News > Trauma and the Interdisciplinary Approach

Trauma and the Interdisciplinary Approach


Some of the most-attended Mental Health Professionals’ Network (MHPN) online webinars and networks focus on trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD).

According to SANE Australia, “about 25 per cent of people who are exposed to traumatic events develop PTSD. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men. About 12 per cent of people living in Australia will experience PTSD in their lifetime".

With PTSD and complex PTSD being among the most prevalent mental[s1]  health disorders, clients living with these conditions are naturally among the most common presentations in clinical settings.

To stay up-to-date with all of MHPN’s online webinars and networks, sign up to our enews or find a network in your area.

We spoke to MS ALIKKI RUSSELL (PSYCHOLOGIST), MS SERENA KING (CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST), MS JANET RENNER (CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST), AND DR CATE HOWELL (General Practitioner) about an interdisciplinary approach to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD).

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) defines PTSD as: “a set of symptoms that can emerge following the experience of a traumatic event that involves exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence"[1].

On the other hand, complex PTSD “describes the long-term effects of severe, prolonged or repeated trauma, particularly due to child abuse or domestic violence. This has a wide range of effects on personality, identity, memory, mood change and emotional regulation"[2].

According to psychologist Ms Alikki Russell, ‘The impact of trauma on a person’s physical and mental health can be profound. Given the complex nature of PTSD / C-PTSD it often requires a multi-modal approach to treatment’.

‘When practitioners collaborate on how to work with people affected by trauma it can provide additional insight, ideas and support to the person, their family and the treatment team’, claims Ms Russell, Director of The Hummingbird Centre and a coordinator of the Newcastle Complex Trauma Network in New South Wales (NSW).

Clinical Psychologist Ms Serena King is one of the coordinators of the Hobart Trauma Network and co-editor of the newly-released book ‘Humanising Mental Health Care in Australia: A Guide to Trauma-informed Approaches’.

‘For those with trauma-related conditions, therapeutic engagement and establishing a sense of trust and safety is essential within any team approach. Practitioners collaborate to ensure the most appropriate treatment approach is offered and that the client is empowered to have choice within their treatment process’, she says.

‘All practitioners involved should have a shared understanding of trauma-related conditions, and are trauma-informed in their approaches, in order to ensure accurate assessment and gaining a comprehensive understanding of clients’ backgrounds and current problems’.

Clinical Psychologist Ms Janet Renner coordinates the Fremantle Network and practises in a counselling centre south of Perth in Western Australia.

She canvassed the network which reports: ‘holistic care of clients with health professionals from multiple disciplines … allows a more thorough approach. Clients gain more; and are less likely to slip through the cracks and be forgotten’.

‘Various models are considered which all improves the quality of services for the client, but also allows the practitioner to share strategies and provide support to colleagues’, say network members.

The Fremantle Network last met in early September for a meeting about relational trauma. Relational trauma is any interpersonal interaction resulting in harm. The meeting attendees reported the key learnings as learning about a stepped approach to address trauma and the importance of repairing therapeutic ruptures. They also walked away with helpful book recommendations about relational trauma. Join this network to receive details about future meetings. Or find a network in your area.

General Practitioner (GP) Dr Cate Howell appeared on the panel of the MHPN webinar ‘Comorbid Mental Health Conditions in Veterans: Strategies for Assessment, Case Formulation and Treatment’

‘Different practitioners  have a range of expertise and skills, which assist with decision-making and the provision of a range of services’, she says.

She says the webinar gives practitioners a chance to ‘learn about how other disciplines view the case and how they formulate their ideas about key issues and possible treatments’.

‘I like to emphasise holistic care, and draw on evidence to support this. There is growing evidence for prescribing time in nature, for example, along with a range of activities. A focus on all aspects of our wellbeing is important, along with addressing illness and problems’.

Dr Howell is also a published author with her latest book being Listening, Learning, Caring and Counselling for mental health and other health practitioners.

Through the barriers

          Collaboration may sometimes be challenging due to lack of time and resources but there are free, accessible professional development opportunities. MHPN offers flexible online webinars and there are local face-to-face networks designed to take away obstacles to interdisciplinary interactions.

Ms Serena King says establishing strong internal and external partnerships and communication lines may aid collaboration.

‘Physical co-location is also useful and using contemporary technological approaches to communicate can be helpful. Education and training regarding the nature of trauma-related conditions is also essential to ensure appropriate interdisciplinary trauma-informed care is provided’.

The Hobart Trauma Network met on 3 September for a presentation on trauma and mindfulness.

The key learnings were that trauma-related symptoms can be exacerbated by traditional mindfulness approaches so it’s important that practitioners gain an understanding of these difficulties and seek further training in more trauma-sensitive approaches.

The network’s next meeting in November will be on ‘The Brain as a Social Organ: PTSD, complex PTSD and the principles of trauma-informed care and practice'. Join the Hobart Trauma network to receive details about meetings. Or find a network in your area.

Ms Alikki Russell says there are workable solutions to the challenges of client access to funding; and the capacity of trauma-informed treatment providers.

She says clients’ financial ability to access multiple supports is often limited.

‘Funding is often an issue for clients, particularly when they require many different supports. To help manage this, familiarise yourself with the funding services that are available to people affected by complex trauma including services such as victims of crime counselling schemes and the National Disability Insurance Service (NDIS)’.

Ms Russell suggests ‘getting to know the local and national support and advocacy services available and query them on what additional funding supports may be available. Also consider what is the right intervention at the right time to help reduce overwhelm and financial burden from having to attend multiple appointments’. 

‘Another issue that often arises in providing a multidisciplinary approach is a lack of capacity with trauma-informed treatment providers’, Ms Russell says.

She recommends becoming familiar with ‘the services that are available in your area, attend network meetings, and reach out to other services to see if they are willing to provide supervision and support when they don’t have capacity to take on clients for treatment. Also take advantage of technology, telehealth options may be available when local opportunities may not’.

The Newcastle Complex Trauma Network will next meet for a presentation on ‘Supporting Children with a History of Developmental Trauma using a NMT (Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics Lens).

The guest speaker will give an introduction to core elements of the NMT approach and how it can guide treatment planning for children, adolescents and adults through matching the modality of treatment to the presentation of the client. Join this network to receive details about meetings. Or find a network in your area.

MHPN is well-connected to practitioners in the trauma treatment area. We can support you to start and run a trauma-related mental health network in your community.

MHPN networks help you:

•           benefit from the experience and knowledge of other practitioners

•           connect to practitioners in your local area

•           improve referral pathways

•           improve patient outcomes

Learn about becoming a leader in your professional community as a volunteer network coordinator.

Do you want to join a trauma-focused mental health network?

Register now via the links below:







Do you want to learn more? Check out the following online resources:


[1] The Australian Psychological Society (APS) website