Trauma takes many forms

Dr Stephen Malloch, Professor Else Guthrie, A/Professor Loy Mclean and Dr Anthony Korner.

When we think of trauma, we normally associate it with patients in the emergency department or suffering severe injuries.

This is true, but there is another form of trauma – hidden complex trauma – where people have a significant experience of trauma during their childhood.

This condition was recently addressed at the sixth annual Westmead Psychotherapy Program for Complex Traumatic Disorders Conference, attended by more than 70 clinicians and staff.

Westmead psychotherapy program director Anthony Korner said people with complex trauma generally have difficult experiences as adults, often having trouble ending relationships, which can lead to emotional pain.

“One of the things that needs to happen in psychotherapy is a movement towards a different, gentler kind of ending, where both parties mutually agree and the door is left open for further contact,” he said.

“If separations are experienced in a substantially different way, that takes into account the person’s needs, this can be a transformative aspect of therapy.”

Leeds Institute of Health Sciences and University of Leeds United Kingdom Professor Else Guthrie spoke of the value of the “goodbye letter”, while Westmead psychotherapy program research associate Dr Stephen Malloch spoke of the way humans communicate emotionally and musically – similar to the interaction between mothers and their babies.

Professor Else Guthrie

Trauma survivor Bradley Foxlewin gave a moving account of his own trauma of ending relationships and his gradual journey towards healing through psychotherapy.

Westmead psychotherapy program Associate Professor Loy Mclean gave a compelling clinical summary and ended her presentation with an original song called Old House, written at a time of transition in her personal and professional life.

For more information about the Westmead psychotherapy program, contact Anthony Korner on 9840 3335 or Anthony.korner@health.nsw.gov.au

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