FOCUS on preserving the things that can't be replaced, rather than material goods lost in the bushfires, an expert in post-disaster psychology has told government and community groups this week.
Rob Gordon, a consultant psychologist with the Red Cross, has been working in the disaster response field for 30 years and is in Tasmania to provide advice in a recovery process likely to take years.
A key requirement to recovery was for those impacted to re- establish a "new normal".
"The tendency for people when they've lost everything is to be absolutely focused on their material property and the need to replace it," Dr Gordon said.
"It is absolutely essential they get a capacity to live a normal life as soon as possible. If people put total focus on (rebuilding), they're inevitably going to neglect other important areas of their life - their relationships with their families, their recreational pursuits and all of the things that will really sustain them in the long term.
"Unfortunately there's a tendency to find that they've moved into a new house but the relationship's not working well. We know that there is an increased incidence of family discord, marital breakdown after disasters.
"You can replace a house anytime, it's about protecting what you can't replace."
The mental recovery goes through three stages.
The adrenalin phase kicks in immediately and can last up to six months.
During this time, Dr Gordon said people worked furiously to fix concrete problems.
But it's unwise for people to rush into long term decisions in this state.
"Those people that build fastest often do the worse. People have chucked up houses very quickly and then they say I don't like the house, I don't like the environment, I don't want to live here."
The adrenalin stage is followed by a period of chronic stress caused by problems that can't be easily fixed such as financial worries.
From his work after the devastating Black Saturday fires in Victoria, Dr Gordon has identified a third stage he calls the "identity crisis", which hits two or three years down the track.
"They solved practical problems but they didn't know who they were," he said.