Board Members

Trauma Research Foundation Board Members

Bessel china 2

Bessel van der Kolk, MD Chair

graduated from high school at the Gymnasium in The Hague in the Netherlands, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii and his medical degree from the University of Chicago. His did his specialty training in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, where he was on the faculty until he moved to Boston University School of Medicine in 1994. He has spent his professional life studying how children and adults adapt to traumatic experiences, and has translated emerging findings from pharmacology, neuroscience and attachment research to develop and implement effective treatments for traumatic stress. In 1984 he set up the Trauma Center, one of the first clinical/research centers in the US dedicated to study and treatment of traumatic stress in civilian populations, which has trained numerous researchers and clinicians specializing in the study and treatment of traumatic stress, and which has been continually funded for four decades. He conducted the first studies on the effects of SSRIs on PTSD; he was a member of the first neuroimaging team to investigate how trauma changes brain processes, and did the first research linking BPD and deliberate self-injury to trauma and neglect. Much of his research has focused on how trauma has a different impact at different stages of development, and on how disruptions in care-giving systems have additional deleterious effects that need to be addressed for effective intervention.

In order to promote a deeper understanding of the impact of childhood trauma and to foster the development and execution of effective treatment interventions he initiated the process that led to the establishment of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), a Congressionally mandated initiative that now funds approximately 150 centers specializing in developing effective treatment interventions around the United States, allowing the implementation of those treatments in a wide array of settings, from juvenile detention centers to schools, and tribal agencies.

Following in the footsteps of Abram Kardiner who, back in 1941, called traumatic stress a “physioneurosis” he has focused on studying treatments that stabilize physiology, increase executive functioning and help traumatized individuals to feel fully alert to the present. This has included a NIMH funded study on EMDR and NCCAM funded study of yoga, the study of neurofeedback to investigate whether attentional and perceptual systems (and the neural tracks responsible for them) can be altered by changing EEG patterns, as well as the capacity of MDMA to ameliorate PTSD symptomatology. Until 2018 he directed a highly trained clinical team to treat traumatized children and adults, and he currently runs a research lab that studies the effects of neurofeedback and MDMA on behavior, mood, and executive functioning.

He provides numerous trainings nationally & internationally to mental health professionals, educators, parent groups, policy makers, and law enforcement personnel. He is author of the New York Times best seller The Body Keeps the Score, which has been translated into 35 languages, and of well over 150 peer reviewed scientific articles.

View Bessel van der Kolk's Curriculum Vitae
J W Freiberg Headshot

J. Walter Freiberg, J.D., Ph.D

was formerly Assistant Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Sociology at Boston University, and simultaneously a member of the Centre d'Études des Mouvements Sociaux in Paris, where he taught Social Psychology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Subsequently, Freiberg practiced law at Hale & Dorr, leaving to become Chairman of Weston Patrick. He is the author of five books: Surrounded By Others and Yet So Alone; Growing Up Lonely; Four Seasons of Loneliness; The French Press: Class, State and Ideology; and Critical Sociology: European Perspectives, as well as over thirty-five articles, book introductions, and other scholarly works on social psychological, and legal issues. His recent work has concentrated on the public health ramifications of chronic loneliness, and his story-based writing style has led to him having been described as "The Oliver Sacks of Law."

Ruth Lanius

Ruth Lanius, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Psychiatry is the director of the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) research unit at the University of Western Ontario. She established the Traumatic Stress Service and the Traumatic Stress Service Workplace Program, services that specialize in the treatment and research of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and related comorbid disorders. She currently holds the Harris-Woodman Chair in Mind-Body Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario. Her research interests focus on studying the neurobiology of PTSD and treatment outcome research examining various pharmacological and psychotherapeutic methods. She has authored more than 100 published papers and chapters in the field of traumatic stress and is currently funded by several federal funding agencies. She regularly lectures on the topic of PTSD nationally and internationally. She has recently published a book ‘The Impact of Early Life Trauma on Health and Disease’ with Eric Vermetten and Clare Pain.

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Martin Teicher, ​MD, Ph.D.

has been director of the Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program at McLean Hospital since 1988. He was director of the former Developmental Psychopharmacology Laboratory (now the Laboratory of Developmental Neuropharmacology), and is currently an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Teicher is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, Current Pediatric Reviews, and Current Psychosomatic Medicine. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation, and has been part of Harvard University's Brain Development Working Group. He has served on or chaired numerous review committees for the National Institutes of Health, published more than 150 articles, and has received numerous honors.

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Mariah Rooney O'Brien, LICSW, RYT Strategic Planning & Development

(uses she/her/hers pronouns) is a clinician who uses an integrative approach in her work with children, adolescents and adults with complex trauma histories. She is also an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of St. Thomas. Mariah is also Project Coordinator for the Center for Treatment of Developmental Trauma Disorders (CTDTD), University of Connecticut, supporting the National Child Traumatic Stress Network objectives of increasing national affiliate competency in assessing and treating complex developmental trauma through coordination of various projects. Additionally, she is part of the development team for the Structures Training Program for the Trauma Research Foundation and is co-founder of Trauma Informed Weightlifting. Mariah is deeply committed to examining the intersections of social justice, trauma and mental health and participating in efforts to decolonize mental healthcare and increase access to anti-oppressive healing spaces.

Licia Esalen2020

Licia Sky, ​C.M.O.H. CEO

is a Boston based artist, singer-songwriter, and bodyworker who works with traumatized individuals and trains mental health professionals to use Embodied Self Experience in movement, theater exercises, writing and voice as tools for attunement, healing and connection.

Susan Lagos

Susan Lagos CFO & Treasurer

has extensive experience in non-profit organizations with human resources, strategic planning, budgeting, streamlining financial systems, and financial management, including financial reporting, forecasting, analysis and accounting. In addition to being the CFO and Treasurer for Trauma Research Foundation, Susan is the Director of Finance & Human Resources for the Striar Hebrew Academy in Sharon, MA.

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