Conflict and Other Trauma Specialization

“Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering”
-Peter Levine

The Psychology of Conflict-Related and Other Trauma Specialization (sometimes referred to as the Psychological Trauma Specialization) offers two sub-specializations: a military/first responder track and a civilian track.

The military/first responder sub-specialization prepares students who are interested in learning more about trauma as a result of conflict and war and/or work in civil service roles such as EMTs, police officers, or firefighters. The civilian sub-specialization trains students who are interested in the causes and treatments of trauma in the general population.

Special core courses, sub-specialization courses, electives courses, and workshops prepare students interested in learning more about the causes and treatments of psychological trauma. In addition, concerns specific to therapist/ first responder are discussed, including those of burnout and vicarious traumatization. Additional emphasis is placed on the use of evidence-based treatment protocols. Successful completion of the specialization includes field clinical experience in an agency setting providing trauma-related mental health services to the civilian and/or military community.

The Psychological Trauma Specialization was first conceptualized in 2008. Dr. Daniel Bruzzone was instrumental in its creation and development, and has been its director since October 2010. (The program opened its doors to students in January of 2011.) Drs. Sara Lederer and Valeria Penela joined the team in May 2012, continuing the work to develop and expand the specialization.

Psychological trauma can occur when one has “experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others” (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV-TR], 2000). Events can include natural disasters, accidents, abuse, physical injury, bullying, etc. Psychological trauma impacts one’s ability to cope or integrate memories or feelings related to that experience. The nervous system can be affected in addition to the psyche.

The Psychological Trauma specialization prepares students to work with those who have experienced such trauma, in an effort to resolve and release its lasting effects.

“In my work, I have found that the suffering of emotional trauma pervades our clinical population, and its symptoms are often misinterpreted, leading to the possibility of misdiagnoses and failures in treatment. The clinical skills that our specialization students learn make it more likely that they will be able to correctly identify the source of emotional suffering in their patients, in order to provide them with proper and successful, treatment,” Dr. Dan Bruzzone, Director of the Psychology of Conflict-Related and Other Trauma Specialization.

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