ESTSS Special Interest Group “Developmental Trauma”

The term "developmental trauma" is often used to describe repeated, multiple and childhood-onset stressful events and their psychological consequences for the developmental trajectories of children and youth. These experiences are often associated with detrimental impacts in a range of life outcomes such as mental health, learning and social functioning. While the term “developmental trauma” has entered common usage in clinical practice, it remains highly contentious in academic circles and the overlaps and distinctions with related terms (e.g., Adverse Childhood Events, attachment disorders, complex PTSD, etc) is not always clear.


The ESTSS Developmental Trauma SIG aims to create a space to discuss and explore key issues such as definitions, measurements, and interventions. We will organise a series of online talks led by experts, early career researchers, and professionals to promote debate and exchange of ideas. We also aim to build and disseminate resources to inform evidence-based practice and highlight research opportunities. We look forward to meeting you at in-person ESTSS events.

If you are interested, you can subscribe to the e-mail list of the ESTSS SIG Developmental Trauma by filling out this form.

For other information you can email to SIGs leaders: Asa Keer-Davis (  Patrícia Correia Santos ( and  Alex Lau-Zhu (


Webinar Series

The Developmental Trauma SIG is launching a series of webinars to connect interested professionals, clinical and academic, from across Europe to discuss issues related to developmental trauma. The format of these webinars will be a discussion between two professionals with different perspectives on developmental trauma, followed by a Q&A which audience members are encouraged to participate in.

Webinar 3 - Distinguishing developmental trauma from other conditions - Assessment and measurement

Wednesday 27th September – 17:00-18:00 CET



This webinar, followed by Q&A, will steer the conversation around distinguishing developmental trauma from other conditions, including neurodevelopment, the overlap of comorbidities, and differential diagnosis.

Speaker Bios:

Dr. Marylene Cloitre is a senior staff member at the National Center for PTSD Dissemination and Training Division at the Palo Alto VA and a Clinical Professor (Affiliate) in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Dr. Cloitre’s research and clinical work for the past 30 years has focused on the long-term effects of childhood trauma on social and emotional functioning. Her current research is dedicated to the development of effective, patient-tailored, flexibly-delivered mental health programs for trauma exposed populations. Dr. Cloitre is past-president of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and was a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) ICD-11 working group on trauma-spectrum disorders and the formulation and testing of the Complex PTSD disorder. She is also the 2015 recipient of the Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Practice of Trauma Psychology from Division 56 of the American Psychological Association. 

Julian D. Ford, Ph.D., A.B.P.P. is a board certified clinical psychologist and tenured Professor of Psychiatry and Law at the University of Connecticut where he chairs of two School of Medicine/Dental Medicine Institutional Review Boards and is the Interim Division Chief for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Ford is Director Emeritus and Senior Advisor for the Center for Trauma Recovery and Juvenile Justice (2012-2026) and Director and Principal Investigator of the Center for the Treatment of Developmental Trauma Disorders (2016-2027) in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Dr. Ford is past President of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. He is the incoming Editor of the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation (2024) and has served as Associate Editor for the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation and European Journal of Psychotraumatology and on the Editorial Board of six peer review Journals. He has published more than 325 articles and book chapters and is the author or editor of 10 books, including Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders in Children and Adolescents: Scientific Foundations and Therapeutic Models, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, 2nd Edition, Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders in Adults, 2nd Edition, and Critical Moments: Transforming Crises into Turning Points in Psychotherapy. Dr. Ford was the Principal Investigator of the national Developmental Trauma Disorder Field trial research study and developed and has conducted randomized clinical trial and effectiveness studies with the Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy (TARGET©) model for youth, families, and adults with traumatic stress disorders. 

Webinar 2 - What is the impact of developmental trauma? Risk and resilience mechanisms – Biological / Psychosocial perspective

Wednesday 28th June – 13:00-14:00 CET



This webinar, followed by Q&A, will explore the impact and mechanisms associated with developmental trauma, drawing more broadly from research on early life stress and adversities.

Speaker Bios:

Dr. Christine Heim is a Professor and Director of the Institute of Medical Psychology at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, a principal investigator in the German Research Foundation Excellence Cluster NeuroCure, and a principal investigator in the Charité Mental Health partner site of the German Center for Mental Health. She is Research Professor in the Center for Safe & Healthy Children at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Heim’s research in focuses on understanding the influence of early adverse experience on mental and physical health across the lifespan and on identifying the biological and psychological mechanisms that lead to adverse health outcomes. Her research aims to identify the processes of biological embedding of early adversity and the molecular, neural, physiological, cognitive, emotional and behavioral processes that together lead to the developmental programming of adverse health outcomes. With her research, she hopes to pave the way for a novel improved conceptualization of mental disorders that considers developmental-mechanistic pathways across diagnostic boundaries and enables innovative and targeted precision interventions to mitigate adverse health outcomes. More than 43,000 citations reflect the impact of Dr. Heim’s research. She is the recipient of several international honors and awards. She is member and Vice Speaker of the Biomedical Class of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, a Fellow of the Max Planck School of Cognition, and a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. She is the recipient of multiple federal grants, including two federal research alliance grants on childhood adversity. She serves on numerous scientific review committees.

Brigitte Lueger-Schuster is a Professor of Psychotraumatology at the University of Vienna, Faculty of Psychology. She is the head of the lab for Psychotraumatology. Currently, her projects deal with children and adolescents, living in foster care homes, psychological treatment for Afghan refugees, and trauma in people with intellectual disabilities. Furthermore, her research looks into the long-term consequences of institutional abuse, e.g. by members of the Catholic Church. She has published a series of papers in international peer reviewed journals and edited several books, all of them focusing on the consequences of psychotrauma. She is the head of the Arbitration Commission of the University of Vienna. Since 2000 she was a member of several international boards for psychotraumatology, from 2011 to 2013 she was the President of the European Society of Traumatic Stress Studies (ESTSS). Currently, she serves as a scientific respectively ethical advisor for several Horizon 2020 projects, which focus on the consequences of psychotrauma for refugees.


Webinar 1 – What is developmental trauma?


Thursday 30th March – 13:00-14:00 CET





This webinar will explore definitional issues surrounding developmental trauma. The conversation, between Dr Emily Goodwin (Clinical Psychologist, Buckinghamshire CAMHS) and Dr Rachel Hiller (Associate Professor, University College London), will explore different perspectives on the meaning and usefulness of the concept of developmental trauma.


Speaker Bios:


Dr Rachel Hiller is an Associate Professor in Child Mental Health at UCL and Anna Freud Centre. She is a member of the UK Trauma Council and on the Board of Directors for the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Rachel’s work is focused on child maltreatment and mental health, and in particular young people with experience of the care system. Working alongside care-experienced young people, caregivers, and professionals, her research aims to find feasible and scalable ways to improve how we recognise and support the mental health of these young people. Much of her work has been focused on (complex) posttraumatic stress disorder, and includes studies exploring the psychological and social processes driving mental health and wellbeing; the development of scalable mental health interventions; and implementation of existing best-evidence practice in CAMHS and social-care based mental health teams.



Dr Emily Goodwin is a Clinical Psychologist working in the Looked After and Adopted Children’s service, part of the Attachment and Vulnerable Young People pathway in Buckinghamshire CAMHS. She has worked in child and adolescent mental health services for ten years with a special interest in working with children who have experienced developmental trauma including looked-after and adopted children and their parents/carers. She works primarily in a Mentalization-Based Treatment (MBT) informed way and has completed post-qualification training in MBT for Parents, Families, and Adolescents. She has completed additional training in trauma-specific therapies including Theraplay, Narrative Exposure Therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy.