International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

The Hunt for Accessible Trauma-Training Options for Students

Posted 1 October 2007 in StressPoints by Joanna Legerski, MA

Introduction: The author of this article, Joanna Legerski, MA, will present a poster, "Intimate Partner Violence: Reasons Survivors Provide for Not Reporting" at the ISTSS Annual Meeting, November 15-17 in Baltimore. Co-author Fran Norris, PhD, will present in the symposium, "Optimizing Prevention in Trauma-Focused Research: Social and Clinical Epidemiologic Approaches."

When I was a student research assistant in New York City post-September 11, 2001, it was relatively easy to take advantage of opportunities for trauma trainings by master trainers for low or no cost. I came to Montana to obtain my PhD because I wanted to learn about rural mental health, and the experience has been fantastic! However, the one thing I miss about urban living is the opportunities for state-of-the-art, trauma-focused clinical training within a 10-mile radius. Boy, was I spoiled. Now I am living in Montana’s second-largest city (Missoula — population 60,000; less than one million people live in our state) and I need to travel to Salt Lake City, Seattle, or much, much farther to take advantage of any affordable trainings and workshops. Maybe you too are a student seeking clinical training specific to trauma; and, like most students, do not have the extra funds for travel and training fees. For this season’s Student Section, I would like to suggest a few creative examples for additional trauma training.

Taking advantage of the master classes and pre-meeting institutes at the ISTSS Annual Meeting is a great way to start on your hunt for trauma treatment instruction. ISTSS offers a discounted student price for a variety of pre-meeting institutes and workshops. Understandably, the extra costs for travel and hotel may still be prohibitive depending on your current student financial situation.

One solution we had in Montana for extra trauma training was to pool our resources and pay to have trauma expert Dr. John Briere come to Montana and teach a master class on complex trauma and personality disorders. This solution was much less expensive than each of us traveling out of state to attend the training. Alternatively, purchasing video master classes might also be less than the price of an airplane ticket, especially if you pool the costs with other students.

Even better, you might not need to travel any further than your own computer as the National Center for PTSD offers free online trauma instruction.

The main goal of the NCPTSD Web site is to provide PTSD/trauma-related curriculum to enhance or develop practitioner knowledge of trauma and its treatment. The “PTSD 101” Web site offers a PowerPoint presentation, audio narration, and typed transcript for each course. The courses vary in topic from treatment to medical issues, each lasting between 50 to 120 minutes.

Also online through the NCPTSD Web site are free online videos on a variety of topics, such as psychobiological models of chronic stress and PTSD, readiness for change, psychopharmacology of PTSD, and information specific to serving ethnic minorities:

For those of you advanced level graduate students seeking PTSD assessment measures for clinical practice or perhaps data collection for your dissertation, the NCPTSD site also offers free, or for a nominal fee, assessment measures plus instrument training via online or CD-ROM video.

If you have an interest in child trauma-focused cognitive behavioral training, TF-CBTWeb also offers free Web-based training:

What exactly is this TF-CBTWeb, you may ask? Dr. Laura Murray, TF-CBT Treatment Trainer, described this treatment as “a hybrid model that integrates elements of CBT, affective, humanistic, attachment, family, and empowerment therapies." Wow. According to the first year annual report the TF-CBTWeb was originally designed to train professionals holding a masters degree or above or graduate students in a mental health discipline such as clinical social work, professional counseling, clinical psychology, psychiatry, marital and family therapy, or psychiatric nursing. This online program is offered at no charge, and mental health professionals who complete the course receive 10 contact hours of continuing education from the Medical University of South Carolina. It is important to note that the TF-CBTWeb is a collaborative project of the National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, S.C., the CARES Institute at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, N.J., and the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. All three centers are part of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

I was very curious and asked Dr. Daniel Smith, affiliated with TF-CBT though the National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center, why this 40-hour training complete with video examples and certificate of completion came to be available to all, students and professionals alike.

He responded, “We decided to develop the training course in response to what we perceived to be a pressing need within the field for high quality, high information value training in empirically supported treatment. The primary methods of training in TF-CBT prior to the creation TF-CBTWeb were buying and reading the book, or attending an in-person workshop conducted by Dr. Deblinger, Dr. Cohen, and/or Dr. Mannarino. Although the book is outstanding, reading any book does not provide you with the same kinds of information that interacting with trainers does.

“On the flip side, attending a workshop is usually quite motivating and valuable, but once it's over, the learner is on his or her own. Most of the evidence indicates that workshop-based learning does not result in long-term adoption of new treatments. We think that Web-based learning courses offer, to a degree, the best of both learning methods: high quality, high value information (video streams of techniques being used, practical information that is fully consistent with treatment manuals) that is repeatedly accessible at times the learner finds most convenient. Web-based learning can also be structured to allow for evaluation of how much each learner has mastered. Of course, we are still in the process of evaluating whether TF-CBTWeb results in long-term learning and adoption of the treatment.”

I still think this online training is too good to be true, so I pestered Dr. Smith yet again and asked why the TF-CBT treatment developers would allow their training for free. I would think they would lose out on book sales and training fees.

 “With respect to the ‘free’ aspect of the training, this really wasn't much of a decision.” Dr. Smith patiently clarified, “The development of the Web site was sponsored by our NCTSN grant from SAMHSA; our goal in developing the site was primarily to develop a distance learning course for NCTSN member sites. Charging for the site would have been inappropriate under these circumstances, and we consider it a considerable benefit to the field to offer it for free. I suppose SAMHSA could have decided to charge for the site,” he continued, “but that would have only served to limit access to the training. SAMHSA's goal, and the goal of the NCTSN explicitly, is to increase access to high quality training opportunities in empirically supported treatments or best practices. While I can't speak for SAMHSA, I strongly suspect that implementing a charge for the course would have been counter to the goals of the program.”

I guess we owe a big thank you to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, SAMHSA, and the treatment developers for their generosity. For more information about TF-CBTWeb, please see an earlier Traumatic StressPoints article by Daniel W. Smith, PhD & Benjamin E. Saunders, PhD.

There you go fellow students, just a few options I’ve stumbled onto in my search for trauma trainings. I guess distance or lack of funds is not the barrier to trauma training that I originally thought. If you know of any more trauma trainings that might be accessible and affordable for students please let us know. Happy training and see you in Baltimore!