Trauma History Screening in a Community Mental Health Center

Karen J. Cusack, B. Christopher Frueh, Kathleen T. Brady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


Objective: This study assessed the lifetime prevalence of traumatic events among consumers of a community mental health center by using a brief trauma screening instrument. This study also examined the relationship between trauma exposure and physical and mental health sequelae and determined whether the routine administration of a trauma screening measure at intake would result in increased diagnoses of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and in changes in treatment planning in a practice setting. Methods: A 13-item self-report trauma screening instrument, a shortened version of the Trauma Assessment of Adults instrument, was incorporated into the intake assessment process at a community mental health center (CMHC). A total of 505 out of 515 consumers who presented to the CMHC consecutively were surveyed from May 1, 2001, to January 31, 2002. Data from the initial assessment on trauma exposure and on rate of PTSD diagnosis were examined, and a chart review was conducted on 97 cases (19 percent) to determine the extent to which CMHC services addressed trauma-related problems. Results: Data indicated that 460 consumers (91 percent) had been exposed to one or more traumatic life experiences. The number of traumatic events was negatively correlated with physical and mental health functioning on the 12-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-12). Subjects with a history of sexual abuse scored significantly higher on the SF-12, reflecting poorer physical and mental health. Although the rate of PTSD diagnosis increased after implementation of the trauma screening instrument, the rates of actual PTSD treatment services provided did not change. Conclusions: This study strongly suggests that screening for trauma history should be a routine part of mental health assessment and may significantly improve the recognition rate of PTSD. However, much work remains to be done in implementing appropriate treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-162
Number of pages6
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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