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Chilean trauma professionals are coming together to advance practice and research in the traumatic stress field in Chile and beyond. October 2015 marked two notable events - the official legal formation of a new Chilean professional organization focused on trauma and its impact, and the organization’s second international conference in as many years.

The people of Chile have lived through traumatic events, such as political repression, which have impacted several generations. The last several years have been marked by the intensity of natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and fires. Lately, in Chile, the necessity to unify clinical practice with the research field has become more evident. More research groups have an interest in understanding the impact of trauma, particularly early trauma, in personality development, psychopathology, family function, society and culture. Researchers and clinicians recognize the importance of developing and sharing knowledge of specific therapeutic approaches at different levels of mental health care in Chile.

After several years of concerted effort and collaboration among trauma professionals from all regions of Chile, the Asociación Chilena del Estrés Traumático (ACET) was formally inaugurated in October. As a national organization, ACET will develop and support crucial activities of Chilean mental health professionals, researchers, and others, and provide a forum for communication and collaboration on key trauma issues. Then-ISTSS President, Miranda Olff, congratulated ACET on this important step and stated that ISTSS warmly welcomes the formation of this new association and looks forward to continued fruitful collaboration with Chilean colleagues.

Although it is a young organization, ACET has already convened two international trauma conferences in Chile. The ISTSS Global Meetings initiative has collaborated to support this work. The Second International Conference on Psychological Trauma, with the theme of “Gender and Trauma from the Male Perspective“, was organized by ACET, the University of Talca, and ISTSS.

The October 20 conference was held at the University of Talca and attended by more than 70 professionals from many regions of Chile. Attendees included clinicians and researchers who work with trauma patients in diverse contexts. There was a great deal of interest in learning about trauma in the male population, and considering epidemiological, cultural, political, psychopathological differences and how therapeutic approaches with men may differ in approach or impact. International keynote speakers were Dr. Lorna Stanley, MD, of the Men’s Trauma Program in Princeton (USA) and Dr. Carlos Guida, MD, of the Universidad de la República de Uruguay.

ACET’s ambitious work in convening annual conferences that include regional, national and international experts and attendees seems to address a need amongst Chilean trauma professionals. Both 2014 and 2015 conferences were highly rated by those in attendance, and there was clear interest in future meetings. One attendee commented, “It was a motivating activity for learning and creating an interest in psychological trauma, the speakers were of an outstanding level.” Pairing national / regional leadership and expertise with international collaboration via the ISTSS Global Meetings initiative seems to be a promising strategy.

About the Authors

Nancy Kassam-Adams, PhD, is at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (USA) and is a past president of ISTSS.  

Carolina Salgado, MD, is a psychiatrist at the University of Chile, at the Public Mental Health Center in Talca and at the Trauma Center, Psychology School, University of Talca. She is the current president of the ACET and an ISTSS Board member.