Vol 57 No. 3 | Feb. 2005
Prof Helps to Overcome
Grief, Trauma on Many Fronts
Grief and trauma haunt more than battlefields. In the experience of William Saltzman, a member of the Educational Psychology, Administration and Counseling Department since 2001, these painful experiences are also a common part of the lives of many children and adolescents in our communities. Saltzman is a clinical psychologist and internationally recognized expert on the treatment of traumatized youth and families. His work has taken him to post-war Bosnia where he developed a manualized treatment program that was implemented in schools across the war-torn country, to Columbine and Santana high schools after their traumatic shootings, and, over the past three years, he has worked extensively in New York City where his trauma and grief program was selected as one of the primary interventions for city-wide implementation. Most recently, Saltzman has begun a grant-funded project at Camp Pendleton that offers family-based treatment for United States Marines who have been deployed in Iraq.
His interest in grief and trauma began while earning his doctorate at the University of Maryland. He was hired by the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct basic research into the prevalence of violence exposure among children in the Washington, D.C., area.
“I was surprised at the levels of exposure we found and the insidious way these experiences continued to exert an influence on children's daily lives – undercutting their ability to study, sleep and to engage in essential developmental activities. In most cases these kids did not receive necessary services or were improperly diagnosed and treated for ailments such as attention deficit disorder or were simply seen as conduct problems,” he said.
Saltzman continued his work in the UCLA Trauma Psychiatry Program where he was director of school-based programs. In that capacity he developed and implemented a series of programs for children and adolescents in the aftermath of large-scale traumatic events, like the World Trade Center attack and school shootings, as well as programs at schools whose students experience on-going threat, trauma, and dislocation in their daily lives.
He has published widely on these various projects. Currently, Saltzman consults with the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress at UCLA, which administers a federally funded network of 55 top trauma treatment and research sites across the United States. The overriding goal in this work is to raise the caliber of prevention and treatment programs available to traumatized youth and families across the nation.
“The best part is that I can tie in my research and clinical work with my duties here with my master's students,” according to Saltzman. As coordinator for the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Master's Program within the College of Education, Saltzman is in the position to help shape the clinical training of a large number of mental health practitioners. With almost 90 full-time students, the MFT Program at CSULB is one of the largest and best-regarded programs of its kind in the state. It routinely draws a large number of applicants from around the country and prides itself on providing a comprehensive and “hands-on” learning experience for the next generation of mental health professionals.
On a personal note, Saltzman described some of the ways in which his work with traumatized and bereaved children and families has changed him.“In working with people victimized by war, disasters, terrorism, and home-grown forms of domestic and community violence, you get a glimpse of the darker possibilities of human nature, but you also come away amazed at people's ability to cope and surmount amazing difficulties. It is such an honor to work with my families, to learn from them and to feel, in some small way, that I am making a contribution.”
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