Chronic pain and long-term injury are among Australia’s most expensive health problems and a significant cause of people being unable to return to work.

EML was interested in a program developed by Professor Michael Sullivan of McGill University and PGAPworks, which addressed the psycho-social barriers to overcoming chronic pain in some patients.

We identified many psychosocial risk factors that were stronger predictors of disability than symptom severity,” says Professor Sullivan.

Professor Sullivan’s work pointed to the power of behavioural psychology approaches for addressing long-term disability and to support the return to work. The Progressive Goal Attainment Program (PGAP) emerged from this research and has achieved stunning results in Canada and the US.

PGAP aims to assist long-term injured workers and the chronically ill to engage in rehabilitation, reduce their disability, and achieve successful return to work following debilitating injury or illness.

EML implemented PGAP in Australia in consultation with Professor Sullivan and in collaboration with NSW Health Return to Work Coordinators and providers from across the State.

The program has delivered a 22% decrease in weekly benefits associated with disability and 26% upgrade in capacity, including 11 people who were previously unable able to return to work.

Delivered through weekly hour-long appointments with trained PGAP providers, the program takes place over 10 weeks.

The provider supports the injured worker to address barriers such as:

The program is now the most researched, standardised intervention for reducing disability associated with a wide range of debilitating health and mental health conditions.

Find out more about PGAP and training opportunities for providers at

Watch this informative video about PGAP and its potential impact for workers