Helping practitioners address complex veteran needs


The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) recognises that a significant number of military veterans suffer from multiple and complex mental health and related issues, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol abuse, anger, depression, family breakdown, and financial problems.


The Case Formulation online training program aims to develop the skills of Australian mental health practitioners to ensure that veterans with complex needs and their carers receive high quality treatment and care.


Between 2008 and 2010, Phoenix Australia ran a national training program for mental health practitioners working with veterans. We identified a competency gap among practitioners to be able to ‘think through’ and conceptualise complex cases in order to plan effective treatment. Many practitioners reported feeling unsure about how to develop a ‘road map’ of where treatment should start, and what the priority treatment targets should be.


The Case Formulation online training program introduces a case formulation model to help practitioners tease out and organise the information gathered during the assessment phase about the client’s presentation and history. The practitioner and veteran can then work together to set initial treatment goals and decide on the best approach to achieving those goals.


The program provides training on a theory-based framework to better identify treatment targets, in particular those factors that are presumed to be central to maintaining the veteran’s distress and impairment. The program also reinforces many good practice points of effective mental health treatment for veterans, such as the need for a comprehensive assessment, ongoing risk identification and management, the advantages of working collaboratively with a client, and an emphasis on evidence-based treatment and interventions.


Helpful, practical tools support the learning and adoption of case formulation, and additional resources are provided to help practitioners in their work with veterans.


The Case Formulation online training program was launched in May 2014 by Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. It is available through DVA’s At Ease training portal,


The online training is interactive and engaging. The case formulation approach is explained with the aid of interviews with experts; videos demonstrate the use of case formulation; and practitioners are able to practise case formulation through exercises based on veteran case studies.