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International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
ISTSS Color RGB.jpg
Typeprofessional association
HeadquartersChicago, Illinois
Diane Elmore Borbon, PhD, MPH

International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies is a professional network established on March 2, 1985, in Washington, D.C. It is dedicated to disseminating the state of the science as it pertains to our understanding about the effects of trauma exposure, traumatic stress, evidence-based assessment of trauma and associated symptoms, and evidence-based prevention and treatment intervention approaches. The society provides a forum for sharing research, clinical strategies, public policy issues and theoretical formulations on trauma around the world. Members include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, counselors, researchers, administrators, advocates, journalists, clergy, and other professionals with an interest in the study and treatment of traumatic stress. Members come from a variety of clinical and non-clinical settings around the world, including public and private health facilities, private practice, universities, non-university research foundations, and many different cultural backgrounds.


The organization was originally named the Society for Traumatic Stress Studies when it was established at a meeting organized by Charles Figley and held in Washington, D.C. in March 1985. A foundational objective of the society was to publish a journal featuring scholarly work on traumatic stress. This was achieved in July 1986 with the creation of the Journal of Traumatic Stress, [1] whose first issue was published in January 1988.[2] The Society’s first annual meeting was held in Atlanta, GA in September 1985. In April 1990, the society’s name was changed to the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies to reflect its growing non-U.S. membership.[3]

The first edition of its newsletter, Stresspoints, [4] which was published in 1986, started with an editorial commenting upon the diversity of opinion expressed in the press about the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, expressing hope that "very soon we can create a national media registry. This would include those most of us would agree are qualified to comment on the psychosocial consequences of traumatic events . . . We hope that by providing the media with a list of qualified experts, the level of public information about human response to catastrophes will be increased substantially.[5]


Each year, the society recognizes the achievements of its members and others dedicated to the field of traumatic stress studies, including students and professionals in research, clinical/patient care settings, media and advocacy. These awards celebrate the efforts of those who work to advance the understanding of trauma and its effects, and honor winners every year at the annual meeting:

Lifetime Achievement Award

This award is the highest honor given to an individual who has made great lifetime contributions to the field of traumatic stress.

Chaim and Bela Danieli Young Professional Award

The award was established by Dr. Yael Danieli in commemoration of her father and mother. This award recognizes excellence in the traumatic stress field by an individual who has completed his or her training within the last five years. For men or women with primary childcare responsibilities, one year per child can be added up to an eight-year limit post training. For example, an individual who completed his or her post-doctoral fellowship in 2011 and has two children would be eligible until 2018. The traumatic stress field may include research, clinical work, advocacy, policy, clergy or media. The definition of training includes clinical internship, post-doctoral training and medical residency.

Robert S. Laufer, PhD, Memorial Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement

This award is given to an individual or group who has made an outstanding contribution to research in the field of traumatic stress. Robert S. Laufer, PhD, was a sociologist who made early and important contributions to the field of traumatic stress and PTSD through his research on the effects of war experiences on Vietnam combat veterans. Laufer was Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, and an author of the groundbreaking study of returning veterans entitled Legacies of Vietnam: Comparative Adjustment of Veterans and Their Peers, published in 1981, with Arthur Egendorf, Ellen Frey-Wouters, and others. Laufer and colleagues expanded the concept of combat exposure to include multiple dimensions. In particular, he focused on witnessing or participating in abusive violence, an important new focus for a guerilla war where there were no front lines, and where enemy combatants and civilians were often difficult to distinguish. He found that abusive violence followed from more extreme exposure to combat, and was associated with distinctive psychological and behavioral outcomes, including different aspects of PTSD. Laufer died prematurely of cancer in 1989 at the age of 47. This award is made in his memory.

Sarah Haley Memorial Award for Clinical Excellence

This award is given to a clinician or group of clinicians in direct service to traumatized individuals. This written and/or verbal communication to the field must exemplify the work of Sarah Haley. Sarah Haley, MSW, was a psychiatric social worker in the VA clinic in Boston, now a part of VA Boston Healthcare System. Beginning with her treatment of a My Lai veteran who was severely distressed and unable to remember aspects of his highly traumatizing experiences in Vietnam, at a time when traumatic experiences were rarely the focus of treatment, she sat with hundreds of veterans who gradually were able to trust her enough to tell their horrific narratives. Working with these men, who repulsed or frightened many other therapists, led to her landmark article entitled When the Patient Reports Atrocities: Specific Treatment Considerations of the Vietnam Veteran, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 1974. She established that the Vietnam veteran who had witnessed or taken part in atrocities presented a new and difficult challenge to psychotherapy, one that took courage and conviction on the part of the therapist to help bring about healing. Haley died prematurely of cancer in 1989 at the age of 50. This award is made in her memory.

Public Advocacy Award

This award is given for outstanding and fundamental contributions to advancing social understanding of trauma.

Frank Ochberg Award for Media and Trauma Study

This award recognizes outstanding contributions by clinicians, researchers, graduate students and scholars working at the intersection of trauma with media and/or journalism. The Ochberg Award recognizes significant research and innovation which either: Advances understanding of the role and impact of media in traumatic events; elucidates the medical, ethical and/or social consequences of journalism practices relating to trauma; or contributes to the resilience of news professionals who cover violence, conflict and tragedy.

Frank W. Putnam Trauma Research Scholars

This award is presented to Student Members who submit proposals judged to have the greatest potential to contribute to the field of traumatic stress. The Scholars are named in honor of Dr. Frank W. Putnam, recognizing his outstanding contributions to the field of traumatic stress research, his service to children and families around the world, and his decades of mentorship and service to the Society. Previously known as the Student Research Grant Program, the Frank W. Putnam Research Scholars Program was endowed by anonymous donors who are friends and colleagues of Dr. Putnam.

Student Poster Award

This award is presented annually to recognize excellent work in a poster submission to the annual meeting.

Conference on Innovations in Trauma Research Methods

This award is presented for outstanding contribution to trauma research methodology for creating and managing the Conference on Innovations in Trauma Research Methods.

Trauma and journalism

The Dart Center Ochberg Fellowship for journalists who want to deepen their knowledge of emotional trauma and improve the responsible media coverage of violence, conflict and tragedy, was established in 1999 in partnership with Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.


Diane Elmore Borbon, Ph.D., M.P.H. 2017–2018
Meaghan O’Donnell, Ph..D 2016–2017
Grete Dyb, M.D., Ph.D. 2015–2016
Miranda Olff, Ph.D. 2014-2015
Nancy Kassam-Adams, Ph.D. 2013-2014
Karestan Koenen, Ph.D. 2012-2013
Eve Carlson, Ph.D. 2011-2012
Marylene Cloitre, Ph.D. 2010–2011
Ulrich Schnyder, M.D. 2009–2010
Patricia Resick, Ph.D.[1] 2008–2009
Stuart Turner, M.D., M.A., FRCP, FRCPsych 2007–2008
Elana Newman, Ph.D. 2006–2007
Dean Kilpatrick, Ph.D. 2005–2006
Barbara Rothbaum, Ph.D. 2004–2005
Paula Schnurr, Ph.D.[2] 2003–2004
Onno van der Hart, Ph.D. 2002–2003
John Briere, Ph.D. 2001–2002
Bonnie Green, Ph.D. 2000–2001
John Fairbank, Ph.D. 1999–2000
Alexander McFarlane, M.D. 1998–1999
Sandra Bloom, M.D. 1997–1998
Terence M. Keane, Ph.D.[3] 1996–1997
Matthew J. Friedman, M.D., Ph.D.[4] 1995–1996
Elizabeth Brett, Ph.D. 1994–1995
Charles Marmar, M.D. 1993–1994
Susan Roth, Ph.D. 1992–1993
Robert S. Pynoos, M.D. 1991–1992
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. 1990–1991
Jacob D. Lindy, M.D. 1989–1990
Yael Danieli, Ph.D. 1988–1989
John Wilson, Ph.D. 1987–1988
Charles Figley, Ph.D. 1985–1987


  1. ^ [1] Patricia Resick Profile
  2. ^ [2] Paula Schnurr Profile
  3. ^ [3] Terence Keane Profile
  4. ^ [4] Matt Friedman Profile