International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Pearlman and Staub Receive Frank Ochberg Award

Posted 1 October 2007 in StressPoints by ISTSS

Laurie Anne Pearlman, PhD, and Ervin Staub, PhD, received the 2006 Frank Ochberg Award in November at the ISTSS Annual Meeting in Hollywood, Calif. The Frank Ochberg Award for Media and Trauma Study was established in 2003 to recognize significant contributions by clinicians and researchers in the relationship of media and trauma.

Staub has sepnt a good portion of his career analyzing the origins and prevention of genocide and mass killing. Pearlman has devoted time and effort to understanding traumatic stress among individuals affected by violence, abuse and neglect.

In the post-genocidal nation of Rwanda, starting in 1999, they initiated the Advancing Healing and Reconciliation project, designed to advance understanding of genocide, including its origins and strategies for prevention, as well as psychological trauma and paths to healing. As an expansion of that project, and in order to reach the population of the country, they initiated the Rwandan Reconciliation Communications Project in 2001,  produced by and developed jointly with La Benevolencija, a Dutch NGO. The project features a series of radio programs aims to promote healing and prevent future violence by combining the efforts of the media and psychologists.

Both the initial programs that Pearlman and Staub have created, including workshops with journalists, and the radio programs, which include educational radio dramas and informational programs, attempt to promote a society in which the media can report events fairly and accurately. The radio programs, which are broadcast in Rwanda, Burundi and DRC, include communication messages that support a pluralistic society in which many voices can be heard.

Laurie Anne Pearlman is the director of the clinical associates program at the Headington Institute in Pasadena, Calif. She has also served as president of the Trauma Research, Education, and Training Institute, now based in New Britain, Conn., since 1996. Her individual work has focused on vicarious traumatization, including the exposure to trauma by those reporting on trauma and those consuming the reports.

Ervin Staub is founding director emeritus of the PhD Concentration in the Psychology of Peace and the Prevention of Violence,at the  University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass. After escaping from Hungary, living in Austria and receiving most of his education in the United States, Staub has spent much of his career studying what leads people to help and harm others, and working to prevent harm-doing, especially group violence.

For both Pearlman and Staub, the use of media has meant greatly expanding the reach of the impact of their work.

"The work of Laurie Pearlman and Ervin Staub comprehends and illuminates the way in which media provide the framework through which individuals and societies tell the stories of their own worst experiences," said Bruce Shapiro, executive directors of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, in nominating the pair for the award. "They combine research with public education and advocacy. Their work connecting media, trauma and reconciliation exemplifies the humanistic impulse behind the Ochberg Award."

Through their tireless work, which demonstrates the connection between media and trauma, Pearlman and Staub are truly deserving recipients of the third-ever Frank Ochberg Award.