International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Keynote Addresses

Wednesday, November 7

Stephan Wolfert, MFA

written and performed by
Stephan Wolfert 

Directed by Eric Tucker 

Cry Havoc, a one-person play by a military veteran, seamlessly interweaves Shakespeare’s most famous speeches with personal experience to help us understand the national crises we face when we fail in reintegrating our veterans. More than 23 million men and women have been wired for war, but never unwired from war.

US Army, ’86-’93, Medic & Infantry Officer. Stephan left a career in the military for a life in the theatre after seeing Shakespeare’s Richard III. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Trinity Repertory Conservatory in Providence, Rhode Island. He was a cast member in the long running hit Sense and Sensibility produced by Bedlam in New York City. He has also appeared in Bedlam’s acclaimed production of Saint Joan. On Broadway, Stephan created and directed the military segments for Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel’s Tony-Award winning production Movin’ Out.

Stephan is currently a company member and the Head of Outreach for Bedlam in NYC. He is also the creator of DE-CRUIT: a program to reintegrate military Veterans using classical actor training.
Combining his own personal story of leaving the army and pursuing a career in the arts with Shakespeare’s writings on war, he created the solo piece Cry Havoc! which he has performed around the country. Frequently combined with public events for veterans, other performances of Cry Havoc have occurred at the Access Theater, Brooklyn Historical Society and Columbia University in NYC, Fourth Wall Theater, Syracuse University, Friends of the Semel Institute in LA and Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and many others. 

The organizations he runs and the performances of the solo show combine to share his passion for the idea that while we are very good at recruiting people into the military, we are far less skilled at de-cruiting them back into civilian life.  Don Aucoin of the Boston Globe has said “Stephan Wolfert commits himself body and soul to that mission in Cry Havoc!, and the result is riveting.”

Thursday, November 8

Richard A. Bryant, PhD
University of New South Wales,
Sydney, Australia

Why Social Factors Matter for Coping with Trauma

People typically experience trauma in social contexts. We are beginning to be more aware of how social factors impact how we experience trauma, how trauma influences our social behavior, and how we manage its effects. This overview will present experimental data on how social attachments affect core mechanisms underpinning trauma response. It will also present naturalistic data on the relationship between traumatic experiences and attachment security. The discussion will also address the role of attachments using social network analysis to understand how entire communities interact after trauma. This knowledge will be discussed in terms of the potential for the traumatic stress field to place greater emphasis on social factors in preventing and treating PTSD.

Professor Bryant is a Scientia Professor of Psychology at the University of New South Wales, and is Director of the Traumatic Stress Clinic. His work has focused on the nature, course, and treatment of traumatic stress and grief. His Traumatic Stress Clinic has conducted many studies using neural, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral paradigms. He has also conducted many treatment trials for acute stress disorder, PTSD, and prolonged grief. Professor Bryant has produced over 520 journals, 62 chapters, and 5 books. He served on both the DSM-5 and ICD-11 work groups for traumatic stress diagnostic criteria.

Friday, November 9

Marleen Wong, PhD
Suzanne Dworak Peck School of Social Work at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA

Trauma Leaves Children Behind: A Time for Social Justice, Public Policy and New Case Law as Mandates for Trauma-Informed Schools

In the past 20 years, researchers, intervention developers and clinicians have established the scientific foundations of the impact of violence on children’s behavior, academic achievement and overall development.  After the tragedy in Parkland, new school and community policies, class action lawsuits and a review of current school safety practices are needed to apply that science to restorative justice, trauma informed schools and social action.

MARLEEN WONG, PhD, is Senior Vice Dean at the Suzanne Dworak Peck School of Social Work at the University of Southern California.  She holds the Stein/Goldberg Sachs Endowed Professorship of Mental Health.  She also serves as Director of Field Education and Executive Director of the USC Telehealth Clinic.
Formerly the Director of Mental Health, Crisis and Threat Assessment Teams and Suicide Prevention Programs at the Los Angeles Unified School District, she has been engaged in a 20 year research partnership with RAND Health and the UCLA Partnered Health Research Center.  Identified as one of the "pre-eminent experts in school crisis and disaster recovery" by the White House and the "architect of school-safety programs" by the Wall Street Journal, she has developed school based crisis intervention and disaster response and recovery training in the US, and abroad.

Saturday, November 10

Pieter Ventevogel, MD, PhD
Senior Mental Health Officer,
UNHCR, the refugee agency of the United Nations,
Geneva, Switzerland

Mental Health of Refugees: Global Challenges and Opportunities

Almost one percent of the world population is forcedly displaced, among whom 22.5 million refugees. Most of them live in low-income countries with limited resources for mental health care. The lecture will describe current issues around refugee mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), including recent developments in research and conceptual models. The massive needs and the lack of resources prompt the use of a multi layered mental health approach that goes far beyond specialized clinical interventions. Within global refugee mental health, three important emerging practices can be distinguished, 1) community-based interventions that foster self-help and strengthen social connectedness; 2) scalable psychological interventions (brief psychotherapies) that can be delivered by trained and well supervised non-specialists, and 3) integration of mental health into general health care in refugee settings. These types of interventions will be briefly and critically discussed and illustrated with practice examples.

Pieter Ventevogel, MD, PhD, is a psychiatrist and a medical anthropologist. Since 2013 he's worked with UNHCR, the refugee agency of the United Nations, as their Senior Mental Health Officer based in Geneva. He provides technical support to refugee operations worldwide with frequent field missions, and is involved in policy development and capacity building around mental health and psychosocial support in refugee settings.

From 2008-2013 he was the editor-in-chief of ‘Intervention, Journal for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Conflict Affected Areas,’ published by the War Trauma Foundation. He worked with another Dutch NGO, HealthNet TPO, in mental health projects in Afghanistan (2002 – 2005) and Burundi (2005-2008) and as their Technical Advisor Mental Health in the head office in Amsterdam (2008-2011). In 2011 and 2012 he also worked as a psychiatrist with Arq Foundation, the national trauma expert centre in the Netherlands.

Pieter also regularly did consultancies for the World Health Organization in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria. He has been course director of several academic short courses such as the course ‘Culture, Psychology & Psychiatry’ (Amsterdam Masters of Medical Anthropology), the ‘Practice Oriented Course Mental Health & Psychosocial Support in Post Conflict Setting’ (HealthNet TPO, the Netherlands) and the annual course Mental Health in Complex Emergencies (Fordham University New York). In October 2016, he defended his doctoral dissertation ‘Borderlands of mental health: Explorations in medical anthropology, psychiatric epidemiology and health systems research in Afghanistan and Burundi.’

Saturday, November 10


Our Work Can Change the World: People, Policy and Pivotal Moments

Elmore Borbon, Diane, PhD MPH(left); Dyb, Grete, MD PhD2; Friedman, Merle, PhD3; Kudler, Harold, MD4; Lieberman, Alicia, PhD5

1UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
2Norwegian Center for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS), Oslo, n/a, Norway
3ADEC, Knysna, Western Cape , South Africa
4USA Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
5University of California, San Francisco - San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco, California, USA

Traumatic stress professionals contribute to significant advancements and changes in policy, practice, and societal well-being around the world. This plenary panel will highlight the groundbreaking work of four global ISTSS traumatic stress leaders who have affected significant societal change in areas including terrorism/disaster response and recovery, post-apartheid reconciliation, services and supports for Veterans and their families, and interventions and treatments for children exposed to domestic violence. Panelists will reflect on their pivotal successes in the field, discuss recommendations for successful collaboration, and provide recommendations for future directions for traumatic stress engagement and leadership. Time will also be allotted for the audience to pose questions to members of the panel. 

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