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International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, (abbreviated ISTSS), was established on March 2, 1985 in Washington, D.C. for professionals to share information about the effects of trauma. ISTSS membership includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, counselors, researchers, administrators, advocates, journalists, clergy and others 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 others.

Mission statement [1]Edit

ISTSS is an international, interdisciplinary professional organization that promotes advancement and exchange of knowledge about traumatic stress. This knowledge includes:

  • Understanding the scope and consequences of traumatic exposure
  • Preventing traumatic events and ameliorating their consequences
  • Advocating for the field of traumatic stress


ISTSS was originally named the Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (STSS) when it was established at a meeting organized by Charles Figley that was held in Washington, DC 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 (JTS),[2] whose first issue was published in January 1988.[3] 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.[4]

The first edition of its newsletter, Stresspoints,[5] 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.[6]

Despite the fact that 60-70% of the members are still primarily clinicians, the Board of Directors was soon dominated by members with academic positions, which led to split within the organization in early 1990s and many of the grassroots organizers and workers, many clinicians, law enforcement personnel, chaplains, emergency workers etc. formed a separate organization which is now known as ATSS, the Association for Traumatic Stress Specialists.[7]

Another split is between its American and European members who are faced with highly traumatized refugee populations, an issue that is easily overlooked by the American members.

The recurrent tensions in the society are about the attention given to child trauma, as well. The daily exposure to the overwhelming effects of victimization has left many members with a desire for a safe place where the horror of trauma can be intellectually and emotionally cordoned off, and safely transformed.

Trauma and journalismEdit

The 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 by ISTSS in 1999 in partnership with Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.

Past Presidents [8]Edit

Marylene Cloitre, PhD 2010–2011
Ulrich Schnyder, M.D. 2009–2010
Patricia Resick, PhD [9] 2008–2009
Stuart Turner, MD, MA, FRCP, FRCPsych 2007–2008
Elana Newman, PhD 2006–2007
Dean Kilpatrick, PhD 2005–2006
Barbara Rothbaum, PhD 2004–2005
Paula Schnurr, PhD [10] 2003–2004
Onno van der Hart, PhD 2002–2003
John Briere, PhD 2001–2002
Bonnie Green, PhD 2000–2001
John Fairbank, PhD 1999–2000
Alexander McFarlane, MD 1998–1999
Sandra Bloom, MD 1997–1998
Terence M. Keane, PhD[11] 1996–1997
Matthew J. Friedman, MD, PhD[12] 1995–1996
Elizabeth Brett, PhD 1994–1995
Charles Marmar, MD 1993–1994
Susan Roth, PhD 1992–1993
Robert S. Pynoos, MD 1991–1992
Bessel van der Kolk, MD 1990–1991
Jacob D. Lindy, MD 1989–1990
Yael Danieli, PhD 1988–1989
John Wilson, PhD 1987–1988
Charles Figley, PhD 1985–1987

Special Interest Groups Within ISTSS [13]Edit

ISTSS is a large, multidisciplinary society. Members involve themselves in ISTSS along two axes: the victim/survivor populations with which they work and the interest areas they have that span survivor groups in scope. ISTSS maintains an active committee structure that allows members hands-on participation in program development and implementation. These special interest groups include:

  • Child Trauma Special Interest Group
  • Complex Trauma Special Interest Group
  • Diversity and Cultural Competence Special Interest Group
  • Early Interventions Special Interest Group
  • Family Systems Special Interest Group
  • Gender and Trauma Special Interest Group
  • Internet and Technology (I&T) Special Interest Group
  • Media Special Interest Group
  • Psychodynamic Research and Practice Special Interest Group
  • Research Methodology Special Interest Group
  • Spirituality Special Interest Group
  • Terrorism and Bioterrorism Related Trauma Special Interest Group
  • Trauma Assessment and Diagnosis Special Interest Group
  • Traumatic Loss Special Interest Group

ISTSS Affiliate Trauma SocietiesEdit

ISTSS fosters an international community of trauma societies by affiliation with regional societies. ISTSS currently has seven formally recognized affiliate trauma societies:


  1. ISTSS Website
  2. Journal of Traumatic Stress on Wiley International
  3. Journal of Traumatic Stress, Vol 1(1), Jan, 1988.
  4. Bloom, Sandra L. (2000). In: International Handbook of Human Response to Trauma.
  5. StressPoints Newsletter on ISTSS Website
  6. Figley, C. R. (1986a). History. Stresspoints 1(1), 2, p.1)
  7. Bloom, Sandra L. (2000). In: International Handbook of Human Response to Trauma.
  8. ISTSS Past Presidents
  9. [1] Patricia Resick Profile
  10. [2] Paula Schnurr Profile
  11. [3] Terence Keane Profile
  12. [4] Matt Friedman Profile
  13. ISTSS SIGs

External linksEdit

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