October 1, 1997
The wide-ranging impact of the keynote and plenary speakers at the 1997 ISTSS Annual Meeting in Montreal, Nov. 610, is testimony to the growing influence of the Society's Annual Meeting as a forum for dissemination and discussion of critical information in the trauma field. This year's conference theme, "Linking Trauma Studies to the Universe of Science and Practice," resonates particularly with the keynote and plenary sessions, which demonstrate the increasing impact of trauma studies in the realms of psychopathology and health and social services. The following is a summary of these newsworthy presentations.
Edna Foa, PhD, director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, presents the first of two keynote addresses, "The Psychopathology and Treatment ofo PTSD: Comparison with Other Anxiety Disorders." Foa's work delineates the differences between PTSD and other anxiety disorders and places the psychopathology of anxiety disorders within the framework of emotional processing theory. Foa suggests that cognitive behavior therapy corrects the pathology that underlies PTSD and provides data to support this assertion.
Responding to the recent proliferation of lawsuits against dissociative-disorder and trauma therapists, Alan Scheflin, law professor at Santa Clara University Law School, presents the keynote address "Risk Management in Dissociative Disorder and Trauma Therapy." Scheflin points out that before 1990 there were virtually no lawsuits involving "talking cures," whereas there are currently almost 1,000 lawsuits pending against dissociative-disorder and trauma therapists. Scheflin analyzes the major arguments of hundreds of recent cases against therapists in order to give sound practical advice on risk management and malpractice avoidance.
The meeting's plenary sessions present important research and theoretical frameworks for PTSD and other psychopathologies. The conference begins with the opening plenary session "The Traumatic Impact of Crime, Violence and Abuse on Children: Current Challenges," presented by David Fenkelhor, codirector of Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire. This comprehensive look at childhood victimization integrates the patchwork knowledge about public policy, practice and research under Fenkelhor's "Developmental Victimology" approach. Through this model, Finkelhor delineates the commonalities and differences in children's reactions to different types of victimizations.
The meeting's second plenary session aims to elaborate the relationship between adversity and psychopathology. The methodology employed by Bruce Dohrenwend, a Columbia University psychiatry professor, examines both extreme (e.g., disasters, military combat) and usual situations to identify possible risk factors for the onset and course of various types of psychopathologies.
Ronald Kessler, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, presents the final plenary session, "PTSD in a National Survey of the United States: Results and Future Directions." Kessler reviews the prevalence and correlates of PTSD in the National Comorbidity Study. His research finds prevalence to be higher than previous studies and identifies powerful risk factors for PTSD (most stronger predictors than trauma exposure per se).
A post-meeting report will appear in the winter edition of StressPoints.