Talking Points with Dr Patricia Watson

Senior Educational Specialist for the National Centre for PTSD in the United States 



AIDR is pleased to present, Dr Patricia Watson, who will deliver the following presentations:

Psychosocial perspectives and practice supporting individual recovery after traumatic events
Sydney - Monday 20 February - 2:00pm to 4:00pm 
Melbourne - Thursday 23 February - 9:00am to 12:00pm (includes a panel discussion with Dr Rob Gordon, Clinical Psychologist and Professor David Forbes). 

Increasing community capacity to support psychosocial and behavioural health interventions following disasters 
Adelaide - Wednesday 22 February - 2:00pm to 4:00pm 
Hobart - Friday 24 February - 2:00pm to 4:00pm.



$25.00 per person
(light morning/afternoon tea provided)



You must have preregistered and paid to attend these events via the links below (cash at the door entries are not possible)


   Sydney, 20 Feb: Domain/Maroubra Rooms, Red Cross, St Andrews House, Level 4, 464 Kent Street.

   Adelaide, 22 Feb: Red Cross House, 212 Pirie Street.

   Melbourne, 23 Feb: State Library of Victoria, Village Roadshow Theatrette, entry via Latrobe Street.
   Hobart, 24 Feb: The Red Lounge, Red Cross, 40 Melville Street




Psychosocial perspectives and practice supporting individual recovery after traumatic events

A wealth of research and experience in the last two decades has led to the development of evidence-based and evidence-informed consensus guidelines and strategies to support the implementation of public mental health programs after terrorism and disaster. For instance, consensus guidelines have commonly recommended that any program being pragmatic, flexible, and appropriate, principle- and evidence-driven, maintain a focus on doing no harm, maximise local involvement and supports, use a stepped care, multi-layered approach to providing services, and provide a spectrum of services, including basic needs, assessment, psychological first aid (PFA), outreach and education, training and consultation, and treatment.  

The field has also yielded research data on disaster-related short term intervention models for both adults and children. For instance, there is evidence that various models of short-term cognitive behavioural interventions can reduce common post-disaster reactions for those who are experiencing distress or decrements in functioning. 

This session will focus on improving attendees' knowledge about advances that have been made in:

  • Clarifying risk, protective, and resilience factors
  • Early, mid term, and late short-term interventions for children and adults
  • Adaptation of interventions for cultural, ethnic, and minority groups
  • Improving the training of mental health and paraprofessionals to deliver services


Increasing community capacity to support psychosocial and behavioural health interventions following disasters

A number of evidence-based and evidence-informed strategies have been developed to support the implementation of public mental health programs throughout a number of different phases post-disaster. Psychological First Aid (PFA) aims to promote safety, attend to practical needs, enhance coping, stabilize survivors, and connect survivors with additional resources. It has been promoted by many consensus efforts as the most appropriate (and least likely to do harm) approaches to early intervention following disasters (Brymer et al, 2006; Bryant & Litz, 2009; Inter-Agency Standing Committee, 2007; Disaster Mental Health Subcommittee, 2009).

For the intermediate phase following disasters, Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR), (Berkowitz et al., 2010), was developed in response to the need expressed by disaster mental health programs for a follow-on intervention to PFA that addresses the barriers to more formal mental health treatment (Brewin et al., 2010; Delisi et al., 2003; Elhai & Ford, 2009; Fairbrother, Stuber, Galea, Pfefferbaum, & Fleischman, 2004; Jayasinghe, Giosan, Difede, Spielman, & Robin, 2006; Rosen et al., 2009; Smith, Kilpatrick, Falsetti, & Best, 2002). It is an evidence-informed, flexible, modular, skill-building intervention designed to help distressed individuals function better and manage their distress.

Increasing a community’s capacity to offer evidence-based public and mental health interventions in the immediate and intermediate phases post-disaster is one of the most challenging aspects of an effective post-disaster public mental health model (Hansel et al., in press; Ruzek, Friedman, & Murray, 2005). Combining direct training in empirically-supported treatments with ongoing consultation and supervision has been shown to successfully increase clinical competence in providers (Amsel, Neria, Marshall, & Suh, 2005; Hoagwood et al., 2007; Gleacher et al., 2010). Lessons learned from providing timely training to mental health and paraprofessionals in the immediate and intermediate post-disaster phases will be discussed.


Short Biographies

Patricia Watson, Ph.D. is a senior educational specialist for the National Center for PTSD, Assistant Professor at Dartmouth Medical School in the Department of Psychiatry, and former Assistant Director of terrorism and disaster programs for the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.

Prior to joining the National Center for PTSD in 1998, she was an active duty Navy psychologist for eight years, working with adults for four years, and children and families for four years.  She has co-authored the Psychological First Aid (PFA) Field Guide and the Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR) Manual, the Combat Operational Stress First Aid (COSFA) Field Guide, and Curbside Manner and Stress First Aid for Firefighters and Emergency Services Personnel, as well as co-edited three books on disaster behavioural health interventions, and numerous articles, guidance documents, and chapters on disaster mental health, combat and operational stress, early intervention, and resilience. 

Special areas of professional interest include: science-to-service interventions, early intervention treatments for trauma, trauma in children and adolescents, and growth aspects of trauma.  She serves on the Board of Psychology Beyond Borders, and as Vice President and Secretary of Mobility Without Barriers Foundation (MBWF).  Her education includes a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Catholic University, and a postgraduate fellowship in paediatric psychology at Harvard Medical School.

Patricia will be joined for a panel discussion by two Melbourne clinical psychologists specialising in PTSD:

A clinical psychologist, Dr Rob Gordon has spent the past 30 years working with people affected by emergencies and disasters. Rob was there in the aftermath of the Bali bombings and Christchurch earthquake, Black Saturday, the Canberra firestorm and, most recently, the Tasmanian bushfires, as well as many other large-scale disasters. He has advised the Red Cross and governments on how to assist individual people and whole communities as they rebuild and recover. His first-hand experience has helped many people affected by disasters to understand their reactions to trauma and grief, while his academic papers have contributed to new approaches to community engagement during the critical stages of recovery. Rob’s empathetic presence instils hope, while his stories and practical examples have supported thousands of people as they come to terms with their situation and their emotions. Years later, many people can still recount the reassuring words from Rob that helped them through the most difficult time of their lives.

Professor David Forbes is the Director of Phoenix Australia, and Deputy Head, Department of Psychiatry, the University of Melbourne. David is a clinical psychologist with extensive experience in the assessment and treatment of mental health problems following trauma, and he has worked in both acute crisis and continuing care settings across the community mental health system and in specialist traumatic stress services. David is an international expert in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and military mental health, with strong national and international links with other researchers and experts in the field. He was Chair of the Working Party for the inaugural National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) approved Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in 2007, and co-chair of the steering group for the revised Guidelines in 2013. David has published more than 110 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and sits on the editorial boards of leading international journals. He has been awarded in excess of $8 million in competitive research grants, and more than $6 million in research translation grants. David is a member of many advisory committees for governments and other organisations, including the Departments of Veterans’ Affairs and Defence, and the Australian Psychological Society. He has a strong track record in leading initiatives to improve outcomes for people affected by trauma through the translation of research into effective policy and practice. David is a passionate advocate for the use of evidence-based responses following trauma in order to reduce the mental health effects on survivors, their families and communities.




Sydney - St Andrews House

Melbourne- State Library

Adelaide - Red Cross Training Centre

Hobart - Red Cross Office