Health professionals can help people affected by traumatic experiences. A doctor can help identify problems and refer to mental health practitioners. They can also provide practical support such as teaching relaxation and stress management. Mental health professionals can provide specialised trauma-focussed treatment. This section guides you quickly to relevant information and resources on our website and elsewhere. It does not provide a specific treatment guide.
Help a client/patient
People may not necessarily mention the fact that they have had a traumatic experience when they first see a doctor or other health professional. They may present with a range of problems including anger, relationship problems, poor sleep, or physical health complaints such as fatigue, headaches or gastrointestinal problems. The distress and stigma associated with mental health problems or traumatic events may prevent some people from talking about their experience.
If a person presents to a doctor or community health centre and reports repeated non-specific physical health problems, practitioners may need to ask whether they have experienced a traumatic event. If posttraumatic mental health problems are suspected, we recommend that practitioners use a brief primary care screening to screen for PTSD. More information is available for practitioners and for people they are helping via the links below.
First response and treatment
A few simple principles underpin evidence-based care:
- Initial assistance involves practical and emotional support tailored to individual needs
- People should be encouraged to return to their usual social and work routines
- Mental health interventions should only be offered when a person is not recovering
- Trauma-focussed psychological interventions are strongly supported by research
- Some people will need both psychological help and medication
- It’s never too late to start dealing with the psychological aftermath of trauma
For information about early interventions and treatment, click on the links below:
- Impact of trauma
- Initial reactions to trauma
- Mental health and wellbeing information for the community
- PTSD Treatment programs for veterans and military personnel
- Trauma-focussed psychological therapy workshops - for mental health practitioners working with adults and young people
- GP learning - an accredited online learning program, Managing disaster and trauma-related mental health problems was developed by ACPMH in collaboration with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). This Active Learning Module (ALM) addresses topics including:
- Common reactions following disaster or trauma
- Providing support in the days and weeks following disaster or trauma
- Recognising common mental health problems following disaster and trauma
- Treating common mental health problems following disaster and trauma
To enrol, or for more information on the online training program Managing disaster and trauma-related mental health problems, visit gplearning.
Publications and resources
Copies of the Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and other booklets listed below, including those for client use, can be purchased via the order form.
- Research articles
- Annual Literature Summary
- The Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PDF)
- The complete appendices to the full Guidelines (PDF)
- Guidelines summary – incorporating a brief overview of ASD and PTSD and a full summary of the recommendations (PDF)
- A Practitioner Guide to Treatment – a handy desktop guide for practitioners working with children & adolescents (PDF)
- Treating traumatic stress: conducting imaginal exposure in PTSD (Clinician manual & DVD)
- Screening for PTSD
- Screening for vulnerability (PDF)