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.

Fact sheets

Learn more...

Podcast episodes

Learn more...

Professional-learning resources

Learn more...

Other useful materials

Learn more...

Fact sheets

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists has published the following fact sheets and resources on adversity and trauma:

Podcast episodes

Below are episodes recorded by Speech Pathology Australia for its Speak Up podcast relating to mental health. Subscribe to the podcast for future episodes.

S01 Episode 28: Complex trauma and communication: The speech pathology role with Kate Headley

S03 Episode 2: Working with young people who have experienced trauma – Kate Headley

S02 Episode 23: Accidental Counsellor PLUS - Mr Michael Burn

S04 Episode 28: Considering Adverse Childhood Experiences in Paediatric Speech Pathology - Sarah Verdon

S04 Episode 29: Screening for Unmet Needs in Paediatric Speech Pathology - Anna Kearns and Lauren Hamill

Below is a podcast episode from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: ASHA Voices: In the Schools, an SLP Responds to Trauma

Other professional-learning resources

The Speech Pathology Australia Learning Hub is the portal for accessing Professional Education offerings for speech pathologists. This includes face-to-face workshops, LIVE Online events, On Demand self-paced courses, Speak Up podcasts, webinars and more.

To access the range of education offerings relating to mental health and trauma:

  1. Log in to the Learning Hub. If you don’t have an account, you can make one by selecting ‘Create a new account’.
  2. Use the search bar to enter the key words ‘mental health’ or ‘trauma’. A list of the education offerings will be displayed.
  3. Select the ‘LEARN MORE’ button on the course(s) you are interested in.

NB. Professional Education is offered to Speech Pathology Australia members at discounted prices after signing into the Learning Hub.

The Lifeline x SPA: Accidental Counsellor PLUS: Supporting others and ourselves is particularly popular and runs regularly. Please search for available sessions on the Speech Pathology Australia Learning Hub.

Emerging Minds has developed a number of resources for a range of audiences including clinicians, parents/carers and educators:

Beyond Blue has developed a couple of mental health coaching programs that run over 6 sessions, are FREE and don't require a GP referral.

  • If you're an individual who would like to improve your ability to manage everyday life stresses such as work, study, relationships, health or loneliness, please see: NewAccess – mental health coaching
  • If you're a small business owner and keen to develop your skills around managing stress and overwhelm using straightforward problem-solving approaches, please see: NewAccess for Small Business Owners

Please note SPA does not recommend or endorse any specific non-SPA course so it will be important for you to assess whether they are likely to offer quality training and meet your unique learning needs.

Other useful materials

The American Speech-language-Hearing Association, the US-equivalent of Speech Pathology Australia, has the following articles available:


FAQs from SPA members: Trauma This graphic is associated with the hyperlink that precedes it and indicates the document is in PDF..