Has anything changed in the way we classify trauma? Does anything need to change in terms of how we treat it?

According to therapist Mary Jo Barrett, yes. We’re living in a constant state of possible traumatization, she says, under the threat of gun violence, terrorism, and war. In the following interview with Networker assistant editor Chris Lyford, she explains why and how our approach to treating trauma needs to change with the times.

As Barrett explains, “we need to look at [trauma] more contextually and less individually”—including how it’s impacting our communities, the wider world, and our relationships at home. Our clients, she adds, desperately need us to widen our focus. “If you’re going to treat trauma,” she adds, “you really have to treat all the areas where a person feels devalued.”


Mary Jo Barrett

Mary Jo Barrett, MSW, is the founder and director of Contextual Change and coauthor of Treating Complex Trauma: A Relational Blueprint for Collaboration and Change and The Systemic Treatment of Incest.

Chris Lyford

Chris Lyford is the Senior Editor at Psychotherapy Networker. Previously, he was Assistant Director and Editor of the The Atlantic Post, where he wrote and edited news pieces on the Middle East and Africa. He also formerly worked at The Washington Post, where he wrote local feature pieces for the Metro, Sports, and Style sections. Contact: clyford@psychnetworker.org.