From the President's Desk

Early Intervention - A Multidisciplinary Effort
Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.
President, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress


In describing The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, we refer to our association as being multidisciplinary. However, if the Academy defines traumatic stress as "the emotional, cognitive and behavioral experience of individuals who have been exposed to, or who witness, events that are extreme and/or life threatening," then why not focus on establishing a strong network limited to mental health practitioners?

What do an orthopedist, a dentist, a cardiovascular surgeon, a police sergeant, or a pediatrician have in common that suggests a need to bring them under one umbrella and further, to identify expertise among them in the field of traumatic stress? Why should they not simply recognize the need for a mental health consultation and provide appropriate referrals?

For years I have believed that by reaching people early following a traumatic event, we can potentially prevent the acute difficulties of today from becoming the chronic problems of tomorrow. In the same way, we can potentially prevent the acute stress reactions of the present from becoming the chronic stress disorders of the future. It is crucial that we recognize that all people who work directly with survivors of traumatic events are in a position to provide effective early intervention. This is not to imply that the need for a psychiatric/psychological interview should be overlooked. Moreover, it is certainly important that non-mental health practitioners be aware of their limitations in providing appropriate counseling.

But it is equally important to recognize that professionals from many different fields work regularly on the front lines with trauma victims. And I believe they are often in the best position to guide those victims down the road toward becoming survivors--and even thrivers. The mission of The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress is to increase awareness of the effects of trauma and ultimately to improve treatment for survivors. It is in this spirit that I propose that all caregivers become more sensitive to the opportunity to reach people in the early stages following traumatic exposure and to initiate intervention.

The literature concerning early intervention with survivors of traumatic events consistently supports the need for 1) cultivating rapport (i.e., a helping relationship characterized by empathic understanding, warmth and genuineness), 2) providing individuals with the opportunity to talk about their experiences (i.e., encouraging people to "tell their stories" and to begin to expose themselves to painful thoughts and feelings) and 3) utilizing an educational component (i.e., providing people with knowledge to better understand the physiological and psychological effects of trauma). Professionals from all fields can certainly become more adept in implementing these steps.

It is my conviction that we must approach intervention with survivors as a multidisciplinary effort. And it is my vision that the Academy, through our publications, such as Trauma Response, our "guest quarters" on the Internet (http://www.aaets.org), our National Training Conferences, and regular networking will enable caregivers from all fields to provide highly effective early intervention.

©1997 by The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, Inc.



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