Speech pathologists play an essential role in the multidisciplinary team supporting individuals who have experienced trauma.
If experienced in the childhood years, abuse or neglect is called ‘complex’ or ‘developmental’ trauma. This type of trauma includes any form of maltreatment experienced by children including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, neglect, and witnessing family and domestic violence. These experiences for children can impact the way their brains grow and develop as well as how they approach relationships.
Complex trauma can result in children experiencing difficulties across different areas of their development, including their communication skills. Research has identified that most children who have experienced complex trauma have more difficulties with their communication skills than other children their same age. Therefore, speech pathologists have a critical role to play in supporting children and young people who have been affected by trauma.
Trauma can also be experienced by people with neurodivergent conditions, disabilities, mental health needs, and communication and swallowing difficulties, where the stress they experience as a result of their conditions/needs overwhelms their capacity to cope.
War veterans, refugees, those exposed to natural disasters, and others who have undergone terrifying experiences can also experience trauma that may affect their speech, language and communication skills. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to experience trauma as a result of colonisation and its ongoing impact.
Considering the high co-morbidity of trauma, mental ill-health and communication difficulties, speech pathology plays an essential role in the delivery of therapeutic services to individuals who have experienced trauma.
More information about speech pathology in mental health services is available on this website.
A Position Statement and Practice Guideline on trauma is currently being developed.
Information for the public, including links to training resources for mental health clinicians, is available on this website.