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Understanding and Addressing Psychological Trauma and Its Impact on Patients and Staff in a Healthcare Setting

A Presentation in Honor of National Professional Social Work Month 2019

Psychological trauma refers to an experience that is emotionally painful, distressful, or shocking, and one that often has long-term negative mental and physical (including neurological) consequences. The experiences of trauma are universal and are encountered by individuals of all ages, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic groups. Psychological traumas may be compounded by physical traumas such as those experienced by orthopedic and rheumatology patients. The impact is felt not only by individuals and their families, but also by hospital staff members caring for them.



This presentation provided:

  • An understanding of traumas commonly encountered at different stages of the life cycle – and the potential for hospital staff members to experience secondary trauma.
  • Issues such as complex and intergenerational transmission of trauma.
  • Case examples were utilized to illustrate some of the above issues and how best to address them in a hospital setting in order to work toward trauma-informed care.


The objectives of this presentation were to:

  • Understand the concept of trauma and its impact on individuals.
  • Explore the unique impact of trauma on individuals at different stages of the life cycle.
  • Appreciate the experience of trauma from a multicultural lens, related to systemic racism, migration experience and history of persecution.
  • Describe and address the concept and implications of secondary trauma.
  • Identify specific strategies to assess and intervene with patients experiencing trauma related to their diagnosis, treatment, and health care experience.
  • Expand knowledge and skills through the provision of related references and resources.

About the presenter

S. Lala Straussner, PhD, LCSW, is a full professor teaching in both the Social Work Practice and Human Behavior in the Social Environment (HBSE) areas, and the PhD and DSW Programs at New York University Silver School of Social Work. She is the current Chair of the HBSE area. She also directs the School’s Post-Master’s Certificate Program in the Clinical Approaches to the Addictions. Dr. Straussner has taught in the School’s Global programs in Italy, Israel, and Shanghai, China. Previously she was twice selected as a Fulbright Senior Scholar, once to Ukraine and once to Israel, and in 2013 received the highest level of Fulbright fellowships, as a Fulbright Chair to the Czech Republic.

Dr. Straussner is the founding editor of the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions and has numerous publications including 22 books, 25 book chapters, and almost 50 peer-reviewed journal publications. Her latest project is a national study of over 6,000 social workers looking at their health, substance use and mental health issues. Preliminary findings from the study can be seen at She also just received a grant to do an international survey of health and mental health professionals focusing on their views and knowledge regarding medical cannabis.


Sponsored by The Department of Social Work Programs

S. Lala Straussner, PhD, LCSW
Professor, Social Work Practice and Human Behavior in the Social Environment, New York University
Founding editor of the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions


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    Asnaani A, Hall-Clark B (2017).Recent developments in understanding ethnocultural and race differences in trauma exposure and PTSD. Curr Opin Psychol, 14:96-101.

    Bandermann, K. M., & Szymanski, D. M. (2014). Exploring coping mediators between heterosexist oppression and posttraumatic stress symptoms among lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1(3), 213.

    Bell, J. G., & Perry, B. (2015). Outside looking in: The community impacts of anti-lesbian, gay, and bisexual hate crime. Journal of homosexuality, 62(1), 98-120.

    Ben Natan, M., & Lowenstein, A. (2010). Study of factors that affect abuse of older people in nursing homes. Nursing Management, 17(8), 20-24.

    Bonanno, G. A., Westphal, M., Anthony, D., & Mancini, A. D. (2011). Resilience to loss and potential trauma. The Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 7, 511-535.

    See the (complete reference list.)

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