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Best Practices

ISTSS has created a Best Practice Parameters for trauma professionals as teachers, clinicians and scholars. The objective is to stimulate discussion and exchange of information within the traumatic stress community.

ISTSS is dedicated to the discovery and dissemination of knowledge about traumatic stressors and their immediate and long-term consequences. While research is vital for the advancement of the field, the welfare of research participants must take priority over any other considerations

Trauma researchers:

  • Seek supervision and consultation when their research involves areas or methodologies that exceed their expertise.
  • Submit their investigatory proposals for review and approval by available institutional ethical review boards. If an institutional review board is not available, researchers seek consultation from an independently constituted human subjects protection board or independent knowledgeable researchers who have no real or apparent conflict of interest with the primary investigator and research proposal and who can participate in an independent examination of the proposed study to determine whether its risks outweigh its benefit and to determine the soundness of its methodology.
  • Apply research standards in all research projects to ensure that participants are treated humanely and with respect. These standards include striving to:
  1. Minimize risk while maximizing benefit to either the participant and/or the field of traumatic stress. To minimize risks to participants, researchers carefully screen participants and have clear rules for stopping the study or for terminating participation in response to study-related adverse events. When necessary, researchers have procedures for reversing any adverse effects and procedures for conducting follow-up assessments or interventions. These procedures are especially needed in symptom provocation or challenge studies.
  2. Involve consumers (e.g., trauma survivors, survivor advocates) to review research design and consent procedures whenever possible.
  3. Ensure that participants clearly understand the study’s purpose and procedures and that they have the option to refuse or discontinue research participation at any point. [Note: In most research that is observational or conducted as part of standard operating procedures of an organization (i.e., quality assurance), such consent is typically not required]. Researchers take particular care in recruitment of potential participants who have limited decision-making capacity or require special protection.
  4. Are sensitive to cultural, ethnic, and political issues in the development, conduct, and presentation of research. o Devise mechanisms for protecting the confidentiality of information provided by research participants. o Avoid use of procedures that involve risk of harm unless anticipated benefits clearly outweigh the risks. o Do not coerce research participation. o Cease a study when numerous study-related adverse events are identified.
  • Fully and accurately report original research findings and methodology. Acknowledge due credit and offer authorship based on real and proportional contributions.
  • Provide specialized training as needed and responsible supervision to all staff engaged in the conduct of the research.
  • Adequately disguise descriptions of individuals or case presentations unless information is in the public domain. Researchers obtain explicit permission from an individual participant to present case details that could identify the participant.
  • Do not present forensic or clinical work as research unless informed consent was obtained allowing them to do so or the work is based on information in the public domain.

Learn more about the Best Practice Parameters