Letter From The President

I Touch the Earth, the Earth Touches Me

“When I paint I am influenced by the texture of the paper, the viscosity of the paint, the condition of the brush. I reach down to make a thin line and it comes out plump. Then the picture takes a new direction – I influencing it; it influencing me.”

Hugh Prather I Touch the Earth, the Earth Touches Me

I find it funny how the projects I take on; take on a life of their own. I am not talking about household repairs, although my wife will attest to most projects growing beyond the original 2 or 3 hour estimate. I am thinking about the nature of collaborative process and the evolution of ideas that comes about when creative people come together. I am certain the clinicians among us see this process unfold everyday as we meet with our clients. Treatment plans to address specific issues grow into larger life lessons, while attempts at psychoeducation shift into dealing with triggered trauma. I imagine researchers find similar shifts as the data reveals new and unconsidered information. I am also thinking about projects organized at the board level promoting the strategic plan and the mission of our Society. At the all-day, face-to-face Board meeting held last March, we initiated the Public Health Task Force; chaired by Board members, Heather Hall and Michael Salter. The initial thought was to help ISSTD explore ways to reach outside of our silo and to collaborate with other organizations that also addressed ways of researching, treating, and training people addressing complex trauma. We have a tremendous wealth of knowledge; we are the premiere organization addressing the role of dissociation in complex trauma. Failing to recognize and assess for dissociative phenomena accounts for a significant number of complications compromising treatment success. We have a lot to offer. We need to go beyond preaching to the choir, finding ways to reach new audiences. Even as this idea was being presented at the March Board meeting, Heather and Michael were running with this idea. They excitedly looked to reframe and reimagine dissociation and complex trauma as a public health issue. Going beyond the original concept they started talking about the differing impact of and responses to trauma among marginalized populations. In early August, they formalized the Public Health Task Force Mission Statement:

“The mission of the task force is to examine the public health dimensions of complex trauma and dissociation, and to identify opportunities for the ISSTD to contribute to primary prevention and early intervention for those at increased risk of complex trauma and dissociative disorders.”

In discussion with the ISSTD Board of Directors, Heather and Michael were charged with four tasks:

  1. To advance an intersectional public health framework that recognises the contribution of oppression, disadvantage and discrimination to complex trauma and dissociation,
  2. To promote evidence-based strategies for primary prevention and early intervention for those at risk of developing complex trauma and the dissociative disorders,
  3. To champion interagency collaboration between the ISSTD and other organisations to reduce risk factors for complex trauma and dissociation, and
  4. To work with the ISSTD Board and organization as a whole on the long term goal of addressing the public health implications of trauma and dissociation.

One development growing out of their work is a pre-conference workshop on Complex Trauma and Dissociation (CTD) from a public health perspective, focusing on their belief that “the prevalence and burden of CTD in the population can be reduced through the reduction of risk factors, and the promotion of protective factors, at the community, institutional and social level.” Addressing cyclical factors whereby CTD maintains and exacerbates social inequalities which in turn negatively impact opportunities for treatment and other vital services, this workshop speaks to the need for systemic responses to individuals and communities. A key element in understanding and informing what underlies the impact of CTD across the lifespan is the concept of dignity. Violation of dignity is seen as a critical risk factor contributing to CTD and developing dignity at personal and systemic levels is an essential part of both treatment and prevention. This workshop promises to be an exciting and innovative look to the future of ISSTD and the trauma field. Further, the recommendations coming out of the Public Health Task Force will hopefully guide and inform the ISSTD Strategic Plan; broadening our focus to include the spectrum of complex trauma, to focus on new areas of service delivery including community level services, especially those delivered to marginalized populations, as well as increased training in these areas. They make another key recommendation: The ISSTD should identify a core list of values to guide ethical decision making and collaboration. I am excited to see more from this dynamic duo, from this task force, and from ISSTD as we expand our ability to network and influence the study, treatment, and prevention of complex trauma and dissociation. The Public Health Task Force’s workshop; Dissociation and Public Health, is one of many powerful and dynamic in-depth workshops offered in the two days leading up to our 2019 annual conference – The World Congress on Complex Trauma: Research, Intervention Innovation – to be held in New York City. A full list of the pre & post conference workshops is available on our conference website. The full conference schedule will be available in mid December. I look forward to seeing you in New York. Kevin PS: If you are excited as I am about the direction that ISSTD is going; with our growing library of webinars, our ever-developing PTP classes, the new SIGs; please consider doing as I do and making a donation to our $35 for the 35th Campaign. The money supports so many important ISSTD projects and helps keep our Society functioning. You can donate easily by clicking here!