PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) Research Group

The PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) Research Group focuses on trauma-related disorders, which have become a major area of clinical and research interest for Psychiatry faculty.

Events such as the September 11th terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, school shootings, and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have served to draw public attention to the plight of trauma survivors and the families of victims. Trauma, however, does not only happen in large public crises. On a daily basis, both children and adults experience interpersonal violence and serious accidents that threaten their lives and physical well-being.

Trauma exposure is associated not only with injury, death, and economic loss, but also with painful and debilitating emotional disorders, both acute and long-term. Seven people in every hundred have had PTSD at some point in their lives, and many more have had other problems related to traumatic experiences. Although there are now treatments that can help, many people with post-traumatic psychological problems are neither adequately diagnosed nor treated, leading to worse outcomes.

While the research on trauma-related disorders has made great strides in the last 20 years, existing knowledge needs to be broadly translated into more useful interventions for survivors of traumatic events. Effective treatments for PTSD exist, but many providers and survivors do not know this. It is imperative for the mental health field to develop models, techniques and tools for delivering effective, feasible treatments to survivors suffering from trauma-related disorders.

The Dartmouth Trauma Interventions Research Center (DTIRC), located within Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC)'s Department of Psychiatry and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, pursues innovation in the services and treatment for children, youth, and families affected by adversity, trauma, and loss. All Center initiatives are funded through grants, contracts, and endowment funding. The Center team spans many disciplines including clinical psychologists, child psychiatrists, statisticians, IT specialists, social workers, administrative support, and community consultants. Center faculty and staff have as a goal to improve the safety and well-being of vulnerable, disadvantaged, and traumatized children and families in New Hampshire and beyond.

The Center has three research and service system priorities aimed at building healthy children, families, and communities. Using multi-tiered, cross disciplinary strategies, we strive to: 

  • Improve the quality of mental health care delivered in the community through implementation of evidence-based practices. Our Center trains and consults with community mental health clinicians in evidence-based treatment practices for children ages 0-20 years who have experienced neglect, abuse, domestic violence, parental drug addiction, attachment disruption, and other traumas.
  • Build strategies to improve child and family engagement in the treatment process and in shared decision-making around treatment strategies including therapy and psychotropic medications.
  • Create trauma-informed organizations and systems, including child welfare and juvenile justice, family court systems, mental health agencies, pediatric health care settings, residential treatment facilities, and schools.

Over the past decade, the Center has transformed the child mental health system in New Hampshire by training and providing consultation to over 500 community-based behavioral health providers in evidence-based treatments for child trauma. The Center has helped the New Hampshire child welfare, juvenile justice and family court systems, youth residential and psychiatric facilities, and schools become more trauma-informed through trauma training and consultation, implementation of mental health screening measures, and linkage to effective mental health treatment. Much of our work is action-based and in the field, instituting practices within systems, evaluating the successes of these practices, and providing training and expert consultation to agencies and providers.