  • Anxiety or phobias relating to the work-related injury
  • Brain injury counselling
  • Depression
  • Grief/loss
  • Neuropsychological assessment
  • Pain management
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Stress management and relaxation training
  • Substance abuse

Traumatic Psychological Injury (TPI) care model

If your situation is complex and you require some extra support in your recovery, we’ve developed a care model that partners specialized clinical professionals with you to help you gain the skills and tools needed to move forward in a positive direction. If you, your case manager or health care provider have concerns about your recovery, you may be referred for a TPI assessment at one of the contracted provider clinics. The focus on the of the TPI care model is:

Education: Information about common responses to trauma and different ways to cope. With your approval, family members may also be provided with education in order to understand and support your recovery process.

Personal attention: Services that are tailored to your individual needs.

Improved recovery: Early intervention and access to a team of specialists (e.g., psychologists, occupational therapists and exercise therapists), a healthier return to regular activities and work is more likely to be achieved.

When a physical injury affects your mental health

Sometimes, psychological injuries develop as a result of a physical injury.

For example, a construction worker takes a serious fall from a roof and suffers a spinal cord injury. He undergoes multiple surgeries and rehabilitation to help him recover and adjust to a new way of moving his body—and living his life. Although he is receiving care and making strides in his recovery, the changes he’s facing feel overwhelming. He can no longer work in his chosen field and begins to feel disconnected to his old life and those around him. Anxiety and depression are setting in. These are called secondary psychological injuries.

These types of secondary injuries can become a significant barrier to physical recovery. Our job is to help you with both. Whatever form your workplace injury takes, we are here to help you get the care you need to get back to life, work—and feeling like yourself again. Discussing these feelings openly with your doctor or case manager is the first step in recognizing any potential secondary psychological symptoms.

Additional resources

Whether you have a claim, or are just looking for some extra support, we've put together a listing of trusted resources in the community that can help you.

If you are struggling and need help today, these resources are here for you. You can also reach out to someone you trust—a family member, friend, or your case manager.

Resources

For workers

  • Bullying/harassment in the workplace
    Every Alberta worker is entitled to a harassment free workplace. If you are experiencing bullying or harassment at work, we want to help support you. This fact sheet offers information about when and how WCB-Alberta can help.​
  • Comprehensive psychological and psychological-vocational assessments
    These assessments determine the psychological impact of your work-related injury or incident, identify any work limitations and abilities you might have and provide treatment recommendations. This fact sheet provides details about what to expect, if you are referred for one of these assessments.
  • Presumptive coverage for traumatic psychological injuries
    If you are a first responder, emergency dispatcher or correctional officer and had a traumatic work-related incident resulting in a psychological injury, you may be entitled to presumptive coverage.
  • Psychological injuries as a result of stressors that occurred over time at work (chronic onset)
    Experiencing excessive and unusual stressors occurring over time or one stressor that lasts for a long time at work, can result in a psychological injury or stress that can be personally devastating. A claim for a psychological injury can be accepted when the condition develops as a result of an emotional reaction to these stressors.
  • Psychological injuries as a result of traumatic event(s) at work
    When you experience traumatic event(s) at work, this can result in a psychological injury or stress that can be personally devastating and require treatment to resolve. A claim for a psychological injury can be accepted when you develop a confirmed psychological injury after experiencing a traumatic event(s) at work.
  • Psychological injuries - Frequently asked questions
    Answers to questions about psychological injuries, diagnosis and the process for accepting these types of claims.

For employers