International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

ISTSS Task Force Guidelines Play Important Role in International Trauma Training

Posted 1 March 2003 in StressPoints by Stevan Weine, Yael Danieli and David Eisenman, for the Task Force on International Trauma Training

International trauma training occurs when professionals with expertise in trauma mental health train local practitioners to respond optimally to trauma-related problems in the international arena. The ISTSS board created the Task Force on International Trauma Training in November 1999 to address this increasingly common activity. The overall goal of the task force is to advance international trauma training as it currently is practiced.

The task force began this work by writing guidelines. The task force engaged in a one-year dialogue on the practice of international training, drawing upon field experience, literature review and consultation with key informants. This statement was prepared on the basis of shared dialogue, consensus decision making and a writing process involving all task force members. It was disseminated for review to more than 200 professionals in more than 60 service and academic organizations. Written and oral suggestions were incorporated and revisions made on the basis of consensus. The "Guidelines for International Training in Mental Health and Psychosocial Interventions for Trauma Exposed Populations in Clinical and Community Settings" was approved and accepted by the ISTSS board of directors and published in the peer-reviewed journal Psychiatry in Summer 2002.*

These guidelines address four dimensions: 1) values; 2) contextual challenges in societies during or after conflicts; 3) core curricular elements; and 4) monitoring and evaluation. They aim to improve international training in mental health and psychosocial interventions for trauma-exposed populations by providing principles and strategies intended to steer those who seek informed recommendations, by generating focused debates on areas where there is yet no broad consensus, and by stimulating research and inquiry.

The task force is using the guidelines as means for advancing the dialogue on international trauma training in several sectors--within ISTSS, within other professional societies, with professionals in other relevant service and academic organizations, and with consumers. The guidelines are being widely distributed, used in trainings and teachings, and posted on the ISTSS Web site at www.istss.org/terrorism/guidelines_for_ trauma_training.htm.

Because the guidelines are endorsed by ISTSS, it is important that ISTSS members be familiar with them, especially those involved in international trauma training. Task force members have observed that the guidelines are highly relevant for those contemplating trainings in New York City post-9/11. Although Manhattan and Prishtina, for example, could not be more unlike, many of the most important challenges and risks for trauma training are surprisingly similar. The task force guidelines provide a framework for addressing these challenges and risks.

The task force believes that through dialogue and collaborations with NGOs and academic and research institutions, we will advance our primary aim. We are proud to report on one such collaboration. The ISTSS task force asked David Eisenman, MD MSHS, of UCLA School of Medicine and RAND Corporation, to lead a working group on adapting and specifying the task force's guidelines for use in training primary care providers. RAND agreed to collaborate and is funding the ISTSS/RAND International Trauma Training for Primary Care project with $35,000. An additional $5,000 in matching funds is coming from a foundation grant to the University of Illinois at Chicago International Center on Human Responses to Social Catastrophes. With the help of current task force members, Eisenman has recruited several international experts in primary care and trauma who will work with the existing task force on this project. Results of the project are expected in time for the annual meeting in 2003.

The task force recognizes that it is only through collaboration that it will move toward its goal of advancing and improving international trauma training as it currently is being practiced. It depends upon ISTSS members and people from service and academic organizations to talk with us about their ideas, concerns and ambitions regarding trauma training.

The task force may be reached as follows: Stevan Weine at smweine@uic.edu; Yael Danieli at yaeld@aol.com; and David Eisenman at DEisenman@mednet.ucla.edu.

*Weine, S.M., Danieli, Y., Silove, D., van Ommeren, M., Fairbank J., Saul, J. (2002). "Guidelines for International Training in Mental Health and Psychosocial Interventions for Trauma Exposed Populations in Clinical and Community Settings." Psychiatry 65 (2), 156-164.