International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Examples of Model and Problematic Oral Presentation Proposals

The following are examples of some of the types of abstracts which can be submitted as part of ISTSS Annual Meeting oral presentation proposals. In each instance, a 'model' abstract and a 'problematic' abstract are presented, followed by bulleted points indicating the important differences between them. In many cases, the model abstracts are based on ones which were accepted for a previous Annual Meeting. The purpose of this is to help prospective authors to identify those features of presentation proposals which are considered more desirable. It should be noted that abstracts may vary considerably in their level and type of detail between presentation format types (symposia, panel, workshop). Prospective authors should also consider reading abstracts from the most recent ISTSS Annual Meeting Abstract Book in order to further understand what kinds of abstracts are accepted for a given presentation format.

All prospective authors should consult this year's Call for Presentations for guidance regarding the conference theme, and must consult this year's ISTSS guidelines for requirements for each presentation format, including the number of words or characters per abstract and within the abstract title, along with the number of abstracts required for a given presentation format (e.g. 5 abstracts are required for a successful symposium proposal). Prospective authors are also cautioned that while the below represents general guidelines, specifics may change over time. Under no circumstance does the below constitute any form of guarantee or promise that presentation proposals will be accepted.

Please also bear in mind that within the ISTSS Annual Meeting, there are several sessions devoted to poster presentations, sessions which are considered of equivalent importance to that of oral presentations. Should there be questions, please contact current ISTSS staff members at

NB: Complex trauma was the conference theme during the year these model abstracts were submitted. 


Symposia proposals consist of 5 parts: an overview, which provides a summary of the main features of the symposium; and 4 abstracts, representing the topics each speaker will present.

Model Overview: Four clinician researchers present findings from treatment development and clinical trials research examining manualized treatments for adult survivors of child abuse in mental health, addictions, and HIV-prevention settings. Exposure, emotion regulation, and present-centered components are evaluated separately and in combination. Results indicate that each approach has distinct benefits and limitations.

Problematic Overview: The field of trauma treatment is growing rapidly and many new treatments are being developed which need to be tested. Studies of highly effective treatments for trauma victims are reported. Each treatment is described and results are reported showing positive changes. The implications for future treatment research are discussed.

Contrasting features:

  • Specific statement of research approaches vs. general call for tests of treatments
  • Potentially replicable (manualized) treatments vs. no indication of treatment replicability
  • Specific participant populations vs. generic (trauma victims)
  • Specific treatment components vs. no description of treatment components/types
  • Global positive findings vs. comparison of benefits and limitations
  • Related to meeting theme (complex trauma) vs. not clearly related
  • Presenters are clinicians and researchers vs. no specification of presenters
  • Important populations/treatment design questions vs. unclear importance

Model Symposium Presentation Abstract: A recent randomized controlled trial found that compared to Waitlist, a sequentially-phased treatment for women with Complicated PTSD related to childhood abuse was effective in reducing symptoms in three targeted areas: emotion regulation problems, interpersonal skills deficits and PTSD symptoms. The first phase of the treatment provided skills training in emotion and interpersonal regulation (STAIR) and was viewed as a stabilization /preparatory period for the following phase of traditional exposure (a modified version of Prolonged Exposure). Phase 1 improvement in negative mood regulation and the development of a positive therapeutic alliance were significant predictors of PTSD symptom reduction during Phase 2 exposure. This presentation provides data on a comparison of the two-phase treatment (skills plus exposure) compared to the exposure component alone and to skills training alone. Data include biweekly ratings of subjective distress, symptom exacerbation and drop-out rate. Results of repeated measures MANOVAs indicate that: 1) a no-exposure therapy (STAIR) reduces but does not fully resolve PTSD, and 2) exposure alone treatment is less effective than exposure combined with a preparatory phase of skills building in reducing PTSD and maintaining clients in treatment.

Problematic Presentation Abstract: The presentation describes a treatment for adults with complex trauma and dissociation based on the author's extensive clinical experience over more than 20 years. The Single Trauma Amplification Relaxation Regimen and Integration for Expressing Young Emotions (STARRI-EYE) enables complex trauma survivors to regain bodily integrity and eliminate dissociation and self-harming behaviors. The treatment is highly structured yet flexible, and can be applied to all ages and ethno-cultural backgrounds, based on careful clinical application and scientific testing. STARRI-EYE is conducted in three phases, beginning with depolarizing of energy conflicts in phase 1, existential trauma processing in phase 2, and reality re-orientation in phase 3. A large number of patients will have filled out questionnaires before and after the treatment, and the results of their change scores will be tested against similar questionnaires administered to a control group. Data will be presented in easily understood graphs. The results demonstrate that STARRI-EYE is an evidence-based treatment that should be widely applied in the trauma field.

Contrasting features:

  • Prior clinical research findings as a basis for current study vs. "author's ... clinical experience"
  • Specific statement of RCT research design vs. vague description of pre-post case control evaluation
  • Potentially replicable (manualized) treatment vs. no indication of treatment replicability
  • Specific participant populations vs. generic (trauma victims)
  • Specific treatment components vs. no description of treatment components/types
  • Global self-report positive findings vs. specific multi-source data
  • Related to meeting theme (complex trauma) vs. ostensibly but not clearly related
  • Phase components described vs. vaguely labeled with terms with questionable precedent
  • Precise, theoretically and clinically important, and testable hypotheses vs. proprietary goals
  • Specific analyses and results described vs. global findings (with data not yet collected)

Model Symposium Presentation Abstract: Given the growing interest in Disorders of Extreme Stress (DESNOS) since the release of data from the DSM-IV field trials supporting the substantial prevalence of this constellation of symptoms in individuals exposed to traumatic events of an extreme, enduring and interpersonal nature (Pelcovitz et. al., 1997; van der Kolk et. al., 1996), it is not surprising that researchers have begun to question the transcultural relevance and applicability of this diagnostic construct (Jongedijk et. al., 1996; Weine et. al., 1998). The present study examined the prevalence of DESNOS in community samples in four low-income countries (Algeria, Cambodia, Ethiopia, & Gaza) that have experienced war, conflict or mass violence as well as developmentally adverse interpersonal trauma. A total of 3048 study participants were randomly selected across these samples and evaluated for lifetime history of trauma exposure, PTSD and DESNOS. Overall DESNOS prevalence rates for each country as well as rates of endorsement of DESNOS sub-clusters will be reported and compared to available U.S. estimates. Clinical case vignettes will be provided to illustrate culturally specific examples of DESNOS symptom expression, cultural relevance of observed symptoms, and cultural acceptance/prohibition of symptom expression.

Problematic Presentation Abstract: Disorders of Extreme Stress (DESNOS) were found to be prevalent in the DSM-IV field trials but prematurely excluded from the DSM-IV. The DESNOS diagnosis can occur in many different cultures and nationalities, and has great transcultural relevance. The present study examines the prevalence of DESNOS in third world countries that are torn by war, conflict or mass violence. A large sample of people will be interviewed and the prevalence of trauma, PTSD and DESNOS will be reported. People from a variety of countries, ethnic and racial backgrounds, ages, and urban and rural communities will be interviewed to provide a representative sample of the target population. Descriptions of the symptoms in people's lives will be provided to illustrate culturally specific examples of DESNOS among the participants in the study. The study will confirm that DESNOS is a severe public health problem that needs to be addressed proactively internationally.

Contrasting features:

  • Prior published reports are specifically cited for DESNOS as well as for transcultural research and human rights vs. no reference to prior studies in these important relevant areas
  • Specific nations are enumerated vs. vague reference to "third world countries"
  • Sample size is specified vs. globally referred to as a "large sample"
  • Exposure to developmentally adverse interpersonal trauma is highlighted vs. mass trauma only
  • Prevalence rates for DESNOS and sub-clusters are indicated vs. general statement that prevalence will be examined
  • Clinical vignettes with specific purposes are indicated vs. global "descriptions of symptoms"
  • Focus is on documenting prevalence and variations vs. on arguing for public health concern


Model Proposal: In this panel, we will review recent theory, research, and consensus guidelines for interventions with civilians and emergency service personnel following mass trauma. Recent RCTs suggest that: a) early cognitive behavioral approaches may help reduce incidence, duration and severity of ASD, PTSD, and depression; and b) early interventions in the form of a single 1-to-1 recital of events and expression of emotions evoked by a traumatic event do not consistently reduce risks of later developing PTSD or related adjustment difficulties (Watson et al, in press). Discussion of consensus guidelines will include review of key components of early intervention from a recent consensus conference sponsored by key federal agencies (i.e., SAMSHA, VA, DOD) with 58 authorities in disaster mental health. Key components (i.e., preparation, planning, education) will be identified across phases of recovery, with special emphasis on biological, chemical, and radiological situations (Ritchie et al., in review). Application of early intervention will be addressed from both an empirical and theoretical stance (Turner and Schnyder; in press). Finally, research with emergency services workers will be presented in which a preference was noted for contact with colleagues rather than outside professionals (Turner, in press). Discussion will include recommendations for future research and practice.

Problematic Proposal: In this panel, experts on emergency services and disaster relief operations will describe the issues facing personnel following mass trauma. Several models of critical incident responding will be discussed, highlighting their similarities and differences. The federal, state, and local agencies involved in emergency or disaster response efforts will be described. Dr. X will summarize the literature on disaster mental health. Dr. Y will describe the phases of recovery following disaster or other critical incidents. Ms. Z will describe a model for working with emergency medical responders being used in several Midwestern cities. Mr. A will discuss the ethno-cultural issues in emergency responding and the culture of first responders. Discussion will include recommendations for future research and practice.

Contrasting features:

  • Theory, research, and consensus guidelines are reviewed in an organized manner vs. "issues facing personnel following mass trauma"
  • A framework is described to organize the discussion from the outset vs. no clear organization
  • Relevant research literatures are referred to with citations vs. no reference to prior research
  • A conceptual framework is mapped out vs. a list of disconnected presentations
  • Information from a larger expert consensus group is presented vs. the views of panel members only
  • An international perspective is indicated by the presenters vs. a more limited and uncertain scope
  • New findings that address a key issue are presented vs. a summary of familiar topics
  • Research and practice are presented in an integrated manner vs. disconnected references to each


Model Presentation Abstract: A trio of presenters (a trauma therapist, a substance abuse counselor, and a domestic violence advocate) describe a program developed to integrate treatment, recovery, and woman-centered advocacy for children and families who have experienced traumatic domestic violence: Families In Recovery Support Team (FIRST). A cross-walk of core concepts, goals, values, and interventions is presented to illustrate the points of difference and commonality in trauma-sensitive psychotherapy, addiction recovery, and person-centered advocacy. A curriculum for integrated collaborative services is presented with sample handouts, highlighting the contributions of survivor/consumers. Videotape segments (for which participant consent to use in an educational forum has been obtained) illustrate the curriculum's sequential process and participants' engagement and enhanced safety and family cohesion. Suggestions for adaptations of the program to diverse settings and populations will be discussed based on audience interaction.

Problematic Presentation Abstract: The Homely Youth Prevention Education (HYPE) program developed by Dr. I. M. (Tom) Terrific is a widely-used and highly successful intervention to prevent permanent post-traumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents who grow up in abusive families. Dr. Terrific will read excerpts from his best-selling book, "You Have to Change, Not Me," and clips from an award-winning documentary video with testimonials of teens who have participated in the HYPE program and their parents. HYPE can be applied to almost any problem, and Dr. Terrific will challenge the audience to give case examples of their toughest clients in order to demonstrate the program's versatility.

Contrasting features:

  • A professionally diverse team of presenters vs. a proprietary presenter
  • Specific underpinnings of the model are explained vs. no clear theoretical/clinical rationale
  • A specific curriculum and sample learning materials vs. proprietary commercial products
  • Video illustrating process and outcome vs. video promotion
  • Consent for taping & presentation of tape clearly stated vs. not
  • Focus on illustrating an integrative adaptable approach vs. on a fixed product