Young people with complex trauma – keeping them Connected when they “just want to be at the beach”

Ms Kate Headley1, Ms Sophie Phillips1, Ms Kelsey Stalker1

1LINKS Trauma Healing Service, Family And Community Services NSW, Charlestown, Australia

In October 2017 the LINKS Trauma Healing Service commenced a 3 year pilot study offering multidisciplinary trauma treatment for children living in Out Of Home Care (OOHC) in NSW. The service delivers a range of evidence-based trauma interventions combined with allied health services, for children aged 16 and under living in OOHC.

Occupational Therapy and Speech Pathology services have focused on improving quality of life outcomes for young people through consumer-centred goal prioritisation, discipline-specific screening, connecting young people with service providers and strengthening caregiver capacity. Difficulties engaging in education, community activities and social networks have been identified as themes through clinical work.

In late 2018 the team identified the risk of young people disengaging with therapeutic services during the holiday period. This concern coincided with the allied health priorities of increasing engagement in meaningful activities, to promote health, wellbeing and connection with community. An allied health, carer and client-driven initiative enabled young people to participate in a range of leisure activities across the summer including Trauma Sensitive Yoga, Graffiti Art, Soccer, Creative Space, Rugby League and Surf Therapy.

Consumers self-reported therapeutic benefits of engaging in meaningful occupation within a social environment. Activities supported generalisation of skills targeted in psychological therapy, connection with peers and promoted interest in engaging with the external service providers, supporting sustainable relationships.

This presentation will outline the critical and practical considerations for development of a consumer-driven meaningful activities program. The qualitative therapeutic outcomes will be discussed and showcased through feedback provided by young people engaged in the program. The Occupational Therapists and Speech Pathologist will share their reflections of therapeutic benefits, the impact of consumer engagement and future considerations.


Kate Headley

Since graduating as a speech pathologist in 2001, Kate has been passionate about working with vulnerable populations. Kate has worked extensively in the disability sector delivering direct therapeutic interventions, clinical supervision, community capacity building projects and student education. Kate’s work across Western NSW has helped her develop her knowledge of the unique challenges faced by allied health providers living in rural and remote communities. Kate is a certified Key Word Sign presenter and a trainer in Inclusive Communication and Behaviour Support. Kate currently works as part of a multidisciplinary team providing trauma treatment to children living in Out of Home Care.

Kelsey Stalker

Kelsey grew up and studied Occupational Therapy in New Zealand. She graduated in 2011 and worked in CAMHS in Auckland for 8 years. During this time Kelsey discovered two areas she is highly passionate about, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and Outreach work. She is highly motivated to increase access to healthcare for vulnerable populations within a sustainable, community based and culturally appropriate framework. In 2018 she moved to Newcastle NSW, and began working with the LINKS Trauma Healing Service. Here she is relishing the opportunity to combine evidence based practice with Occupational Therapy in the role of Mental Health Clinician.

Sophie Phillips

Sophie’s interest working with disadvantaged communities commenced with university placements in primary health care, mental health rehabilitation and paediatrics. Her career commenced as an occupational therapist in forensic mental health in Melbourne.  She then worked as a family therapist in the areas of child protection and disability. After having three children, she returned to occupational therapy in acute mental health. Her current position as an occupational therapist with the LINKS Trauma Healing Service aligns with her values of family centred practice, community based service delivery and working within a multi-disciplinary framework to improve the wellbeing of young people in out of home care.

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