The purpose of this paper is to provide guidelines for the evaluation and quantification of psychological impairment in the Australian civil legal system. Following a discussion paper produced by the Victorian Section of the Division of Independently Practising Psychologists in July 1997, the Australian Psychological Society recommended the formation of a working group to examine the Guidelines used in the measurement of impairments related to "mental and behavioural disorders" (July 1998). In particular, the subcommittee was asked to review the American Medical Association's "Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment" (4th Edition) section on "Mental & Behavioural Disorder" (Chapter 14). The subcommittee comprised a representative sample of psychologists working in practice and included psychologists from the APS Colleges of Clinical Psychologists, Clinical Neuropsychologists, Counselling Psychologists, and Forensic Psychologists, as well as psychology representatives from the Institute of Private Practising Psychologists and the APS Division of Independently Practising Psychologists.
A committee of psychiatrists from Victoria was also examining the issue. They proposed a model that was published in August 1998 as an alternative to the AMA Guide, and have subsequently written on its merits. It is the aim of this paper to outline the findings from the respective committees and compare the various approaches of psychological impairment assessment from both theoretical and practical perspectives.