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Trauma-informed care: Understanding complex trauma

CPD Hours



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Community and primary health care
Mental health
Working with vulnerable people
Practice fundamentals


Trauma histories are ubiquitous in Australian society and affect a large proportion of individuals accessing health care services. Accordingly, trauma-informed care is now a requirement in all areas of service.

However, disorders resulting from more severe complex trauma are still misdiagnosed frequently. Healthcare professionals reportedly lack information about complex trauma and its effects and presentations.

Acquiring an in-depth understanding of the pervasive impacts of complex trauma should thus be a priority for all health professionals to prevent the inappropriate and potentially harmful treatment of clients.

This module introduces the concept of complex trauma and explains its characteristics, pathophysiology, and long-term psychological and physiological consequences. It should be completed as a prerequisite to the discussion of implementing trauma-informed care in the following module in this series.

Learning Objective

At the end of this eLearning activity participants will be able to:

  • Discuss the characteristics, causes, and prevalence of complex trauma.
  • Describe the effects of toxic stress and the stress response.
  • Understand the psychological and physiological effects of traumatic experiences.
  • Recognise common presentations and diagnoses associated with complex trauma.
  • Explain the individual and societal impacts of adverse childhood experiences.
  • Appreciate the characteristics and effects of intimate partner violence.

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