The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) was formed in 1985 as the Society for Traumatic Stress Studies with the purpose of advancing knowledge about traumatic stress and promoting effective methods for preventing and ameliorating its negative consequences. In 1990 the name was changed to reflect the sincere intentions of the society to be international in scope. The society has sought to accomplish its goals by recognizing achievement in knowledge production and disseminating the knowledge through face-to-face contact with colleagues and by other methods. The society has a newsletter, StressPoints, and its official journal is the peer reviewed Journal of Traumatic Stress, the leading academic journal for traumatic stress research.
The ISTSS was born in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the increasing recognition of the persisting psychological effects of war on veterans. This coincided with the emergence of awareness that rape victims also suffered serious aftereffects. An early organizing force for those concerned with trauma survivors was the acknowledgment in the mental health professions that there are specific trauma consequences. This occurred in 1980 through the incorporation of posttraumatic stress disorder into the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. At that time there was no field of traumatic stress and no organization that provided a forum for professionals or was dedicated to advancing the accumulating knowledge.
Researchers and activists came together to create the society, which has become the premier professional association focused on knowledge development and dissemination related to traumatic stress. From the beginning the society extended its focus to encompass the range of trauma experiences, including those of rape victims, violent crime victims, police officers and emergency workers, combat veterans, families of victims, victims and families of intrafamilial abuse, and natural and human-made disasters. Very soon thereafter the experiences of children were also incorporated into the society’s concerns.
Over the years, the ISTSS has reflected the maturation of the field of traumatic stress studies. Interest has extended far beyond posttraumatic stress disorder. The society exerts scientific and clinical leadership on relevant issues, including the definition of trauma, general population epidemiology of trauma consequences, risk and protective factors for trauma impact, the biology of trauma responses, and effective interventions to counter the deleterious effects of trauma. The society’s annual meeting, committees and task forces, and publications serve as primary vehicles for disseminating new knowledge as well as grappling with the complex issues that have arisen as the field has evolved. In addition, the ISTSS acts to promote social policy that advances the interests of trauma survivors.
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