2020 was an extraordinary year for the Kinsey Institute Traumatic Stress Research Consortium (KI-TSRC). Led by Kinsey Institute researchers Dr. Stephen Porges and Dr. Jacek Kolacz, membership in the consortium grew to over 900 clinicians and therapists from more than 40 countries. The consortium continued ongoing studies in trauma and its survey of trauma professionals and launched new studies, including a client survey and new COVID-19 research.
Trauma Professionals Survey
In 2018, the KI-TSRC launched a clinician survey to collect data on the individuals who do trauma work, and the treatment modalities they use in their practice. The survey includes questions related to practice and training, professional quality of life, personal trauma experiences, self-care, body stress responses and physical health.
Preliminary findings to-date show that trauma professionals are more likely to have experienced trauma than the general population. Overall, almost 75% of trauma therapists who responded reported some history of abuse or neglect. The most commonly reported experience in childhood was emotional abuse. When results were analyzed for gender and country differences, they remained the same, indicating this is a common trait among trauma professionals around the world.
- 67 times more likely to have experienced emotional abuse in childhood
- 69 times more likely to have experienced sexual abuse
- 84 times more likely to have experienced emotional neglect
The strong results of the survey suggest that the past experiences of trauma therapists may inform their choice of vocation, and potentially their practice, and also highlight the amazing possibilities for resilience and recovery among individuals who suffer abuse or trauma.
In September 2020, the consortium launched a second large-scale international survey focused on the clients of trauma professionals. This survey is documenting trauma histories, mental health, and experiences during therapy with a goal of attracting over 10,000 respondents. Final analysis of the data is expected later in 2021, but the KI-TSRC has released preliminary findings related to questions about client experience with telehealth during the pandemic.
Among the therapy clients who have completed the online survey, almost 80% reported a change in therapy as a result of the pandemic. The most common change has been a transition from in-person to video therapy (70.3%), which is novel for many clients and therapists alike. While client response to video therapy was generally positive, a significant portion of clients experienced technical or domestic obstacles to receiving therapy.
- 2/3 felt that video is a more convenient form of therapy delivery compared to in-person therapy.
- Nearly half (44.9%) reported feeling less connection to their therapist compared to in-person therapy.
- More than half (56.3%) said that in-person therapy is more comfortable than video therapy.
- 5% did not agree that their computer equipment interfered with effective therapy, but 30.4% said it did.
- 1% did not agree that their living situation gets in the way of effective therapy, but 31.9% found their therapy was impeded by their home situation.
- 1% of participants agreed that video therapy is as effective as in-person therapy, 23.9% were neutral about the difference in effectiveness, and 38.1% disagreed it was as effective.
The KI-TSRC client survey continues to evolve, and is still in the initial stages of outreach and participation. We are seeking hundreds of therapy clients for our survey. We invite clinicians to help their clients share their experience.
Clients can access the online survey here: https://www.traumascience.org/client-invitation-letter
COVID-19 and Mental Health
In response to the unprecedented scale of the coronavirus pandemic, the KI-TSRC launched a study investigating how the sudden and profound impact of COVID-19 on our personal and professional lives was affecting mental health. This study was funded by gifts from the Dillon Fund and the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy, the Chaja Foundation, and seed funding from the Office for the Vice Provost for Research at Indiana University.
Results of the study, published in New Frontiers in Psychiatry, showed that having a trauma history prior to the pandemic increased the probability of depression, PTSD symptoms, worry about the effects of the pandemic, and body stress responses. The findings have implications for mental intervention and prevention strategies. Therapies that dampen or regulate threat response may be helpful to improve mental health and alleviate worry, and can assist individuals with a history of adversity or a sensitized nervous system.
Kolacz, J., Dale, L. F., Nix, E. J., Roath, O. K., Lewis, G. F., & Porges, S. W. (2020). Adversity history predicts self-reported autonomic reactivity and psychological wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.577728.
COVID-19 and Disability
The KI-TSRC also launched a new study examining the diversity of mind and body experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study is focusing especially on developing an inclusive vision of how the impact of the pandemic is modified by illness, disability, sexuality, trauma, race, income, social location, and discrimination. Participants are invited to share their personal experiences and sign up for that survey at https://knsy.in/COVIDsation
Both the trauma professionals survey and client survey continue to collect data and provide the KI-TSRC with a clearer picture of the state of trauma treatment, and client perceptions of and reactions to trauma treatment and their traumatic experiences. Data are also now being collected as part of a longitudinal study to track how mental health and body stress responses change over time in a nationally-representative U.S. sample.
The KI-TSRC is also partnering with the European Association for Body Psychotherapy (EABP) and United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP) to better understand the landscape of body-based therapies and their application to trauma. The study is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind. It will examine methods, their perceived utility for trauma, professional and personal experience, and client characteristics. Given the rise in interest about body-oriented trauma therapy, the results will be important for understanding clinician’s engagement of the body as a part of trauma recovery and promoting wellbeing.
You can find more information about the Kinsey Institute Traumatic Stress Research Consortium studies and publications on our website at https://kinseyinstitute.org/research/traumatic-stress.php