Convention Wrap Up

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Reflections on the 2016 APA Convention

By: Amy E. Ellis, PhD, Convention Chair & Vanessa Simiola, Psy.D. Suite Chair

For 10 years now, Division 56 has been actively promoting the education and training of our students from their undergraduate education through their postdoctoral residencies, enacting policies and voicing advocacy to ensure the most ethical treatment for our clients, and engaging in research to foster evidence-based practice and further our knowledge/understanding of trauma and associated sequelae. All of these endeavors converged felicitously at the APA Annual Convention held in Denver, Colorado with our president Dr. Joan Cook’s theme of “Trauma Psychology: Getting the Word Out”.

The sheer number of proposals that were submitted demonstrated the importance and presence of our division in the APA and the field of trauma psychology.  We received 33 symposia and 105 poster submissions that were of high quality and great clinical and academic importance. Due to time limitations and other constraints, we were able to accept a total of 17 symposia and 80 posters, which were independently and blindly reviewed.

Our symposia, led by leading experts, focused on current hot topics in the field of trauma psychology such as sexual trafficking, abuse by religious figures, the assessment and treatment of torture survivors, genocidal trauma, community and law enforcement reactions to the shooting that occurred in Ferguson, MO, responding to natural disasters, education and training of students in trauma psychology, and web-based resources for providers and patients.

In response to member and affiliate interests, we created suite programming that was a resoundingly well received. Topics included teaching trauma psychology, careers in the Department of Veterans Affairs, the marginalization of male sexual abuse survivors, tips on publishing trauma-related research, Internet interventions in trauma, and forensic work with trauma populations. We hosted a suite social hour that was well attended, filled with networking and light conversation.

One of our proudest accomplishments includes our invitation for Mr. Shaka Senghor to share his story of adversity in the criminal justice system and his remarkable fortitude. His story is emblematic of our division’s mission and commitment to promoting understanding of the potential effects of trauma as well as factors influencing the overcoming of it. Free copies of his book, “Writing my Wrongs” were handed out to the first 50 attendees, and at our social hour later that evening, Mr. Senghor provided book signings.

Following Mr. Senghor’s presentation, the nine past presidents of Division 56 joined our current President, Dr. Cook, for a panel discussion on future needed endeavors on trauma psychology research and clinical care, barriers to achieving divisional goals, and how to keep getting the word out on trauma in the coming years.

To celebrate our 10-year anniversary as a division, we had a wonderful social hour filled with light hors d’oeuvres, laughs and good times, as well as stimulating conversation with those that are lead experts in our field all the way to our impassioned and dedicated student members.

We want to extend our sincerest gratitude to the speakers and presenters, as well as attendees, who helped us pull off a wonderfully engaging program this year. It is because of you all that we are the prosperous division that we are today.  And, it is because of your commitment that we were so successful in getting the word out on trauma psychology.


We encourage all of you to submit to next year’s Convention programming. Dr. Elizabeth Carll’s, President-Elect, presidential theme is “Global Perspectives on Trauma.” Dr. Jessica Punzo, 2017 Programming Chair, and Dr. Robyn Gobin, 2017 Suite Coordinator, are certain to pull off an exceptional convention this year in Washington, DC. See you all in DC!


Amy Ellis, PhD was the 2016 Convention Programming Chair for Division 56. She is an Assistant Professor at Albizu University, a clinical supervisor in the Trauma Resolution and Integration Program at Nova Southeastern University, and a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of Florida.


Vanessa Simiola, PsyD was the 2016 Suite Programming Chair for Division 56. She is a Psychology Resident at VA Pacific Islands Healthcare Systems and the National Center for PTSD in Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition to her clinical work, Vanessa also works as a research associate for Yale School of Medicine.