Treatment trial for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at Flinders

Flinders PTSD Study


Here at Flinders University, students who are struggling with mental health problems have a couple of on-campus options available to them for support. The first is Health, Counselling and Disability Services, where students can access GP’s (e.g. to get a mental health care plan), Counsellors (including social workers and psychologists), and Disability Advisors. These services are free of charge.

A second option is the Psychology Clinic, which provides assessment and treatment of anxiety and related disorders in adults. Disorders include:

  • Specific phobias (fears of particular things or situations such as heights, storms and injections)
  • Generalised anxiety (a tendency to be worried in many areas of life)
  • Social anxiety (worry about interaction with others, which can result in selective mutism or not talking in certain situations)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (certain thoughts like being worried about germs and actions like washing hands that are repeated over and over)
  • Panic disorder (a fear of panic attacks)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (an ongoing reaction to a traumatic event like a car accident or assault)
  • Health anxiety (obsession with the idea of having a serious but undiagnosed medical condition)

Compared to services in the community, the prices for the clinic are cheap: $30 for an initial intake interview (90 minutes duration) and $20 per subsequent session (60 minutes duration). Further discount rates are available for Flinders University students.

The other option for treatment that students often don’t realise is available to them, is participation in research trials for particular mental health disorders.

One of those trials that is currently seeking participants is a trial of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, being supervised by Professor Reg Nixon in the School of Psychology.

PTSD is a disorder that can arise in people who have been through a traumatic event which threatened their life or safety, or that of others around them. This could be a car accident, physical or sexual assault, war or torture, or natural disasters like bushfires or floods. It also includes adult survivors of childhood abuse and survivors of domestic violence.

People with PTSD experience a range of symptoms: re-living and re-experiencing the event through unwanted memories/nightmares, being overly anxious and wound-up, avoiding reminders of the event, and feeling emotionally numb and disconnected. These symptoms can be debilitating and interfere with a person’s ability to carry on their everyday life, work and relationships. Some individuals turn to drugs and alcohol to manage the symptoms, which then becomes a separate but related problem.

CPT is a type of treatment that looks at the beliefs a person holds about their trauma, and whether those beliefs might be interfering with their recovery from the trauma. For example, an individual who has been sexually assaulted might hold beliefs about their responsibility for being attacked which leads to strong feelings of guilt and shame which hinders their processing of the trauma and their recovery.

There is already good evidence that CPT can be an effective treatment for individuals with PTSD.

What is unique about this trial, is that the researchers (Prof Reg Nixon and Psychologist Ms Marja Elizabeth) are comparing traditional CPT, with an enhanced version of CPT that includes ‘case formulation’. What is ‘case formulation’? ‘Case formulation’ means individualising the therapy to your unique needs. This might mean spending more time on post-traumatic issues that are specific to you, adjusting the length of therapy, or incorporating other therapies to address issues that are hindering your recovery (e.g. sleep problems, depression).

This means all participants in the trial will receive therapy.

How do I know if I am eligible for this study?
The trial is open to individuals who have a diagnosis of, and/or active PTSD. Some people will have already had a diagnosis from a medical or psychiatric professional. Other individuals, who have experienced a traumatic event and struggled since, might be undiagnosed. If you have, or think you might have PTSD, contact the study researchers who can discuss with you whether you are eligible via a brief phone interview.

Name: Ms Marja Elizabeth, Psychologist, PTSD Trauma Unit, Flinders University
Tel: +61 8201 5995

Want to comment on this article, or ask me a question about the health and well-being services available to you as a student?
Feel free to comment below, abuse me on Twitter (@Dr_Furber), contact me on Skype (search for ‘eMental Health Project Officer Gareth’), or email me (


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Flinders Research Studies Treatment Options

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