Bessel van der Kolk, MD, has spent his career studying how children and adults adapt to traumatic experiences. He has translated emerging findings from neuroscience and attachment research to develop and study a range of trauma therapy treatments for stress in children and adults.
In 1984, Dr. van der Kolk set up one of the first clinical/research centres in the United States dedicated to the study and treatment of traumatic stress. Bessel was also involved in the first studies on the effects of SSRIs on PTSD as a member of the first neuroimaging team to investigate how trauma changes brain processes. He led the first research linking BPD and deliberate self-injury to trauma and neglect in early childhood.
Much of Dr. van der Kolk’s research has focused on how trauma has a unique impact at different stages of development and how disruptions in caregiving systems obstruct effective intervention. His work helped establish the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). This congressionally mandated initiative funds approximately 150 centres offering interventions and trauma therapy.
Dr. van der Kolk’s efforts also helped establish the Trauma Research Foundation. The Foundation’s clinical team specializes in the treatment of those with histories of child maltreatment. Its research lab studies the effects of neurofeedback and MDMA on behaviour, mood, and executive functioning. The Foundation also trains mental health professionals, educators, parent groups, policymakers, and law enforcement personnel.