Treatment for trauma is not one-size-fits-all

MU study finds that preventing probationers with mental illness from reoffending might start with diagnosing their trauma.


Pate McCuien: Experiencing trauma can completely change a person’s life. That’s why it’s important that victims of trauma are screened and treated. However, new research at the University of Missouri shows that, understanding the type of trauma someone is experiencing is extremely important for promoting better outcomes.

Ashley Givens, an assistant professor within the MU School of Social Work, collaborated with Virginia Commonwealth University to interviewed 207 individuals who were currently on probation with current mental illnesses about their trauma and analyzed how it was affecting them.

Givens: For the probationers with serious mental illnesses, two-thirds of them had experienced a significant number of traumatic events.

McCuien: The study broke down the traumatic events the individuals experienced into 14 different categories and determined which were more likely to be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Givens found that physical assault, assault with a weapon, sexual assault and other unwanted sexual experiences were most closely associated with PTSD. Givens says this information could help keep more people out of prison in the long run.

Givens: So, what do we do with this information? Screening for traumatic events is good, but screening for the right types of trauma and experiences can make sure that we are capturing the most folks. In my opinion, those are the four that minimally we need to screen for because PTSD is associated with a whole slew of outcomes that are precursors to criminalized behaviors.

McCuien: For more on this research, visit

I'm Pate McCuien, with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

Learn more about the research here

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