Trauma-Related Training and Mental Health Professionals

It is estimated that between 51% to 84% of adults in the general population have been exposed to some type of traumatic event, according to a recent study published in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.

And with such high numbers of adults who have been exposed to trauma, one might think that mental health professionals (MHPs) would routinely ask patients about prior traumas. But according to the above-mentioned study authored by authors Coyle et al., MHPs do not inquire about patent’s trauma as often as you might think.

“Exposure to traumatic events is prevalent, with the impact of trauma and its related relationship with other conditions widely documented,” the authors write. Coyle et al. continue: “Research suggests that clinicians do not routinely ask about trauma history in clinical settings. Trauma-related training has been recommended as a means of addressing this,” adding: “While the importance of conducting a comprehensive assessment of trauma has been emphasized, there is a substantial body of evidence to suggest that mental health professionals do not frequently inquire about a history of traumatic exposure.”

As the research suggests, some of the reasons that MHPs don’t ask patients about prior trauma include:
• concerns about offending or distressing the client
• the need to prioritize more immediate concerns
• concerns regarding vicarious trauma
• fear of inducing false memories
• a lack of training in asking about or responding to disclosures
• confidence in asking about and responding to disclosures
• clinician and client gender, client age, and clinical diagnosis

These findings remain insightful because with such high rates of trauma among the general population of adults, perhaps more trauma-related training is needed, as suggested by Coyle at al. Moreover, “exposure to traumatic events in clinical populations tends to be higher, ranging between 76% and 91%.” Moreover, the researchers note: “Traumatic exposure is associated with a range of mental health difficulties.”

With regard to trauma-related training for MHPs to address these concerns, Coyle et al.’s review of the literature has found that “Two-thirds of studies reported statistically significant evidence to suggest that trauma-related training is related to: (1) increased frequency of asking about trauma history and (2) greater detection of trauma history.”

The researchers conclude: “[T]his review provides some evidence that trauma-related training is related to clinician inquiry and detection of trauma history.” Finally, because trauma rates vary between 51% to 84% among adults in the general population, perhaps, as suggested by the authors, more trauma-related training is needed to help client’s needs. Additionally, trauma remains a serious problem that – with the proper handling by a MHP – can help be abated through proper interventions.

Coyle, L., Hanna, D., Dyer, K. F. W., Read, J., Curran, D., & Shannon, C. (2019, February 4). Does Trauma-Related Training Have a Relationship With, or Impact On, Mental Health Professionals’ Frequency of Asking About, or Detection of, Trauma History? A Systematic Literature Review. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication.