Available Call Today! 08 6555 7786

Understanding And Treating PTSD

Many of us encounter traumatic events in our lives that may change us in someway. On the more extreme end of the spectrum, some people undergo trauma that has a dramatic impact on their mental health, called traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fortunately, there is help available to help you make sense of PTSD.


How Is PTSD Triggered?

There are a range of different experiences that can lead to symptoms of PTSD and a need for treatment. These may include:


  • Rape and sexual assault
  • Childhood abuse
  • Neglect in childhood
  • Experiences in war
  • An unexpected death of someone close to you
  • Being the victim of a crime
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Natural disasters
  • A car crash or other transportation accident


PTSD can affect those who experienced these events, as well as those who have witnessed shocking things or were part of the effort to repair the damage. These particular experiences are not the only events that can trigger the onset of PTSD – each person is unique, and each sufferer has their own individual history that explains their symptoms.


What Are The Symptoms Of PTSD?

Everyone reacts to trauma and PTSD in a unique way, but there is a common set of symptoms that are recognisable in the condition. These symptoms may begin to appear in the hours immediately following the traumatising event, or they may take many years to develop. They include:


  • Flashbacks to the event or intense memories that create intrusive thoughts, distress and an intense anxiety response
  • Nightmares
  • Increased general anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, frequent illness
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Panic attacks
  • Hypervigilance, constant feeling of being on alert


The signs of PTSD in children tend to present quite differently. A child may become more clingy, regress in their emotional or physical development, develop new anxieties or fears that they didn’t display before, find it difficult to sleep, suffer from nightmares, or act out with behavioural problems.


How Is PTSD Treated?

Although PTSD is a complex and difficult mental illness to struggle with, there are treatments available. If you or your child is struggling with PTSD after an upsetting experience, professional help should be sought as quickly as possible. A trained counsellor can work with the person suffering, to go through their feelings around the event, develop new healthier coping skills to manage distress and manage the fallout that the illness can create in their relationships and general lifestyle.

How to prevent fall out from workplace investigation reports

It is critical that the workplace investigation report is perceived as procedurally fair by employees. Research demonstrates that employees will be more likely to accept the outcome of an investigation they do not like, if it is perceived as procedurally fair.

Protocols for procedural fairness in workplace investigations

  • Established procedures for investigation and resolution or reports
  • Consistently following procedures
  • The investigator is perceived as neutral and conducts the investigation in a neutral and unbiased manner
  • The reporting and accused are given plenty of time to have their side of the story heard
  • The investigator considers issues raised by all parties

The purpose of an investigation report

The purpose of the investigation report is to advise the decision maker of the following:

  • Did the alleged misconduct more likely than not occur?
    • And/or
  • Did the alleged misconduct more likely than not occur for an improper purpose?
  • If the alleged conduct occurred, was it a violation of policy?

Investigations may often have two purposes:

  1. Policy determinations – policies can be unclear, investigator needs to understand how the policies have been interpreted in the past.
  2. Legal determinations – should be avoided by non-legal professionals and even if you are a legal professional; avoid being a jury of one.

Tips for writing workplace investigation reports:

  • Start by creating a chronology of events as supported by subjects – use a chart where possible
  • Acknowledge all points of view in the chronology/timeline of events
  • Use neutral reference to all parties e.g., respondent and complainant as opposed to victim and perpetrator.
  • Cite the exact words used by subjects instead of describing what was said or done.
  • Document participation of the employer and all subjects interviewed.
  • Make clear report findings

Please note that it is critical that the above steps are followed to ensure an outcome that is perceived as procedurally fair to all parties.

If you would like more information about our investigation services you can access it here: A resolution workplace investigations or call 1300 ARESOLVE.

New protections for employees against bullying added to Fair Work Act – but how do you protect your organisation?

Changes to Fair Work Act mean greater protection for employees

There has been a significant increase in workplace bullying complaints in the last few years, particularly around the area of performance management or other situations where there are points of difference between employees and their supervisors. Changes to the Fair Work Act – are quite significant in terms of an employees’ right to redress following workplace bullying.

To protect yourself as an employer, you need to have the right policies and procedures and performance management systems in place.

Changes to the Fair Work  Act will mean that employees will be able to make complaints about bullying directly to Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying. This is the first time in Australian history that individual employees will have a clear statutory right of recourse to seek redress for workplace bullying.

The Commission has the power to make any order it considers appropriate (other than an order for payment of a pecuniary amount) to prevent the worker from being bullied at work.

The Commission may make the following orders against your organisation:

  • The people involved to stop the behaviour
  • Regular monitoring of the employer
  • Compliance with the employer’s workplace bullying policy
  • Provision of training to workers
  • Review of the bullying policy

How can you protect your organisation from these changes to the Fair Work Act?

As an employer it is critical that you:

  • Provide your managers with the skills to conduct performance management sessions and the soft skills to provide constructive feedback
  • Quickly and objectively respond to bullying complaints
  • Have a workplace bullying and grievance policy in place
  • Ensure staff are trained to handle investigations and complaints
  • Be able to demonstrate that the policies and investigation procedures have been followed

If you would like your employees to have the skills to conduct performance management meetings that motivate not infuriate employees or leadership development Ph: 1300 ARESOLVE for a free consultation.


Charming Corporate Snakes GMA Twilight drinks with Heidi Smith

GMA Twilight Drinks – “Charming Corporate Snakes” with Heidi Smith 

Friday 10th May 2013
5.30pm – 7pm
University Club of Western Australia
$10 members/$20 non-members (tickets at the door)

Heidi Smith is an organisational psychologist registrar and conflict management specialist with a dynamic breadth of conflict resolution expertise. Climbing the corporate world can be like playing a game of snakes and ladders; the roll of a dice can have you climbing heights but a turn of bad luck will see you on a downward trajectory. Using insights from social psychology research and the perspectives of individual and organizational conflict resolution, Heidi’s charming presentation will give you the resolution you need to see your game through.

More information is found in the attached flyer GMA Twilight Drinks with Heidi Smith

Surviving the Holidays After Separation

The school holidays can be a stressful time for most families, but for separated
families trying to juggle breaks and family commitments often results in conflict and stress. Children may miss out on time with one parent and families may experience disharmony about this.


Not all parenting plans are at risk, but even plans that may have been working may buckle under the pressure of deciding who has which days over Christmas. It’shard enough having to negotiate with your immediate family and extended family in addition to your ex-partner’s too.


Take the story of Paul and Christie who found themselves at loggerheads 2 years after separation. Their private agreement seemed to be working for a while, they had arranged for the festive season to be shared equally from year to year. This year however, Paul was invited to spend Christmas with his new girlfriend’s family interstate, but Christie was reluctant to relinquish her time with the children this year because she had already made holiday plans. Sarah and John reached a deadlock and couldn’t reach agreement. Their lawyers recommended family mediation.


With the help of a mediator Christie and Paul were able to develop a structured parenting plan that met the children’s needs and was flexible enough for their family lifestyles. The mediator assisted them to resolve issues with communication, time spent with the children, special days such as Christmas, relocation and financial matters that had been bothering them for some time.


Douja Elhajj is the principal mediator at A resolution. A resolution offers a timely, premium and affordable services. Contact 1300 ARESOLVE or visit aresolution.com.au for a FREE PARENTING PLAN.

Mediation in Workplace Bullying

Mediation in Workplace Bullying photo

With mediation being the popular first step to handle domestic violence cases, there were arguments as to whether mediation would be a suitable intervention for workplace bullying complaints as well. Both domestic violence and workplace bullying shared similar cycle of repeated events and that they leave the victims somewhat isolated and confused. The main approaches taken by organizations to respond to workplace bullying allegation has been mainly not taking it seriously and hesitant to get involved (Saam, 2010).

However, there continues to be a push on applying mediation as a possible avenue for the alleged aggressor and victims to negotiate and work their conflicts.

When a decision is made to use mediation in a bullying complaint, it is important for a mediator to pay attention toward the contributing factors of bullying in the workplace.

Figure 3 showed the contributing factors of workplace bullying and how they are interrelated in causing and allowing bullying to occur. These include:

1. Organizational Environment.

How the work is organized, the culture of the organization and the nature of the leadership are significantly related towards workplace bullying. Both victims and observers of bullying have reported high levels of role conflict and perceptions of contradictory expectations of the job/task at hand (Zapf, 1999).

2. Social Environment

A group social culture can contribute to predatory bullying when a target is being isolated from the rest of the group because of he/she coming from a different group. Victims of workplace bullying have complained of being stigmatized and find it difficult to connect with the rest of the group when they’re being picked on by one person from the group (Leymann, 1996).

3. Characteristics of Perpetrator and Target

The personality of both the aggressor and the target may contribute to bullying in the workplace. However, the target often does not acknowledge their role of the conflict. The distinction between the aggressor and the target can be tricky to make, with the target being identified as the first one to lodge the complaint (Jenkins, 2011).

In response towards these factors stated above, some of the recommendations for mediators in workplace bullying cases include:

1. Manage the power relationship between the parties

Both parties need to be aware of their rights and are informed on how the mediation process works. Support persons can be brought to help assist the target to not get so intimidated in the process (Jenkins, 2011).

2. Informing both parties that there are other options should mediation fail

Another way to help balance the power differences between the two parties is to inform them that mediation is not final and there is other option s that can be pursued, should mediation failed. In Australia, targets of bullying have the alternative to lodge a formal complaint outside the organization with an external government authority at any time (Jenkins, 2011).

3. Aware of the difference between bullying and other workplace conflicts

Mediators need to work closely with HR professionals, organizational psychologists and other workplace conflict management specialists to deal with bullying within the occupational health, safety and welfare perspective (Jenkins, 2011).

If the determining factors of workplace bullying are not dealt with, there is a strong possibility that the mediation is not going to be successful and there will be no settlement. Figure 3 illustrates a check list that can be used to identify possible systemic problems within the organization that may contribute towards workplace bullying (Jenkins, 2011).

We are experts in the workplace mediation process and organisational conflict resolution. A resolution workplace mediators and dispute resolution practitioners are conflict resolution professionals.

PH 1300 ARESOLVE to book an appointment now!

Mediation in Domestic Violence

Couple : Young and cool

Mediation is frequently mandated as a first step for divorce cases, custody and visitation. 50 to 80% of the marriages referred to court-based divorce and custody/visitation mediation programs involve domestic violence (Maxwell, 1999). The prime objective of mediation is to provide both parties of the dispute with a forum to be heard and to understand the other’s perspective. Mediation is designed to be a self-empowering process, with the decision-making is placed with both parties rather than in a judge or arbiter (Folberg & Taylor, 1984). Both parties ability to evaluate their situation and to make decisions about their own behaviours in settling the conflict determine the success of mediation. There has been significant success with the mediation process, with more than half of the mediation from an American survey in 1996 reported agreement rates exceeding 76% (McKinney, Kimsey, & Fuller, 1996).

However, mediation is based on the notion that both parties have a relatively similar degree of decision-making power in the situation (Lederach, 1995). If there is a power disparity between both parties, like most domestic violence cases do,  mediation is considered an inappropriate method of dispute resolution for situation (American Bar Association Family Law Section Task Force, 1997). Some of women’s advocate argued that mediation is inappropriate and dangerous to the abuse victim due to unequal positions between the victim and the aggressor. It is impossible to hold a fair, safe, or mutually acceptable settlement when the very nature of an abusive relationship is aggressive and terrifying (Bryan, 1992).

Some of the issues that mediators must consider if they are to deal with domestic violence cases include:

1. Recognize the incidence of violence against women

The critical first step, mediators must learn that violence against women is common, frequent and pervasive in our society. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identifies domestic assault as the most underreported crime in America – 10 times more underreported than rape (Hague & Malos, 1993).

2. Recognize the nature of intimate violence

According to statistics, women who are victims of crime are because of people who know them – their friends, partners or their acquaintances. Violence by strangers accounts for less than 20% of the violence directed toward women; meanwhile almost 30% of the perpetrators of rape and sexual assault are intimates (husbands, boyfriends, etc.) (Maxwell, 1999).

3. Recognize professional responsibility

Although a number of statistics reported that domestic violence is both pervasive and potentially dangerous, it is often not acknowledged by helping professionals, even those who deal directly with the victims. Studies examining whether female victims of domestic violence are accurately diagnosed by physicians have reported that fewer than 10% are accurately diagnosed (Mehta & Dandrea, 1998; Stark et al., 1981).

4. Recognize Dissociated Coercion

The effects of domestic violence are more than physical, as physiological hyper arousal, avoidance, and re-experiencing are some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often experienced by the victims (Maxwell, 1999). More research on the effects of chronic trauma such as domestic violence proposes that the harm to victims is even more complex than understood (Dutton, 1992).

In conclusion, underreporting and underestimating the full impacts of domestic violence have been the main challenge for professionals involve in domestic violence processing, including mediators. A mediator can expect that at least one out of four women that he or she sees will be suffering from trauma-induced reactions which means negotiating with her aggressor on anything resembling an equal playing field impossible (Maxwell, 1999).

In response towards the issues stated above, some of the recommendations for mediators in domestic violence cases include:

1. Separately screen all mediation participants for domestic violence using explicit questions.

Mediators are encouraged to look for nonverbal, verbal, and behavioural cues of violence. The basic component of mediation need to include explicit questions about the various ways the violence has materialized. Mediation training must provide the skills needed so that mediators can serve as knowledgeable and sensitive assessors of the incidence of domestic violence with basic knowledge of domestic violence (Maxwell, 1999).

2. Understand that the violence from the relationship cannot be mediated.

During a domestic violence case, often there is a disparity of power between the aggressor and the victim and it cannot be mediated. However, continuing interaction and contact between the two parties is often inevitable. Mediators can arrange specific behavioural agreements (such as visitation right, etc) in mediation if both parties can negotiate without the victim being frightened into silence (Maxwell, 1999).

3. Ensure all voices to be heard – for both parties to tell their side of the story

The mediator’s ultimate task is to gain both party’s confidence and trust and to ensure a safe space for open communication between the two can materialized. However, mediators need to be truly aware all the possible issues which could affect the mediation process. If eventually the case proved to be too fragile to mediated, referral to legal representation and advocacy services is better be done sooner rather than later (Maxwell, 1999).

Psychological Cycle of Workplace Bullying

The model of Employee Emotional Abuse (EEA) showed that there is also a cycle of stages for abusive relationship in the workplace. The model proposed a six-stage cycle that shows (a) understanding the dynamics of abuse, (b) realizing the indicators of abuse, (c) controlling or stopping the abuse, and (d) predicting the development of unchecked abuse.



















Figure 1. Model of Employee Emotional Abuse (EEA) (Lutgen-Sandvik, 2003, Figure 1).

The stages are meant may vary depending on the situation, and are intended to be illustrative of the progressive and escalating nature of workplace emotional abuse.

Stage 1: Initial Incident (Cycle Generation)

The model proposed that when there is a conflict between superiors and subordinates, it is more likely to be resolved in favour of the superior (Spender, 1984). This can usually be seen during the initial incident, an event that triggers the cycle of abuse in motion. Examples of triggering events include getting a new boss, a conflict over work or clash of personalities. An employee may argue or disagree with his or her supervisor, fail to do a task within the time frame, call in sick or get caught gossiping about the supervisor behind his or her back. Eventually, the employee act or performs in a manner interpreted as unacceptable in the principal view of management.

This initial incident becomes emotional abuse when there is an aggressive communication from superiors toward the employee, and it continues. When the substance of the incident is not dealt with directly and the issues are not handled constructively, the emotions related to the conflict may linger and escalate (Wyatt & Hare, 1997). EEA moves from the initial incident (Stage 1) to Stage 2 when the supervisor repeatedly uses disciplinary procedures that hide the abuse when it is intended to improve performance.

Stage 2: Progressive Discipline

Emotional abusers can be particularly skilled at appearing to provide constructive feedback because the organization formally requires it. Managers can go to extremes to build a case against the target to suggest that the disciplinary action is done justifiably and reasonable. Abusive managers are inclined to systematically distort these communicative processes if they want to get rid of an employee. When the more powerful member creates the documenting language, they author the formal record of “what occurred.” This form of chronic criticism more likely to unnerves targets (Lockhart, 1997) and results in further poor performance that justifies the initial claims of incompetence (Wyatt & Hare, 1997).

Abuse can be reframed as progressive discipline often begins in a subtle manner with casual comments about work performance. The initial criticism would be a verbal one before more complaints about work are expressed without stating the desired changes (Tracy, K.,Van Dusen, & Robinson, 1987). These criticisms would then be followed by written documentation that becomes a part of the employee’s personnel record. This escalates into Stage 3 as targets begin to feel intimidated and fearful over the repeated criticism and misused progressive discipline process.

Stage 3: Turning Point

During this stage, the abuser’s communication becomes increasingly negative, personal, and bombastic. The repetitive criticism shifts the focus of disciplinary action from performance improvement to target for removal. When targets attempt to give an explanation, the abusers often reframe the situation and describe it very differently from the target’s version. Abusers would often brand the target as troublemakers or problem employees. When target can no longer tolerate the abuse and decide to report to the upper management, the cycle of abuse continue into Stage 4.

Stage 4: Organizational Ambivalence

Most research indicates that targets usually do not inform upper management (Lockhart, 1997; Beasley & Rayner, 1997). Research also found that when targets inform upper management about abuse, they are generally hesitant to get involved in the problems between supervisors and their subordinate staff (Harlos & Pinder, 1999; Namie & Namie, 2000). Targets learn that the organization is not going to do much about the problem and decide to stop pursuing the matter and stay silent. When upper management fails to intervene and prevent further abuse, the cycle progresses to Stage 5.

Stage 5: Isolation and Silencing

During this stage, the target finds him or herself with no options left for resistance of making sense of the abusive communications. Targets are also often silenced and separated from support as most co-workers do not speak up in the face of collegial abuse. Employees learn that it is not safe to express their view, as it is reconfirmed by upper management’s lack of response on the existing abuse case. Targets would report feeling isolated and alone in their situations with no help or understanding from inside or outside the system (Wyatt & Hare, 1997). Eventually, when the target can no longer tolerate the situation, they usually leave the organization if they have not left at earlier stage.

Stage 6: Expulsion and Cycle Regeneration

Expulsion of the target does not end the cycle of workplace abuse for organizations, abusers or other targets. The organization’s lack of response to allow and listen to alternative voices indicates to the employers and management that abuse is a supported norm of the organizational culture. As illustrated by figure 2, the cycle regenerates after a brief calm period.

Between the cycle of abuse from domestic violence and the model of EEA from workplace bullying, two major similarities comes across. The first is that both are cycles of repeated abusive behaviours which comes and goes against the target. This causes the target to be unsure and confused on what to do and how to proceed. The second is that both cycles usually result in the victims being isolated and feel helpless. Domestic violence’s victim often develop learned helplessness and battered women syndrome, while victim of workplace bullying often feel so isolated at work that they choose to leave.

Psychological cycle of Domestic Violence

The cycle of abuse is a social cycle theory developed in the 1970s to explain patterns of behaviour in an abusive relationship. The fundamental idea of the theory is abusive relationships are characterized by a predictable repetitious pattern of emotional, psychological or physical abuse (Walker, 1979). The cycle usually goes in the following order and will continue on until the conflict is stopped, usually by the survivor entirely abandoning the relationship. The cycle can occur from a few hours to a year or more to complete. However, the length of the cycle usually reduces over time so that the “making up” and “calm” stages may disappear.

1. Tension Building Phase

This phase occurs before an abusive incident. It is characterized by passive aggression, poor communication, rising interpersonal tension and fear of causing outbursts in one’s partner. During this phase, the victims may attempt to modify his or her behaviour to avoid triggering their partner’s outburst.

2. Acting-out Phase

During this phase, outbursts of violent and abusive incidents may happen. The abuser usually attempts to dominate his/her partner with the use of domestic violence.


3. Reconciliation/ Honeymoon Phase

This phase marks an apparent end of violence, with the aggressive partner attempts to assure the victim that it will never happen again and that he/she will do his/her best to change. During this phase, the abuser feels overwhelming feelings of remorse and regret or at least pretends to. Some abusers try to win the victims over with apparent display of love and affection, or use self-harm and threats of suicide to gain sympathy and prevent the survivor from leaving the relationship. The dynamic that often occurs in this situation is that the abusers are often so convincing and the survivors eager for the relationship to improve. Eventually, the survivors are often worn down and confused by the previous abuse and the subsequent display of love by the abusers. Therefore, some survivors choose to stay in the relationship.

4. Calm Phase

During this phase, the relationship is relatively calm and peaceful. However, interpersonal conflicts and difficulties will inevitably arise and lead again to the tension building phase.

Sustained periods of living in such a cycle may lead to learned helplessness and battered person syndrome (Walker, 2000). A pattern of repeated abuse lead battered women to believe that they are powerless to change their situation. The original learned helplessness studies reported that the dogs in the studies that did not know when they would be shocked next, were powerless to control this punishment, and who ultimately failed to attempt to escape from escapable shocks (Overmeir & Seligman, 1967). In comparison, battered women who are abused repeatedly, unpredictably, and uncontrollably learn to become helpless and to assume that they have no control over their situation. Therefore, abuse leads to the development of learned helplessness, which in turn results in the syndrome of Battered Women Syndrome (Palker-Corell & Marcus, 2004).

Profile of the Bully and the Victim of Bullying

According to WBTI research, 71 percent of bullies are in higher positions in comparison to their targets (Namie, 2003). Most bullies in the workplace have been reported to be bosses or superiors. A small proportion of bullies (4 percent according to the American Psychiatric Association) may have genuinely disordered personalities – antisocial or narcissistic, but the rest are simply scheming competitors who exploit their obliging targets (Salmivalli, 2009). There are four categories of bullies based on the tactics used when abusing targets in the workplace:

Profile of the bully

1. The Screaming Mimi

This type of bully typically manipulates the state of emotion for everybody in the office. This bully would disrupt the mood of the office with unpredictable mood swings and publicly embarrassed the target to show his/her power. He/She would stop short of physical violence, but is so volatile that the target would fear him/her the most.

2. The Constant Critic

This type of bully is a super-critical nitpicker. This bully would obsess over even the most miniscule details of the target’s work and would resorts to name calling if necessary. This bully also complains a lot about everyone else’s ‘incompetence’ and prefers to belittle the target behind closed door.

3. The Two-Headed Snake

This type of bully likes to climb up the organization rankings and reserve brutality for those below. This bully reduces the reputation of targets to boost their own self-image. He/She would spread rumors  divide and conquer the staffs, and try to turn co-workers against the target.

4. The Gatekeeper

This type of bully likes to control the target with as much restrictions (time, money, etc) as possible to ensure the target’s failure. Therefore, this bully would have a reason to complain about the ‘performance issues’ with the target (Namie, 2003).

In the meantime, individuals who lack self-confidence or sufficient conflict management skills are likely to be targets of workplace bullying. Studies investigating the causes of bullying at work found that people who avoid conflicts and lack social skills are the ones that most likely being a target of bullying (Zapf, 1999; Coyne et al., 2000). People who are characterized as overachievers may also fall prey to a workplace bully because the bully may feel threatened by the target’s competence (Zapf & Einarsen, 2003).