International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Results of Survey: Demographics, Trauma Training, Trauma Work Impact and Members of ISTSS

Posted 1 July 2004 in StressPoints by Teri L. Elliott, Stefan E. Schulenberg, and Jessica T. Kaster

Authors’ note: The authors acknowledge the assistance of Carrie Nassif, PhD, Joseph Miller, PhD, Erika Johnson-Jimenez, PhD, and Cheryl Gregg with data collection/data entry.

Previous studies have investigated the characteristics of mental health professionals (e.g., Elliott, Miltenberger, Kaster-Bundgaard, & Lumley, 1996; Norcross, Karg, & Prochaska, 1997a, 1997b). Yet, there is limited information available on trauma mental health personnel. Learning more about these personnel could more accurately pinpoint training needs. Based on a larger survey of ISTSS members (see Elliott, Schulenberg, Kaster & Peterson, in press), our current report focuses on the demographics and training of this population and the impact of trauma-related work on relationships and well-being.

In November 2000, ISTSS members as of July 2000 (N = 2,070), excluding three members familiar with the authors’ work, were mailed a packet that included the Field Trauma Questionnaire (1,591 mailed within the United States, 479 outside the United States). A global response rate of 20% was achieved (N = 407; 60% women; 83% Caucasian, 6% European). The Field Trauma Questionnaire (Elliott, 2001) is a 33-item questionnaire developed for this study, addressing demographics such as age, gender, race/ ethnicity and occupation, as well as items relating to trauma training, amount of time spent doing trauma-related work, the impact of trauma work on relationships, and populations worked with most frequently.

For a summary of selected demographics see Table 1 (due to various reports difficult to categorize, certain categories do not equal 100%). There was diversity in terms of age (M = 48.67, SD = 10.44), although not in terms of cultural background (74% U.S. residents, 83% Caucasian) or education (70% MD or doctorate). Not surprisingly, ninety-six percent work in the trauma field, with 38% going on trauma-related field assignments. About 54% spend up to half their professional time on trauma work (42% spend between half to all of their professional time on trauma-related work).

The majority of respondents work with adults (89%), with smaller percentages working with adolescents (21%), children (15%) and the elderly (6%). The majority of respondents work with child abuse survivors (71%) or rape survivors (55%), while smaller percentages work with veterans (36%), emergency service pro-viders (33%), disaster survivors (27%), refugees (16%), torture survivors (13%), perpetrators (11%), special needs populations, e.g., developmental disabilities (9%), and asylum seekers (6%).

When asked about the trauma treatment/intervention techniques used most frequently, respondents generated a wide range of techniques/interventions, with therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy/techniques (e.g., relaxation), psychoanalytic therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy being most common. Respondents also were presented with a list of 55 trauma-related techniques (e.g., Striegel-Moore & Slaikeu, 1990) and were asked to indicate the trauma-related training they received. Individual therapy (63%), cognitive restructuring (61%), anxiety management (55%), crisis intervention (55%), group therapy (55%), active listening (54%) and relaxation training (52%) were most common. Peace promotion (4%), vocational training (4%), testimony therapy (4%), massage therapy (3%) and music therapy (3%) were least common. (See Table 2.)

Relating to the impact of trauma-related work on relationships and well-being, using a Likert-type scale from -3 (extremely negative) to 3 (extremely positive), respondents’ ratings of physical health were slightly positive (M = 1.20, SD = 1.63), while ratings of psychological/emotional health were between slightly positive and moderately positive (M = 1.58, SD = 1.37). Respondents rated their profession favorably (M = 2.35, SD = .87). Trauma-related work had a neutral impact (M = .25, SD = 1.2) on their most current relationship (partner/ significant other), a neutral impact on other family relationships (M = .29, SD = 1.04) and a slightly positive impact on strongest/closest friendships (M = .62, SD = 1.19).

This study collected valuable data on the demographics, training and subjective self and relational well-being of trauma mental health personnel. Future studies should focus on comparing these data with those of other populations. Keep in mind, the survey took place before the September 11 terrorist attacks. This event likely would have had an impact on the training and practices in the field. Subsequent research may uncover more specifically the nature and extent of these changes.

Table 1. Demographics (N = 407)

Country of Residence
United States 74%
Canada 7%
Australia 5%
United Kingdom 3%
Netherlands-Holland 2%
Norway 1%
Sweden 1%
Other countries <1% each
   
Degrees Received
PhD (humanities) or MD 70%
Master's (unspecified, humanities) 20%
Other 10%
Primary Work Setting
Clinical practice 63%
Academia/research 15%
Medical settings 8%
Consulting 3%
NGOs 2%
Church settings/occupations 1%
Retired 1%
Current Work Title
Academic titles 22%
Psychologist 21%
Therapist/social worker 18%
Administrative (manager) 12%
Medical doctor/psychiatrist 6%
Occupation
Clinical psychologists 33%
Social workers 14%
Psychologists (counseling, unspecified) 12%
Doctors/psychiatrist 12%
Counselors/therapists 10%
 

 

Table 2. Trauma-Related training (N = 407)

Area of Training

n (%) of respondents
trained in the technique

Active listening
Addiction treatment
Anger management
Anxiety management
Art therapy
Assertiveness training
Behavior rehearsal
Bibliotherapy
Biofeedback
Breath control
Child psychology
Cognitive restructuring
Community building
Community leader mobilization
Conflict management
Crisis intervention
Critical incident management
Cultural sensitivity training
Debriefing
Deep muscle relaxation
Defusing
Diet and nutrition
Disaster preparedness
Family therapy
First aid
Grief counseling
Group therapy
Hypnosis
Imagery
Implosion/flooding
Individual therapy (exploratory or supportive)
Interpersonal skills training
Marital/couples therapy
Massage therapy
Meditation
Modeling
Music therapy
Needs assessment
Pain control
Peace promotion
Problem solving
Psychiatric medications
Psychological support
Relaxation training
School intervention
Stress inoculation training
Stress management
Suicide assessment
Systematic desensitization
Testimony therapy
Thought stopping
Traditional healer methods
Trauma training
Vocational training
Yoga

219 (54)
106 (26)
162 (40)
225 (55)
59 (15)
157 (39)
95 (23)
82 (20)
55 (14)
134 (33)
76 (19)
247 (61)
49 (12)
22 ( 5)
95 (23)
224 (55)
169 (42)
132 (32)
174 (43)
164 (40)
82 (20)
49 (12)
64 (16)
167 (41)
54 (13)
152 (37)
222 (55)
136 (33)
163 (40)
78 (19)
256 (63)
102 (25)
136 (33)
12 ( 3)
92 (23)
57 (14)
11 ( 3)
74 (18)
53 (13)
17 ( 4)
169 (42)
98 (24)
145 (36)
211 (52)
44 (11)
96 (24)
198 (49)
195 (48)
161 (40)
17 ( 4)
135 (33)
29 ( 7)
158 (39)
19 ( 4)
33 ( 8)

For more information contact Stefan Schulenberg at sschulen@olemiss.edu.

Teri L. Elliott, PhD, is an international trauma consultant and trainer living in Harvest, Alabama. Stefan E. Schulenberg, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Mississippi. Jessica T. Kaster, MS, is a therapist at Lakeland Mental Health Center Inc. in Moorhead, Minnesota.

References

Elliott, A.J., Miltenberger, R.G., Kaster-Bundgaard, J., & Lumley, V. (1996). A national survey of assessment and therapy techniques used by behavior therapists. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 3, 107-125.

Elliott, T.L. (2001). Field Trauma Questionnaire. Unpublished questionnaire, The Disaster Mental Health Institute, The University of South Dakota at Vermillion.

Elliott, T.L., Schulenberg, S.E., Kaster, J.T., & Peterson, D. (in press). Trauma histories and attachment styles of members of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Psychological Reports.

Norcross, J.C., Karg, R.S., & Prochaska, J.O. (1997a). Clinical psychologists in the 1990s: part I. The Clinical Psychologist, 50 (2), 4-9.

Norcross, J.C., Karg, R.S., & Prochaska, J.O. (1997b). Clinical psychologists in the 1990s: II. The Clinical Psychologist, 50 (3), 4-11.

Striegel-Moore, R.H., & Slaikeu, K.A. (1990). Glossary of crisis therapy techniques. In K.A. Slaikeu, Crisis intervention: A handbook for practice and research (2nd ed., pp. 423-449). Needham Heights, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon.