When Priscilla Dass-Brailsford arrived in Boston, Mass. to attend college, there were no psychology courses in trauma. As a South African native who grew up under apartheid, she bridged her personal experiences and interest in psychology to create a trauma certificate program in the United States in 2003. The four-course certification program and specialization in trauma was created at Lesley University.
But that wasn’t her first time delving into trauma-related psychology. Her dissertation about how black youth are resilient in the face of political violence caught the attention of the Victims of Violence program at Cambridge Hospital, who recruited her to coordinate their crisis response team that responded to victims of drive-by shootings in the inner cities of Boston.
She is also the author of two books related to trauma: A Practical Approach to Trauma: Empowering Interventions in 2007 and Crisis Disaster Counseling: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina in 2009. The latter book was inspired by her deployment as a disaster mental health responder during the second week of Hurricane Katrina while she worked at the Cajundome for two weeks in Lafayette, La.
Dass-Brailsford has an M.A. in Child Psychology (1990) from Boston College, an M.Ed. (1994) an Ed.D. (1997) from Harvard University, and an M.P.H. (2016) from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), along with an undergraduate and post-graduate degree in clinical psychology from South Africa’s University of Durban-Westville in history and psychology.
Dass-Brailsford initially came to the D.C. area as a faculty member of Georgetown University Medical School. After six years, she missed teaching psychology students and joined the faculty of The Chicago School, Washington D.C. Campus in 2013 where she is currently the department chair of TCSPP’s International Psychology Department. Her specialty areas include crisis intervention, historical trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, secondary traumatic stress, sexual assault, refugee violence, terrorism, and torture.
With The Chicago School, she has conducted research projects in Guatemala, Haiti, and South Africa, examining the effects of political violence and disasters. She has found it both alarming and interesting that in all three regions, “trauma” was either shunned in public discussions, overlooked as just another aspect of people’s lives, or never considered as a talking point. Her ultimate goal is to help people recognize trauma so they can fight against injustices.