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24 March 2022

Triple P's trauma-informed approach in action

Family support and health agencies are keen to hear more about the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program’s role in a trauma-informed approach, with a webinar exploring real-life examples of strengthening the parent-child relationship attended by more than 86 people from 29 different health and family support organisations across Australia.

“The Triple P framework supports families and gives them predictability and consistency – it develops those really positive relationships and, in the end, that's what we want to focus on,” explained webinar co-presenter Andrea Slattery, Parent Coordinator at Gateway Health, Victoria.


The webinar was hosted by Nerissa Linklater, a Triple P Implementation Consultant who previously worked for one of Australia’s most highly regarded support service for vulnerable families, Berry Street, in Victoria.


Triple P programs are not used to treat trauma but are safe and effective tools to use within a trauma-informed approach to family support. Best-practice trauma-informed principles of empowerment, choice, trustworthiness, safety, and collaboration are neatly aligned with Triple P’s flexible, strengths-based approach and self-regulatory framework.


Parents are supported to develop specific skills to help build and improve their relationships with their children, create a safe and predictable environment, and consistently respond to day-to-day issues calmly, without using coercive parenting strategies.


Triple P Indigenous Implementation Consultant, Michell Forster, spoke about how healing intergenerational trauma is a key part of her work, and also discussed her work with refugee and immigrant families.


Among the case studies given was Andrea Slattery’s experience with a parent whose child was frequently angry and refusing to attend school. However, once the parent was given support to develop positive approaches, and both child and parent were empowered to agree on family rules together, the child’s chosen incentive was spending time with the parent – much to the parent’s surprise. As a result, not only did the family’s situation and the child’s school attendance improve, but “they developed an amazing relationship,” said Andrea.


Triple P Trainer Michael Herd also gave a case study of a parent who was surprised at how giving positive attention to her children created an almost immediate change to the family dynamic.


He also explored some of the common misconceptions about Triple P and how he works with services and practitioners to help address these. “It’s challenging, because if you look online, you’ll see a thousand different understandings of something like time-out, and things that aren’t the researched version. We actually have a responsibility to give parents under stress these very planned, safe ways to respond to behaviours, in a way that’s predictable for little people. The research is there, so it’s good if you can really understand it so you can make a decision for yourself about it.”


Triple P programs are used in settings such as domestic violence services, substance abuse treatment centres, homeless support services, intensive family support services and prisons, to help support and respond to trauma experienced by adults and children. They are also used in helping foster carers to calmly and effectively manage conduct problems, while building positive, safe and secure environments for young children in care.


Level 5 Triple P interventions include specific skills to help families with complex problems. These may include partner support, relaxation training, partner anger management, coping skills, and/or cognitive restructuring.


Triple P is one of only two programs recently given a “very high” evidence rating in a wide-ranging review of 26 different interventions designed to prevent or reduce the negative effects of ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences). There were seven other parenting programs and 17 other programs reviewed, and both the programs that were rated as having a very high level of supporting evidence were parenting programs.