Presidential Voice

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Trauma Psychology: Getting the Word Out

By: Joan Cook, PhD

Joan Cook, PhDWe have accomplished so much in a relatively short period of time. In 2006, the Division of Trauma Psychology was started with 901 members. Since then, we have grown as well as deepened and broadened our roots. At our 10th year anniversary, we are one of only five divisions to increase membership in the last year, and we are still growing. We are indeed among the most vibrant of all divisions although we are the youngest.


In just under 10 years, we have created a dynamic and flourishing permanent home within the American Psychological Association (APA) for scientific research, professional and public education, and the exchange of support for activities related to trauma. We have a strong track record of high quality programming at the APA Annual Convention, our journal Psychological Trauma, Theory, Research, Practice and Policy has a strong impact factor, our newsletter and recently revised website continue to provide helpful resources, and we held a consensus conference on competencies for working with trauma survivors which were approved by the APA Council of Representatives in August 2015 and are now become official APA policy (

Our members, with their rich and diverse collection of knowledge and interests across the domain of psychological trauma, have helped us to accomplish this and so much more. Besides an incredible membership that forms the base of our Division, we have had wonderful leadership. I particularly want to thank all of our past presidents: Drs. Judie Alpert, Bob Geffner, Steve Gold, Laura Brown, Chris Courtois, Terry Keane, Constance Dahlenberg, Kathy Kendall-Tackett, and Beth Rom-Rymer for their endeavors to make our Division strong. At this year’s Convention, we are planning to not only have a happy 10th anniversary celebration but an opportunity for our membership to hear from all of our past presidents in an engaging discussion format.

My presidential theme for our division this year is: “Trauma Psychology: Getting the Word Out.” We have done a fantastic job in getting the word out thus far and telling APA members that there is a home for those who work in or are interested in the trauma field. But more work needs to be done! Getting the word can mean so many things – it means getting the word out about our group and increasing membership. It means getting our current members more involved in our activities (e.g., convention programming, webinars, etc.). It means getting the word out to a broad audience through our journal, including policy makers and the public.

Although our Division is open to all psychologists and students in the APA, I suspect there are many psychologists with an interest in trauma who are not yet members but are eager for a home base. Let’s welcome and show them that our Division is a professional home to many – a broad range of researchers, practitioners, theorists, and policy makers. In addition, there are other divisions and organizations where trauma is a key issue. Let’s invite them to join or partner with us on important endeavors. For example, we recently received a small APA grant to create web-based materials on trauma for underserved populations and we are doing so in partnership with five other APA divisions.

Our Division is also open to those who may not belong to APA, and to professionals in other disciplines as affiliate members whether or not they are APA members. Let’s continue to put our best selves forward and collaborate in the spirit of helping trauma survivors, their families and communities and the professionals who serve them.

In order to increase diversity and representation as well as share opportunities and responsibilities, I have invited some new faces to join us in leading the division. The incoming executive committee is strong and dedicated, and will continue the solid foundation that has been built for our Division.

As one of my first orders of business, I am delegating several task forces to help get the word out—each of these task forces will be featured in current or future issues of our newsletter, Trauma Psychology News. Until then I want to encourage all of you to also get more involved in the division and to please recruit others to join so that we can continue to increase not only our numbers but build our influence within and outside of APA. It would be wonderful if each of us could commit to bringing one new colleague into our fold this year. I remember a few years back hearing Chris Courtois talk about how she carried around Division 56 membership forms (available from the membership committee, on the web site, or here in the newsletter) and distributed them at her training workshops. She also put the Division logo and our web address on her PowerPoint slides so that everyone could see where she made her home. I respectfully ask you to do the same.

In addition to recruiting new members, I invite you to become more involved: join a special interest group (SIG), submit an article for the newsletter or journal, attend the outstanding trauma sessions scheduled at the APA Convention both in the regular program and at our hospitality suite program, participate in our incredible webinars, serve on a committee, or nominate yourself to run for elected positions. With our 2016 convention chair, Amy Ellis, and our hospitality suite chair, Vanessa Simiola, I am working to create a notable convention for us in Denver! Convention will be from Thursday, August 4th to Sunday, August 7th. So please mark your calendars, plan to attend and join us for our 10th year anniversary party!

Sooner or later the rhythm of Division 56 is going to get you. Why not get on your feet and make it happen today?

I look forward to an exciting and productive year for our Division. Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve as president. Please feel free to contact me ( if you have questions or concerns, or to share ideas or suggestions for accomplishing our goals for 2016.