​The scenario

You have been Marco’s disability support worker for two months. Marco does not say a lot to you, and you feel that you and Marco are not developing rapport. For most of his life Marco has had emotional experiences diagnosed as bipolar mood disorder. He was referred by Community Mental Health, who said that his moods have recently stabilised and he has asked to be supported to participate more in the community.

You have offered Marco a range of activities, but he does not wish to participate in them. Recently he has started skipping your appointments. It makes you wonder if he feels comfortable with you as his support worker. Your supervisor has told you that she will need to exit Marco from the service if he does not start to participate in activities soon.

Today you noticed that Marco drives an old Holden car that he seems to take very good care of.

Tips for responding in the moment

What you could say:

  • Focus the conversation on Marco. Avoid talking about his participation in the service and what your service has to offer.
  • Try building rapport by talking with Marco about his car.
  • If Marco opens up to you, talk about his life aspirations and goals. Once you know more about him you may be able to suggest things that you and your service can do to help him on his recovery journey.
  • Offer Marco choices e.g. whether he would feel more comfortable with another worker or whether he would prefer to connect with a different service.
  • Ask Marco if there is anything else that might be of help for him to feel more comfortable in accessing support.
  • Make sure that Marco is aware that he is not required to participate in your service. The choice is entirely up to him.

What approach you could take:

  • Don’t assume that Marco’s decision not to access supports is related to his mental health.
  • Don’t assume that Marco does not want support or does not want to participate in activities.
  • Use a holistic approach. Consider all aspects of Marco’s life that may be impacting his interest in participating in activities e.g. work, finances or his physical health.
  • Listen, ask and check.

Tips to help prepare for next time

  • Don’t put pressure on or make someone feel guilty for not taking up opportunities offered. It is their choice.
  • Provide positive messages and possibilities in all interactions.
  • Build on and acknowledge any successes.
  • Seek support and advice from your supervisor if at any time you are unsure of what to do next.
  • Learn more about a recovery approach.


This web page includes ideas about supporting someone on their journey of recovery.
Type: Web page
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Produced by: Wodonga Mental Health Services

Recovery Oriented Language Guide
This document provides guidance on language and communication strategies, and helpful do’s and don’ts to promote acceptance, hope, respect and uniqueness.
Type: Guidance document
Length: 32 pages
Produced by: Mental Health Coordinating Council

National Framework for Recovery-Oriented Mental Health Services: Guide for Practitioners and Providers
This Framework includes chapters on recovery-oriented practice, service delivery and supporting people of diverse backgrounds.
Type: Web page
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Audio: Available
Produced by: Australian Government, Department of Health

Current as at: Wednesday 17 August 2022
Contact page owner: Mental Health