The Trauma Foundation Study Offers an Integrated Approach to Therapy in Underserved Communities

Addiction, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other chronic mental health conditions often can be traced to physical abuse, adverse childhood experiences, and long-term stress. Treating those conditions often requires addressing past trauma.

Because of the complex nature of trauma therapy and the fragmented landscape of how to provide that therapy, it is often necessary to develop an individualized treatment plan to be effective. While many types of therapies have proven effective at addressing certain components of trauma and symptoms of nervous system dysregulation, there is a need for a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach.

Individualized trauma therapy can be expensive and hard to obtain, especially for communities that lack resources and are suffering from difficult-to-access mental health therapy—that’s the gap the Trauma Foundation is working to fill.

“The way our mental healthcare system is set up, these newer modalities are primarily being delivered by clinicians in private practice—those who have the personal resources to go out and get these advanced trainings on their own and then determine how to integrate them together,” said Chris Rutgers, Trauma Foundation founder.

Presently, low-income and under-resourced individuals struggle to find access to mental health treatment, often because people providing support don’t have the resources of typical private-practice clinicians.

Offering an integrated approach to trauma therapy

In partnership with community health organizations, the Foundation established the Trauma Resilience Initiative, which connects best-practice trauma clinicians with underserved populations who lack the resources to access appropriate support and treatment.

“The big issue is how do we get these really effective treatment modalities into the mainstream in a bigger, better way into the world?” asks Rutgers.

“We’re collecting data on patients that is extremely sensitive information. They’re talking about their histories of abuse and neglect, and we certainly wouldn’t want any of that information to be unsecured.”

Chris Rutgers, Trauma Foundation

To answer that question, the Trauma Foundation launched a preliminary study in April 2021 to learn whether an integrative trauma therapy (ITT) approach could be delivered effectively to help individuals heal past trauma.

Partnering with Luna, the Trauma Foundation collected health experiences and data directly from participants over the course of the study. The results were recently published. Read the white paper.

Data privacy and security are important to the trauma community

Over the course of the seven-month study, the Trauma Foundation participants were asked to disclose intimate details concerning past trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Rutgers said it was important they partner with an organization that could ensure secure storage and privacy-preserving analysis of data.

“That was a critical component to the study. We’re collecting data on patients that are extremely sensitive information,” Rutgers said. ”They’re talking about their histories of abuse and neglect, and we certainly wouldn’t want any of that information to be unsecured.”

The Trauma Foundation was looking for a HIPAA-compliant platform that could collect the quantitative and qualitative data necessary for the study to ensure the privacy and anonymity of the participants.

Bojil Velinov, head of DevOps and Automation at Luna, said it’s vital to safeguard participants’ data by having a solid foundation of data security measures.
“People who contribute to the Luna platform see how their data is being used. This helps establish trust and demonstrates transparency when it comes to people sharing their data for research,” said Velinov.

Read the white paper from the Trauma Foundation

The 2021 Integrative Trauma Therapy Pilot served to address issues and better understand how to make effective trauma treatment more accessible. It connected best practice trauma clinicians with underserved populations lacking the resources to access appropriate support and treatment. The white paper outlines the approach to this pilot including clinician identification, training, client recruitment, treatment, and outcome findings.
Chris Rutgers, founder of the Trauma Foundation

Positive implications

The ITT study served two purposes: First, to assess the feasibility of providing an integrative approach to trauma treatment. And second, to understand how the approach can support clinicians in delivering a necessary form of mental health treatment for individuals with unresolved trauma that is often unrecognized or inadequately treated in the current healthcare system.

The group of study participants came from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, but all had similar histories of trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and chronic stress. The results of the study demonstrated that it is possible to recruit a diverse group of participants who are willing to engage in long-term therapy and adhere to a structured treatment protocol.

The Trauma Foundation is looking to build off the success of first the ITT study and expand services to individuals, including billing, a partial hospitalization program, intensive outpatient program, and treating larger-scale groups of people.

“Next, we’re looking at building another study involving a group treatment model instead of one-to-one treatment. This would allow a group of clinicians to work with a larger group of 15 people at a time,” Rutgers said.

Increasing the scale of their efforts would ultimately allow more people in underserved communities to get the high-quality treatment they deserve. The Trauma Foundation is working to fulfill that mission through research, training, and treatment. And this is only the first step, Rutgers said.

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About Luna

Luna’s suite of tools and services connects communities with researchers to accelerate health discoveries. With participation from more than 180 countries and communities advancing causes including disease-specific, public health, environmental, and emerging interests, Luna empowers these collectives to gather a wide range of data—health records, lived experience, disease history, genomics, and more—for research.

Luna gives academia and industry everything they need from engagement with study participants to data analysis across multiple modalities using a common data model. The platform is compliant with clinical regulatory requirements and international consumer data privacy laws.

By providing privacy-protected individuals a way to continually engage, Luna transforms the traditional patient-disconnected database into a dynamic, longitudinal discovery environment where researchers, industry, and community leaders can leverage a range of tools to surface insights and trends, study disease natural history and biomarkers, and enroll in clinical studies and trials.