This course explores mental health and psychosocial responses to massive trauma and loss in various cultural contexts. What practices best enhance the resilience and coping capacities in individuals, families, and communities that have endured and/or are threatened by traumatic events such as domestic and political violence, armed conflict and natural disaster? Are there unique cultural and contextual structures, idioms and coping capacities, or to what extent can we examine individual and collective trauma through a translocal, and global lens? Topics include the study of narrative and embodied practices in response to structural and political violence, with particular emphasis on testimony and witnessing, collaborative clinical and community partnerships, and psychosocial programs in conflict and post-conflict situations that may promote peace-building, development and other forms of social transformation.

The seminar draws on classical and recent readings, research papers, case studies, and materials from our audiovisual library of prior workshops and presentations. The seminar is accompanied by a performance workshop that will explore current issues and challenges of trauma affected populations living in New York City.

Over the years, ITSP has developed a distinguished panel of international experts to teach in its courses. Our advanced seminar will feature live web-based presentations and conversations with leaders and innovators in the field as well as case consultations, project supervision and experiential learning. Participants will work on an ongoing research project at the institute and will have access to our bibliographic and audiovisual library of presentations and workshops.

The seminar meetings consist of discussions of readings, conversations with leaders in the field, and project presentations. We will be examining recent developments in mental health and psychosocial responses to trauma in a global context with particular emphasis on resilience based interventions with individuals, families and communities.

On alternate weeks the seminar participants will take part in a performance workshop, which utilizes approaches based on narrative and performance theory to explore topics in trauma studies through improvisation, story and scenario development. A group of eight or more actors and faculty with particular interest in narrative and performance work together with course participants. We also focus on the development of narrative and performance based research methodologies with trauma affected populations. In 2009-10, the workshop developed a collaborative project with the Liberian refugee community in Staten Island to develop a theater piece and to explore the use of the arts in promoting public conversation and psychosocial wellness.

The Seminar and Workshops meet weekly on Friday afternoons from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.


The Advanced Seminar is directed by Jack Saul, PhD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

ITSP Core Faculty: Nancy Baron, Ed.D., Saliha Bava, Ph.D., Soeren Buus Jensen, MD, Ph.D., Donna Gaffney, RN, DNSc., Lucy McLellan, M.A., Esther Perel, M.A., LMFT, and Steven Reisner, Ph.D.

Performance Faculty: John Burt, M.A., Carlos Caldart, Megan Auster Rosen, M.A., Connie Winston, M.A., and Ariane Zaytzeff, M.A.

Visiting Faculty: Brandon Hamber, Ph.D., Judith Landau, M.D., Ruti Teitel, JD, Michael Ungar, Ph.D., and Stevan Weine, M.D.


The Seminar will explore four topic areas that are central to the theory and practice of the International Trauma Studies Program:

International mental health and psychosocial response - examination of recent developments and best practices in global responses to mass trauma and loss, multi-systemic perspectives, case studies of innovative programs with children and families.

Facilitating resilience after trauma and loss: individual, family and community approaches - a look at developments in research on resilience, the application of strength-based approaches in clinical and community settings, collaborative practices, community resilience as an approach to disaster preparedness and response.

Trauma, Narrative, and Performance - an exploration of narratives of suffering and transformation in therapy, journalism, media and legal contexts. Didactic and experiential work on performative approaches in ritual, social drama, theater and the arts.

Integrating psychosocial approaches with peace-building and development
- reckoning with the past and its implications for co-existence, reconciliation, and redress.


Introduction and Orientation

Seminar 1: The Social Impact of Disaster and Political Violence

Seminar 2: Victims and Survivors: the Experience of Trauma and Loss

Seminar 3: Trauma, Narrative and Performance

Seminar 4: Facilitating Resilience: Individual, Family and Community Perspectives

Seminar 5: Humanitarian Intervention: Experience, Security and Stress Management

Seminar 6: Cross-Cultural Collaboration and Program Development

Seminar 7: Political, Structural and Family Violence

Seminar 8: Reconstructing the Social Fabric

Seminar 9: Clinical and Therapeutic Approaches and Humanitarian Intervention

Seminar 10: Implementing and Evaluating Psychosocial Programs

Seminar 11: Memory and Reconstruction

Seminar 12: Coming to Terms with Truth and Seeking Justice in Fractured Societies

Seminar 13: Project Presentations

There are ten performance workshops on alternating weeks.


Applicants with prior ITSP certificate training and/or experienced graduates in mental health, health, and allied professions are encouraged to apply. Applicants without a graduate degree but with significant experience and training in the trauma/psychosocial field will be considered for acceptance to the seminar.

Certificate of Completion

A Certificate of Completion from the International Trauma Studies Program (ITSP) is awarded to participants who meet the course requirements.

If you are interested in the advanced seminar please send an email with your CV to:

Now Accepting Applications for the 2010-2011 Advanced Seminar in International Trauma Studies.
Click here to download application [word doc.]

The International Trauma Studies Program

Founded in 1997, the International Trauma Studies Program (ITSP) is a training and research institute in New York City. The program is committed to enhancing the resilience and coping capacities in individuals, families, and communities that have endured and/or are threatened by traumatic events - domestic and political violence, armed conflict and natural disaster. ITSP pursues its mission by providing professional training, conducting innovative research, offering technical assistance to international organizations, and helping build a global learning community in mental health and human rights.

The International Trauma Studies Program provides intensive training in trauma theory, prevention and response for professionals from such diversified fields of interest as health and mental health, law, human rights, community activism, the arts, journalism and the media. Our training programs based in New York City and Arua, Uganda bring together professionals from around the world to develop and share innovative approaches to working with trauma survivors.

ITSP is the sponsor of REFUGE, a resource center for survivors of torture, war, and forced migration in New York City and a member of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs.

The International Trauma Studies Program is featured in the recently published The New Humanitarians: Inspiration, Innovations and Blueprints for Visionaries, edited by Chris Stout.

© Tom Stoddart