Feature

In an innovative partnership between a professional school and a research university, the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology (PGSP) and Stanford University teamed up to train clinical psychology doctoral students on responding to a terrorist attack.

Through the PGSP-Stanford PsyD Consortium, the National Center on Disaster Psychology and Terrorism (NCDPT) was established in the spring of 2002--a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, says Bruce Bongar, PhD, NCDPT executive director and co-chair of the consortium with Bruce Arnow, PhD.

To prepare for future attacks, students from the two schools complete clinical work, research and courses to earn doctoral credit in terrorism psychology at the center, which is located at PGSP and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

"We really see this center as training the next generation of professional psychologists who will be able to work in the whole field of terrorism," Bongar says. "We're so excited about the national center and that we can train PsyD and PhD students to be on the ground floor of this unfortunately emerging specialty of psychology terrorism." Bongar's co-directors of the national center include Larry Beutler, PhD, James Breckenridge, PhD, and 2002 APA President Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD.

The center allows students to interact with international disaster relief experts, public health officials, police and fire chiefs and policy-makers at the federal, state and local levels to emphasize what psychology can bring to understanding and responding to disasters. Students gain a variety of training experiences, Bongar says, including grant-writing, publishing articles, presenting at conferences and serving as community liaisons.

The center has developed a curriculum that includes three years of coursework on research evaluation, ethics, psychological assessment, diversity and culture, and psychopathology.

The center aims to provide government officials and the public with psychology interventions grounded in science to help improve first responses after a terrorist attack. To help do this, the center plans to sponsor its second conference, bringing together international psychology experts in terrorism and disaster relief in October.

By Dec. 31, the center will have trained 120 mental health professionals in disaster and terrorism response.

--M. DITTMANN