Complex Trauma: adult survivors of childhood abuse

Date produced 28 September 2011

Sonya has visited her GP with a black eye and bruising. With a history of suicide attempts, she has been referred to a psychiatrist but attended only once and was lost to follow up. The panel’s discussion will review the key principles for effective assessment and management of mental health issues for people who have experienced complex trauma.

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Learning outcomes

By watching this webinar recording, you will:

  • raise your awareness of the prevalence and indicators of complex trauma
  • be better able to identify the key principles for effective assessment and management of mental health issues for people with complex trauma
  • better recognise the challenges and opportunities of interdisciplinary collaboration in the provision of mental health services for people with complex trauma.


Dr Michael Murray
Qualifications: MBBCh, Member of Australian College of Psychological Medicine
Profession: GP and Medical Educator
Based in: Townsville, QLD

Dr Michael Murray is a Townsville based GP currently providing medical education with Tropical Medical Training: General Practice Specialists. He also works at Headspace, Townsville.

Michael has worked for over 25 years as a GP in both rural and metropolitan practice and in indigenous health; his clinical expertise is in psychological medicine.

As the Mental Health Professionals Network’s (MHPN) main webinar facilitator, Dr Michael Murray knows as well as anyone the power of integrated communication. And as a career-long regional and rural doctor, he is profoundly aware of the isolation and restrictions to learning that GPs in the far corners of Australia endure.

He examined the prospects for online learning, especially in regional, rural and remote settings in an interview in August 2012:


  • Dr Cathy Kezelman
    Profession: Consumer advocate
    Based in: Sydney, NSW

    Dr Cathy Kezelman is the director of ASCA (Adults Surviving Child Abuse), a national organisation dedicated to meeting the often complex needs of the more than 2 million Australian adults abused as children.

    She has worked for 20 years in medical practice, mainly as a GP and over the last decade has held leadership roles in ASCA. In that time she has facilitated the introduction of evidence-based programs, education and training for health care professionals while advocating for a trauma-informed approach to care and practice.

    Cathy published a memoir early in 2010, Innocence Revisited - a tale in parts, which chronicles her battle with depression and suicidality, at the core of which was unresolved childhood trauma.

  • Ursula Benstead
    Profession: Psychologist
    Based in: Melbourne, Victoria

    Ursula is a psychologist with over fifteen years experience in counselling, supervision and training in the community and private sectors. She specialises in working with people who have experienced complex trauma. She has taught Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Counselling Theory and Practice at a postgraduate level.

    Ursula's 'Shark Cage' framework for understanding and working with women who experience repeated victimization was published in Psychotherapy in Australia earlier this year and can be accessed on Ursula's website.

    Today the focus of Ursula's consulting is providing training and individual and group supervision to workers who encounter clients who have experienced trauma in their lives. She also works part-time with the Melbourne based Western Region Centre Against Sexual Assault (WestCASA), most recently in the role of senior and clinical supervisor.

  • Professor Warwick Middleton
    Qualifications: MB BS, FRANZCP, MD
    Profession: Psychiatrist
    Based in:  Brisbane, QLD
    Professor Middleton holds appointments as Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health, La Trobe University, and Associate Professor in Psychiatry at the University of Queensland. He has made substantial and ongoing contributions to bereavement and trauma literatures and he chairs the Cannan Institute.
    In 1996 he was a principal architect in establishing Australia’s first dedicated unit treating dissociative disorders (the Trauma and Dissociation Unit, Belmont Hospital). He has had substantive ongoing involvement with:
    • research
    • writing
    • reviewing
    • editorial board membership
    • teaching (including workshops and seminar presentations)
    • conference convening
    • supervision of health and research professionals.


The following resources support the webinar:

Case study

Sonya— Complex Trauma: adult survivors of childhood abuse PDF [372 KB]


Complex Trauma: adult survivors of childhood abuse PDF [1.2  MB]

External resources

Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) workshops

Recommended readings

Participants who attended the webinar provided the following feedback:

Learning needs

93% indicated their learning needs were met (45% entirely met, 48% partially met).

Relevance to practice

95% indicated this activity is relevant to their practice (68% entirely relevant, 27% partially relevant).

Practice change

72% of participants were intending to make some change to their practice as a result of watching the webinar.

This webinar was produced in September 2011. The Mental Health Professionals’ Network’s webinars are produced for mental health professionals. The information is intended for suitably-experienced mental health professionals and does not replace clinical judgement and decision making. It is intended for use as a guide of a general nature only and may or may not be relevant to particular patients or circumstances. The subject matter is not exhaustive of any mental health conditions presented. Health professionals implementing any recommendations contained in the webinar must exercise their own independent skill or judgement or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular circumstances when so doing. Any information presented in the webinar recording was deemed relevant at the time of the live event and after this date has not been reviewed. No guarantee can be given that the information is free from error or omission.

Accordingly, MHPN and its employees and agents shall have no liability (including without limitation liability by reason of negligence) to any users of the information contained in any MHPN webinar for any loss or damage (consequential or otherwise) cost or expense incurred or arising by reason of any person using or relying on the information contained in MHPN webinars and whether caused by reason of any error, negligent act, omission or misrepresentation of the information.