Broadly speaking, my research explores how the contexts in which trauma survivors recover facilitate their well-being, and seeks to identify strategies to intervene in these contexts to promote wellness.
Trauma recovery unfolds in social contexts that vary in their helpfulness to trauma survivors. Many survivors turn to their friends, family, and others for support; for these survivors, their post-trauma help-seeking processes can connect them with resources like psychotherapy but also put them at risk of problematic social responses like blame, encouragement to avoid trauma reminders, or discouragement from accessing needed services. This may be particularly true for highly-stigmatized traumas like sexual assault. For those who do not directly reach out to their social contexts for help, though, social contexts can still affect recovery processes by, for example, communicating social norms about trauma or help-seeking, encouraging unhelpful coping strategies, or providing ongoing social support. In addition, clients’ ability to benefit from evidence-based treatment for trauma-related psychopathology likely is affected by their social contexts. Thus, my recent work investigates the role of social contexts in trauma recovery with the goal of informing clinical interventions that target social contexts to mitigate the harm of trauma.
In addition to exploring informal social contexts, it is also important to examine the success of of formal community responses to trauma in meeting trauma survivors’ needs. In both my research and applied work, I am interested in identifying ways to make existing community responses to trauma survivors–particularly, evidence-based psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress and substance use disorders–more accessible and impactful to trauma survivors. Potential avenues to increase the reach of these interventions include designing technologically-based interventions and training laypeople to provide empirically-based peer support.