President’s Column – Fall/Winter 2023
I am writing my last Presidential column on the heels of returning from APA in Washington, DC. I have to say that I think it was our best conference ever! To start, I was so moved, inspired, and energized by Dr. Thema Bryant’s theme, “You Belong Here,” with the fabulous presence of black and brown leaders spearheading APA’s opening session and the warm, welcoming tone it set for the conference.
For Division 56, I was in awe of all our presenters and the excellent job they did at our symposia, paper sessions, and posters. The attendance at our division-sponsored events was abundant, often overflowing to standing room only. Our invited speakers – Drs. Mary Ann Dutton and Steve Gold – hit it out of the park with such riveting and moving presentations and the audience was so engaged that you could hear a pin drop. Our suite programming covered a broad array of exciting and timely topics in trauma psychology and was the most attended it has ever been. Our suite social events and marvelous Awards Ceremony and Social Hour were so well attended, allowing us to chat, laugh, drink, and be merry in person – and together – after years of pandemic absences. I reveled in our collective enthusiasm and commitment to socialize and meet-and-greet with our students and ECPs – that was such a highlight! I hope you all continue to be involved in the division and share your energy with us.
Our Awards Committee was honored to receive a wide variety of impressive submissions this year, and I’d like to recognize our trauma colleagues who were nominated for the important work they are doing. We had seven accomplished winners that we acknowledged and celebrated at our Awards Ceremony and Social Hour in DC. I would like to share those winners whose work stood out among the rest.
Terence M. Keane, Ph.D., is this year’s recipient of the Division 56 Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Keane has been a pioneer in the field of trauma studies since 1979, when he established the first PTSD specialty clinic in the Veterans Administration and began his program of research. His work helped to establish PTSD as a potentially chronic disorder prevalent among military veterans and provided the foundation for understanding PTSD as a serious public health problem in both military and civilian contexts. In the late 1980s, he helped establish the National Center for PTSD. Throughout his career, he has been involved in collaborative scientific research that has advanced the field of trauma psychology through the creation and validation of many of the most widely used PTSD assessment measures, as well as research on the successful treatment of PTSD. Dr. Keane has also advanced the field by providing strong support for training in trauma psychology. He serves as President of the American Psychological Foundation, which funds early career psychologists and graduate students using psychology to solve important problems and improve people’s lives. He is a founding member and a past president of Division 56.
Carmen P. McLean, Ph.D., is this year’s recipient of the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Practice in Trauma Psychology. Dr. McLean has dedicated her career to the research and application of exposure therapy for PTSD. Specifically, she has focused on addressing implementation barriers to providing exposure-based therapies, developing and testing accelerated exposure therapy formats, and developing and testing digital exposure-based interventions. One such example is “Renew,” a fully self-guided exposure-based mobile health application for PTSD that was found to lead to a reduction in PTSD symptoms. Dr. McLean’s work has led to her appointment to the APA Guideline Update Panel for the Treatment of PTSD in Adults.
Erin Hambrick, Ph.D., is this year’s recipient of the Award for Media Contributions to the Field of Trauma Psychology. Dr. Hambrick’s work has centered on the impact of potentially traumatic events on development and well-being throughout the lifespan, and she has communicated her research findings and expertise in trauma psychology to the general public through her multiple media contributions. Dr. Hambrick participated in a live interview broadcast on BBC World on the impact of disasters on children. She also served as a consultant for scriptwriters to inform a scientifically sound portrayal of trauma memories in a Hulu television series.
Rebecca K. Blais, Ph.D., is this year’s recipient of the Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Science of Trauma Psychology. Dr. Blais’s career has focused on military-related trauma exposure, with a particular focus on combat trauma and military sexual trauma. She has published over 75 peer-reviewed articles, and her work has been significantly impactful in informing the current knowledge base on the relationship between military sexual trauma and suicide risk. Dr. Blais is the recipient of a $1.5M grant from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs to study how military sexual trauma exposure in men and people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual relates to suicide risk both during and following military service.
Maryam Kia-Keating, Ph.D., is this year’s recipient of the Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Trauma Psychology. Dr. Kia-Keating is an internationally recognized expert on trauma and resilience in diverse communities and is a leader in the field for her work in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She has served on several American Psychological Association (APA) Presidential Task Forces throughout her career, including her current service on the Decolonial and Liberation Psychologies Task Force.
Philip Held, Ph.D., is this year’s recipient of the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Trauma Psychology by an Early Career Psychologist. As an Early Career Psychologist, Dr. Held has already made substantial contributions to the field, including 55 peer-reviewed publications and grant activity totaling 6 million dollars of funding, with $4 million as a PI. Dr. Held’s research focuses on improving the efficiency and efficacy of evidence-based treatments for PTSD, with a particular focus on intensive treatments. Dr. Held’s research has demonstrated that intensive PTSD treatment can be effective across comorbid conditions, including hazardous alcohol use, suicidal ideation, and moral injury.
Dr. Whitney Livingston is this year’s recipient of the Award for Outstanding Dissertation in the Field of Trauma Psychology. Dr. Livingston’s dissertation was an ambitious 2-study project, which included a meta-analysis on the association of military sexual violence and suicide and a path analysis examining the association of military sexual violence connectedness and suicide risk in men. She is publishing her study in Trauma, Violence and Abuse.
Division 56 has been providing an annual travel stipend of $1,000 for international students who are citizens of developing countries to attend the APA Convention. The annual stipend is a project of the International Committee to provide the recipients who are enrolled in a graduate psychology program and have a trauma-related poster or paper or who are a participant in a panel/symposium at the APA Convention. The recipients of the 2023 Travel Stipends are Julián D. Moreno, a citizen of Colombia who received his master’s degree in clinical and health psychology from the University of Los Andes in Colombia and is a doctoral student attending Boston University, and Asmita Saha, a citizen of India, who is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at Auburn University.
Finally, please join me in congratulating Division 56’s newly designated APA Initial Fellows, elected by the APA Council of Representatives. Heartfelt congratulations go to Dr. Mary Ann Dutton, Dr. Marylene Cloitre, and Dr. Barbara Niles. Attaining Initial Fellow status is a distinction that demonstrates evidence of unusual and outstanding contributions with national or international impact in the field of psychology and trauma studies in particular.
Trauma in Israel and Gaza
As this goes to print, we are currently still embroiled and affected by the recent acts of violence and brutal terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas on Israel, which we strongly condemn. The terror and suffering resulting from the recent violence, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza which does not seem to be resolving, and the ongoing instability and turmoil in the Middle East are horrifying and deeply unsettling.
This situation directly aligns with the core focus of our division, which is the field of trauma psychology. We – as trauma psychologists – have valuable contributions to make in addressing the significant trauma stemming from these events. Psychological science consistently underscores the broad range of traumatic consequences associated with war and terrorism, including feelings of fear, anxiety, panic, sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, and despair. Moreover, these traumatic experiences can have long-term effects on both physical health and emotional well-being.
Many individuals within our professional and personal circles have connections to the region, leading to intense emotional stress and chronic worry. As trauma psychologists, we know that war, hate crimes, terrorism, oppression, and discrimination against various groups, such as anti-Semitism and anti-Arabic rhetoric and behavior, are psychologically harmful and emotionally destabilizing. I continue to implore us – the leadership and membership of Division 56 – to leverage our trauma-informed and trauma-responsive expertise to provide compassionate support to all those affected by the tragic consequences of these events.
I also encourage everyone to be mindful of their own exposure to news and media content, as bearing witness to such atrocities and despair can result in significant traumatic distress. It is crucial for us not to willfully neglect to acknowledge acts of terrorism and inhumanity, as history has repeatedly done. However, it is essential to prioritize our own emotional well-being while engaging with these issues, enabling us to support ourselves and others more effectively and compassionately. Our communities are enduring a great deal of suffering, and we encourage you not to isolate. Reach out and connect with others. You are not alone.
May you have safety. May you have health. May you have peace of mind.
Dawn Hughes, PhD, ABPP