Racial Trauma & PTSD Reading List

Race Matters in Understanding Mental Health and Trauma

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Woman at a computer, reading racial trauma literature.

I have been contacted by many students, therapists, and researchers seeking scholarly work on racial trauma, PTSD and cultural diversity, historical and cultural trauma, and related materials. Here are some specific articles that address this issue that have been published in the academic literature. Many of these papers demonstrate the very long-lasting effects of oppression, institutionalized racism, and violence on individuals, and others are trauma readings with a cultural diversity focus.

Video Resources

Williams, M. T. (2020, August 27). The Trauma of Racism: Assessment and Treatment Techniques for Trauma Rooted in Racism. PESI.

Literature Review

Williams, M. T., Haeny, A. & Holmes, S. (2021). Posttraumatic stress disorder and racial trauma. PTSD Research Quarterly, 32(1), 1-9.

Pole, N., Gone, J., & Kulkarni (2008). Posttraumatic stress disorder among ethnoracial minorities in the United States. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 15(1), 35-61.

Gone, J. P., Hartmann, W. E., Pomerville, A., Wendt, D. C., Klem, S. H., & Burrage, R. L. (2019). The impact of historical trauma on health outcomes for indigenous populations in the USA and Canada: A systematic review. American Psychologist, 74(1), 20.

Critical Papers

Bor, J., Venkataramani, A. S., Williams, D. R., & Tsai, A. (2018). Police killings and their spillover effects on the mental health of black Americans: a population-based, quasi-experimental study. The Lancet, 392, 10144, 302-310. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31130-9

Bryant-Davis, T., & Ocampo, C. (2005). Racist incident-based trauma. Counseling Psychologist, 33, 479-500. doi: 10.1177/0011000005276465

Butts, H. F. (2002). The Black mask of humanity: Racial/ethnic discrimination and post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal American Academy of Psychiatry Law, 30(3), 336-339.

Carter, R. T. (2007). Racism and Psychological and Emotional Injury: Recognizing and Assessing Race-Based Traumatic Stress. The Counseling Psychologist, 35(1), 13-105.

Carlson, M. D., Endsley, M., Motley, D., Shawahin, L. N., & Williams, M. T. (2018). Addressing the impact of racism on veterans of color: A race-based stress and trauma group. Psychology of Violence, 8(6), 748-762. doi: 10.1037/vio0000221

Helms, J. E., Nicholas, G., & Green, C. E. (2012). Racism and Ethnoviolence as Trauma: Enhancing Professional and Research Training. Traumatology, 18, 65-74.

Holmes, S. C., Facemire, V. C., & DaFonseca, A. M. (2016). Expanding Criterion A for posttraumatic stress disorder: Considering the deleterious impact of oppression. Traumatology, 22(4), 314-321.

Kira, I. A. (2010). Etiology and treatment of post-cumulative traumatic stress disorders in different cultures. Traumatology, 16(4), 128-141. doi:10.1177/1534765610365914

Williams, M. T., Metzger, I., Leins, C., & DeLapp, C. (2018). Assessing racial trauma within a DSM-5 framework: The UConn Racial/Ethnic Stress & Trauma Survey. Practice Innovations, 3(4), 242-260. doi: 10.1037/pri0000076

Measures and Assessment

Bosson, R., Williams, M. T., Schlaudt, V., Carrico, R., Peña, A., Ramirez, J., & Kanter, J. (2017). Evaluating mental health in Cuban refugees: The role of the Refugee Health Screener-15. Journal of Refugee & Global Health, 1(1), 15-23. doi: 10.18297/rgh/vol1/iss1/4

Carter, R.T., & Sant-Barket, S.M. (2015). Assessment of the impact of racial discrimination and racism: How to use the race-based traumatic stress symptom scale in practice. Traumatology, 21(1), 32-39.

Loo, C. M., Fairbank, J. A., Scurfield, R. M., Ruch, L. O., King, D. W., Adams, L. J., & Chemtob, C. M. (2001). Measuring exposure to racism: Development and validation of a Race-Related Stressor Scale (RRSS) for Asian American Vietnam veterans. Psychological Assessment, 13, 503–520. doi:10.1037/1040-3590.13.4.503

Malcoun, E., Williams, M. T., & Bahojb-Nouri, L. V. (2015). Assessment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in African Americans. In L. T. Benuto & B. D. Leany (Eds.), Guide to Psychological Assessment with African Americans (pp. 163-182). New York, NY: Springer. ISBN: 978-1-4939-1003-8.

Sawyer, B., Williams, M.T., DeLapp, R. C. T., & Davis, D. M. (2016). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. In A. Breland-Noble, C. S. Al-Mateen, & N. N. Singh (Eds.), Handbook of Mental Health in African American Youth (pp. 237-247). Springer. ISBN: 978-3-319-25501-9..

Snipes, C. (2013). Assessment of anxiety with Hispanics. In L. T. Benuto (Ed.), Guide to Psychological Assessment with Hispanics (pp. 153-162). New York, NY, US: Springer Science + Business Media. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-4412-1_11

Williams, M. T. (2019, February 13). Uncovering the Trauma of Racism. APA Journals Article Spotlight. American Psychological Association.

Williams, M. T., Pena, A., & Mier-Chairez, J. (2017). Tools for assessing racism-related stress and trauma among Latinos. In L. T. Benuto (Ed.), Toolkit for Counseling Spanish-Speaking Clients. Springer. ISBN: 978-3-319-64880-4. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-64880-4_4

Williams, M. T., Printz, D., & DeLapp, R. C. T. (2018). Assessing racial trauma in African Americans with the Trauma Symptoms of Discrimination Scale. Psychology of Violence, 8(6), 735-747. doi: 10.1037/vio0000212

Treatment Focused

...many members of minority groups fear, or feel ill at ease with, the mental health system.
- Surgeon General's Report
US Dept. Health & Human Services, 1999

Bryant-Davis, T., & Ocampo, C. (2006). A therapeutic approach to the treatment of racist-incident-based trauma. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 6(4), 1-22. doi:10.1300/J135v06n04_01

Comas-Díaz, L. (2016). Racial trauma recovery: A race-informed therapeutic approach to racial wounds. In Alvarez, A.N. (Ed); Liang, C. T. H. (Ed); Neville, H. A. (Ed), The cost of racism for people of color: Contextualizing experiences of discrimination. Cultural, racial, and ethnic psychology book series (pp. 249-272). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. doi: 10.1037/14852-012

Kira, I. A., Amer, M. M., & Wrobel, N. H. (2014). Arab refugees: Trauma, resilience, and recovery. In S. C. Nassar-McMillan, K. J. Ajrouch, J. Hakim-Larson, S. C. Nassar-McMillan, K. J. Ajrouch, J. Hakim-Larson (Eds.), Biopsychosocial perspectives on Arab Americans: Culture, development, and health (pp. 175-195). New York, NY, US: Springer.

Laban, C. J. (2015). Resilience-oriented treatment of traumatised asylum seekers and refugees. In M. Schouler-Ocak (Ed.), Trauma and migration: Cultural factors in the diagnosis and treatment of traumatised immigrants (pp. 191-208). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-17335-1_13

Miller, A., Williams, M. T., Wetterneck, C. T., Kanter, J., & Tsai, M. (2015). Using functional analytic psychotherapy to improve awareness and connection in racially diverse client-therapist dyads. The Behavior Therapist, 38(6), 150-156.

Saleem, F. T., Anderson, R. E., & Williams, M. T. (2020). Addressing the "myth" of racial trauma: Developmental and ecological considerations for youth of color. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 23(1), 1–14. doi: 10.1007/s10567-019-00304-1

Sawyer, B., DeLapp, R. C. T., & Williams, M. T. (2016). Community Violence Exposure, Racial Discrimination, and Barriers to Treatment: Implications for African American Males in Counseling. In W. Ross (Ed.), Counseling African American Males: Effective Therapeutic Interventions and Approaches (pp. 33-60). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Williams, M. T., Printz, D., Ching, T., & Wetterneck, C. T. (2018). Assessing PTSD in ethnic and racial minorities: Trauma and racial trauma. Directions in Psychiatry, 38(3), 179-196.

Williams, M. T., Malcoun, E., Sawyer, B., Davis, D. M., Bahojb-Nouri, L. V., & Leavell Bruce, S. (2014). Cultural Adaptations of Prolonged Exposure Therapy for Treatment and Prevention of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in African Americans. Behavioral Sciences — Special Issue: PTSD and Treatment Considerations, 4(2), 102-124. doi:10.3390/bs4020102


Cheng, H. L., & Mallinckrodt, B. (2015). Racial/ethnic discrimination, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and alcohol problems in a longitudinal study of Hispanic/Latino college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62, 38–49. doi:10.1037/cou0000052

Dale, S. K., & Safren, S. A. (2019). Gendered racial microaggressions predict posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and cognitions among Black women living with HIV. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 11(7), 685–694. doi:10.1037/tra0000467.supp

Flores, E., Tschann, J. M., Dimas, J. M., Pasch, L. A., & de Groat, C. L. (2010). Perceived racial/ethnic discrimination, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and health risk behaviors among Mexican American adolescents. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 57, 264–273. doi:10.1037/a0020026

Hemmings, C., & Evans, A. (2018). Identifying and Treating Race-Based Trauma in Counseling. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 46(1), 20–39. https://doi.org/10.1002/jmcd.12090

Pieterse, A. L., Carter, R. T., Evans, S. A., & Walter, R. A. (2010). An exploratory examination of the associations among racial and ethnic discrimination, racial climate, and trauma-related symptoms in a college student population. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 57, 255–263. doi:10.1037/a0020040

Sibrava, N. J., Bjornsson, A. S., Pérez Benítez, A. C. I., Moitra, E., Weisberg, R. B., & Keller, M. B. (2019). Posttraumatic stress disorder in African American and Latinx adults: Clinical course and the role of racial and ethnic discrimination. American Psychologist, 74(1), 101.

Watson, L. B., DeBlaere, C., Langrehr, K. J., Zelaya, D. G., & Flores, M. J. (2016). The influence of multiple oppressions on women of color's experiences with insidious trauma. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(6), 656-667. doi: 10.1037/cou0000165

Wei, M., Wang, K. T., Heppner, P. P., & Du, Y. (2012). Ethnic and mainstream social connectedness, perceived racial discrimination, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(3), 486–493. doi:10.1037/a0028000

Other Useful Readings (research and theory)

Bierer, L. M., Bader, H. N., Daskalakis, N. P., Lehrner, A. L., Makotkine, I., Seckl, J. R., & Yehuda, R. (2014). Elevation of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 activity in Holocaust survivor offspring: Evidence for an intergenerational effect of maternal trauma exposure. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 481-10. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.06.001

Bosson, R., Williams, M. T., Lippman, S., Carrico, R., Kanter, J., Peña, A., Mier-Chairez, J., & Ramirez, J. (2017). Addressing refugee mental health needs: From concept to implementation. The Behavior Therapist, 40(3), 110-112.

Ching, T. H. W., Lee, S., Chen, J., So, R., & Williams, M. T. (2018). A model of intersectional stress and trauma in Asian American sexual and gender minorities. Psychology of Violence, 8(6), 657-668. doi: 10.1037/vio0000204

Comas-Dıaz, L., & Jacobsen, F. M. (2001). Ethnocultural Allodynia. Journal of Psychotherapy Practice & Research, 10(4), 246-252.

Hays, P. A. (2009). Integrating evidence-based practice, cognitive–behavior therapy, and multicultural therapy: Ten steps for culturally competent practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(4), 354-360.

Kanter, J. W., Santiago-Rivera, A. L., Santos, M. M., Nagy, G., López, M., Hurtado, G. D., & West, P. (2015). A randomized hybrid efficacy and effectiveness trial of behavioral activation for Latinos with depression. Behavior Therapy, 46(2), 177-192. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2014.09.011

Kirkinis, K., Pieterse, A. L., Martin, C., Agiliga, A., & Brownell, A. (2018). Racism, racial discrimination, and trauma: a systematic review of the social science literature. Ethnicity & Health. doi: 10.1080/13557858.2018.1514453

Kohlenberg, B. S., Tsai, M., & Kohlenberg, R. J. (2006). Functional Analytic Psychotherapy and the Treatment of Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. In V. M. Follette, J. I. Ruzek, V. M. Follette, J. I. Ruzek (eds.), Cognitive-behavioral therapies for trauma (2nd ed.) (pp. 173-197). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.

Nagata, D. K., Kim, J. H., & Wu, K. (2019). The Japanese American wartime incarceration: Examining the scope of racial trauma. American Psychologist, 74(1), 36.

Williams, M. T., Reed, S., & Aggarwal, R. (2020). Culturally-informed research design issues in a study for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 4(1), 40–50. doi: 10.1556/2054.2019.016


Collins, R. D. (2007). The Trauma Zone. Chicago: Moody Publishers. ISBN-13: 978-0802489890

DeGruy, J. (2005). Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome. Uptone Press. ISBN 978-0963401120

Menakem, R. (2017). My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. Las Vegas: Central Recovery Press. ISBN-13: 978-1942094470

Nadal, K. L. (2018). Microaggressions and Traumatic Stress: Theory, Research, and Clinical Treatment. American Psychological Association.

Williams, M. T., Rosen, D. C., & Kanter, J. W. (2019). Eliminating Race-Based Mental Health Disparities: Promoting Equity and Culturally Responsive Care Across Settings. New Harbinger Books. ISBN: 978-1-68403-196-2

Racial Trauma Articles for a General Audience

Parker, G., Butler, S. K., Flynn, A., Young, D., Fisher, L., Williams, M. & Taylor, Z. (2020, September). Race and Healing: Expanding the Conversation. Psychotherapy Networker.

Williams, M. (2020, June 30). An Interview with Monnica Williams, PhD, ABPP on Collective Trauma. National Center for Integrated Behavioral Health. University of Pennsylvania Medical School.

DeLapp, R.C.T. & Williams, M. (2016, July). Proactively Coping With Racism. Psychology Today.

Williams, M. (2015, September). The Link Between Racism and PTSD. Psychology Today.

Williams, M. (2015, August). Understanding Race-Based Trauma. University of Louisville Med School Newsletter.

Institution for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture. Racial Trauma is Real Infographic. Boston College.

SAMHSA. African Americans and Mental Health.

Janssen, S. Racial Trauma in African American Underuse of Hospice & Palliative Care. Social Work Today.

Racial Trauma Articles in the Media

Sorensen, D.(2020, October). Microaggressions, Mental Health Disparities, and Racial Trauma with Monnica Williams. Psychologists Off The Clock.

Mocerino, M. (2020, August 24). Treating Racial Trauma with Dr. Monnica Williams. Chacruna Institute.

Turner, E. (2019, March 5). Surviving in a Racist Society: Racial Trauma and African Americans. The Breakdown Podcast.

Janikian, M. (2019, September 2). MDMA for Racial Trauma. Double Blind.

Shockman, E. (2016, July 30). What does racism do to your health? Science Friday. NPR & GlobalPost/PRI.

Harrison, M. (2016, July 25). Can racism cause post-traumatic stress disorder? The Louisiana Weekly [New Orleans].

Flatow, I. (2016, July 15). The Health Costs of Racism [public radio]. Science Friday. NYC: NPR

Alfaro, J. (2016, July 22). After the Violence and Videos, Therapists Learn to Treat Racial Trauma. YES! Magazine.

Love, D. (2016, June 3). PTSD and Mental Health Disorders in Black People Linked to Trauma From Racism and Violence. Atlanta Blackstar.

Wortham, J. (2015, June 24). Racism's Psychological Toll. The New York Times.

Nadia-Elysse, H. (2013, May 23). Changes In DSM-5: Racism Can Cause PTSD Similar To That of Soldiers After War. Medical Daily.

Cultural Consultation and Training

Dr. Williams provides consultations with researchers in the implementation of culturally-informed research design to improve inclusion of people of color in research samples, and institutional equity, including ways to increase diversity and facilitate an improved racial environment. Contact her for a consultation.

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