Professor awarded research grant to support injury survivors

Steven Bistricky, Ph.D., a Psychology Assistant Professor at UCCS and Research Affiliate with the Lyda Hill Institute for Human Resilience, was recently awarded the prestigious American Psychological Foundation (APF) Walter Katkovsky research grant. The grant will fund a research project, titled “Resilience-Based Brief Psychotherapy for Underserved Injury Survivors: Factors Supporting Healthy Adaptation,” and will study enhancing the psychological well-being of injury survivors.

The focus of Bistricky’s project is on the psychological trauma that often accompanies physical injuries, exerting profound impacts on mental health functioning, quality of life, and care utilization among injury survivors. Recognizing the critical importance of early intervention, the research team, including chief collaborator, Timothy Doenges, Ph.D., is set to explore the effectiveness of a flexible, brief therapy intervention administered in the early stages of recovery, administered by UCCS Clinical Psychology doctoral student clinicians and staff psychologists at the Lyda Hill Institute for Human Resilience at UCCS – Veterans Health and Trauma Clinic.

Early posttraumatic stress symptoms, if left untreated, can evolve into longstanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and significant life disruption. Bistricky’s team aims to address this by implementing a resilience-focused approach to decrease post-trauma symptoms while simultaneously enhancing coping flexibility, coping self-efficacy (confidence one can manage challenges), and fostering post-traumatic growth (positive personal development that comes from navigating the aftermath of trauma).

The intervention strategy incorporates shared decision-making between patients and therapists, a key element in tailoring the therapy to the unique needs and circumstances of each injury survivor. By leveraging a resilience-based framework, the researchers aim to not only mitigate the immediate psychological impacts of the trauma but also to cultivate cognitive and behavioral patterns conducive to healthy and efficient adaptation over the long term.

The project funds data analysis and dissemination of findings for an established clinical services program that involves a referral stream of trauma services patients from UCHealth Memorial Hospital, a local Level-1 Trauma Center. The researchers rely on pilot data to inform intervention standardization, ensuring effectiveness and relevance. This clinical services project provided nine clinical psychology graduate students with the opportunity to work with recently injured trauma patients in a hospital setting, increasing their knowledge of acute trauma reactions and psychological interventions in the acute phases of trauma response.

Support from the APF Walter Katkovsky research grant will play a pivotal role in enabling the research team to delve deeper into the effectiveness and core mechanisms of their innovative intervention approach. This study is not merely an academic endeavor; it holds the promise of significantly improving the mental health trajectories of injury survivors and offering them a path towards resilience, recovery, and lasting well-being.