We hope that this page gives you a sense of the kind of work that we are doing in our lab here, the PTSD Treatment and Research Program – and the opportunities for students that are available. Our work is focused on intervention studies, primarily in the area of PTSD, but also in mood disorders. We are a busy, productive group. We routinely work on various grants and chapters which relate to our mission statement. We also work with randomized controlled trial (RCT) datasets from studies our lab has completed with our collaborators across the country. Below are descriptions of our current research projects.

Positive Processes and Transition to Health

Positive Processes and Transition to Health (PATH) is an NIMH-funded clinical trial that is soon beginning recruitment. This is a multi-site trial in collaboration with the University of Washington and the University of Delaware. This project includes is an innovative treatment that targets maladaptive event processing (unproductive processing, avoidance, and anhedonia). PATH is an individual treatment program for adults suffering from depression and trauma-related symptoms and also promotes parallel adaptive event processing (constructive processing, approach, and reward seeking) for destabilizing life events (e.g., financial stress, illness, death of loved ones, stressful events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, termination of a significant relationship). PATH broadly addresses stressor-related psychopathology and therefore can treat PTSD alone, depression alone, the combination, and subthreshold distress, grief, and impairment.

PTSD Risk Factors

This project aims to improve our understanding of reactions following trauma, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a prospective manner. We hope to identify preliminary targets for early identification and prevention. Exposure to traumatic events (e.g., violence, sexual assaults, and accidents) is very common. Many who experience such events present for care at Emergency Departments (ED). In Cleveland, MetroHealth’s ED sees over 100,000 such visits annually. In response to traumatic events, people commonly experience psychological reactions like nightmares, sleep problems, anger, and negative changes in mood. Many gradually improve and symptoms recede. However, a significant minority will develop diagnosable psychopathology, including PTSD. PTSD is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in the United States. PTSD is typically chronic and is associated with significant impairment, work time lost, and health problems. However, scientists and clinicians still lack the ability to predict who will develop PTSD and who will recover naturally. In order to identify early who is at risk for PTSD and intervene to prevent it, we need to better understand which psychological and biological factors contribute to risk and resilience following trauma. In addition to markers of risk and resilience, we hope to identify targets for psychological and pharmacological intervention that would prevent the onset of PTSD.

Islamic Trauma Healing

Islamic Trauma Healing (ITH) is a six-week, lay-lead, group intervention integrating components of evidence-based interventions for PTSD and Islamic faith principles. The program seeks to reduce trauma-related psychopathology and stigma while increasing treatment accessibility and scalability. To do so, ITH is delivered in local mosques and does not require expert training. Pilot studies suggest that ITH is effective in both U.S. refugee populations and in trauma-exposed individuals in Somalia in reducing symptoms of PTSD and depression and increasing well-being. Further, group member and lay-leader feedback is positive, suggesting that ITH is consistent with the Islamic faith, culturally relevant, and increases sense of community, healing, and growth.