PTSD psychologist talking to female client

Trauma and PTSD: what they are and what help is available

Humans are no strangers to experiencing traumatic events. At some point in your life, you might come across something that unsettles you, if you haven’t already.

Trauma can be caused by all kinds of events. This includes losing a loved one, witnessing an accident on the road, being assaulted or being emotionally or physically abused.

Trauma can be ‘triggered’ by what we see or hear in the media. It can also be triggered by neglect, having a near-death experience or witnessing or hearing a recount of another person’s traumatic event.

If you experience a traumatic event, you may find your mental health suffering for the first time, or existing symptoms getting worse.

You might notice changes to your mood, increased anxiety, preoccupation with certain thoughts or ideas and, sometimes, frustration and irritability.

All of this can add to the initial experience of trauma, creating a “vicious cycle”. One symptom may trigger another, or make an existing one worse.

Psychology and counselling can support you if you live with PTSD. A PTSD psychologist specialises in treatment for this disorder, and can help identify and manage the factors that contribute to your particular case and symptoms.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? How is it different to trauma?

A lot of people get trauma and PTSD mixed up. Some people even use the terms interchangeably, thinking of them as the same thing.

Even though they are not the same thing, they do relate to one another. However, there are some big differences between them that are worth remembering.


Trauma is usually defined as being exposed to an event that causes an emotional response. These events often relate to real or threatened death, injury or violence.

There’s a good chance that you’ve experienced trauma at some point in your life. Maybe it was the death of a loved one, or your home was burgled.

In a nutshell, trauma is an event that can happen to anyone, and make them feel hurt, injured, disregarded, unwanted and a whole host of other feelings.

If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, there’s a good chance you’ve recovered and it’s just a distant memory.

There’s also a good chance that you received support from your friends and family. You may even have received support from a mental health professional.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a label that describes a set of symptoms that you might experience in the long term after witnessing, or being part of, a traumatic event.

Assessments for PTSD can only be carried out by a medical or mental health professional. There’s a certain set of criteria that you must meet in order to be formally diagnosed with PTSD by a psychologist.

If you’re suffering from PTSD, you might find yourself increasingly irritable and anxious. You may also displaying low moods and have persistent memories or dreams of the traumatic event.

You might also find yourself feeling socially detached, like you can’t connect with loved ones or your friends. It’s also common to struggle with remembering parts of the traumatic event.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of symptoms. However, it demonstrates the impact PTSD can have on your life. Furthermore, it also shows the harm it can cause you if left unchecked.

How can a PTSD psychologist near me help?

The old saying that you can’t change the past is true. That means the memory of traumatic events causing your PTSD can never be erased.

However, the impact that these memories have on your daily life can be lessened. In fact, they can even be actively shaped by a lot of different factors.

Daily activities, thought processes, beliefs and social supports can all be put in place to make sure you thrive and overcome the impact of PTSD and the affect it is having on your life.

This is where psychologists can help and support your mental health journey.

Using evidence-based practices, psychologists can help you manage your PTSD symptoms following a traumatic event, both internally and externally.

Internally, psychologists can also help you with your thoughts, beliefs, feelings and psychological state.

Externally, they can help you with things like social supports, daily activities and actions, that might accompany internal methods of managing your PTSD.

What treatments can a PTSD psychologist provide me with?

Psychologists are trained to understand and respond appropriately to whatever PTSD symptoms you’re experiencing.

Even if they are not very common and haven’t been mentioned here, they will listen to your experiences and concerns, apply a number of evidence-based techniques and methods, and work with you to manage your PTSD so you can live your best life.

Some of the therapeutic approaches that can be applied include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common approach to dealing with a lot of mental health issues. In many cases, it can be used to treat PTSD.

The goal of CBT is to change the thinking patterns that may be causing or contributing to the symptoms you are experiencing.

CBT helps to reduce posttraumatic distress and the impact of symptoms with exposure to the traumatic material in a safe and graded way. This will allow you to process the trauma and move forward.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a highly effective, evidence-based treatment that can be used to relieve the symptoms of PTSD.

EMDR aims to reduce symptoms. It does this by changing how traumatic memories are stored within your brain so they no longer cause distress.

The method is fairly simple in its execution but based on neuroscience. A psychologist will lead you through a series of side-to-side eye movements whilst you recall traumatic events.

The goal, which is achieved over a period of time, is to process the traumatic events with an awareness that they are not happening now or anymore. EMDR also focuses on changing negative beliefs associated with the trauma to more balanced, adaptive beliefs about yourself, others, and the world.

For more information, you can visit EDMR Association of Australia or the EMDR International Association.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

ACT is a straightforward and effective therapeutic approach. It aims to help you accept what is out of your control, and commit to improving your life.

ACT aims to get you to open up to your inner feelings, whilst trying to live a meaningful life, not trying to escape or avoid the pain that traumatic memories bring.

These therapeutic approaches, along with a host of others counselling and psychological services, have been shown to reduce the impact of trauma or PTSD symptoms on a person’s daily life. Often, they also help reduce the symptoms themselves.

What’s next? Getting started with your PTSD psychologist

If you feel ready to seek the help of a psychologist, take a look at our team of registered and provisional psychologists. Our team of 80+ practitioners spans the entire country, and includes PTSD psychologists near you.

Alternatively, if you have any questions about Access Psych and what else we can do for you, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

When you’re ready, you can book an appointment online, speak to one of our friendly team on 1800 277 924 or email


The information provided in this Blog general in nature and is intended to be used for information purposes only. While we have tried to ensure the accuracy of the information published, no guarantee can be given that the information is free from error or omission or that it is accurate, current or complete.

 The information published is not, and should not be relied on as, health or treatment advice. The diagnosis and treatment of any mental illness requires the attention of a physician or other properly qualified mental health professional. If you are seeking diagnosis or treatment of any other mental illness, you should consult a physician or mental health professional.  You should not delay in seeking, or disregard, professional health advice because of something you have read in the Blog.