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January Colloquium Focuses on the Obstacles Social Constraints Present to Trauma Recovery

Palo Alto University (PAU) professor Matthew Cordova, PhD, will examine the multiple levels of obstacles social constraints present in trauma recovery at the January 22, 2024, Provost Colloquium. The Colloquium is a brown bag series in which PAU faculty present research, insights, and thought-provoking ideas through interdisciplinary conversations that stimulate critical thinking and inspire innovative solutions.

Dr. Cordova says his presentation is relevant to both clinicians and researchers and will offer applications to many different research topics as well as to broader social issues. “For the clinician, it will answer questions as to how they might intervene or help. For the student or faculty member, there will be a lot of information to inform their research. And for those of us who might be thinking about ways to improve organizations and society, the topic will be helpful as well,” he said.

Dr. Cordova has studied social constraints as they relate to trauma recovery since attending graduate school at the University of Kentucky where he earned both an MS and PhD in clinical psychology. “Every human being might engage in socially constraining behavior,”said Dr. Cordova. “It is a very natural behavior that most people do unintentionally.”

Over the years, Dr. Cordova has co-authored and published many articles on the subject, explaining that talking about a traumatic experience is a natural pathway to recovery. He and his colleagues’ research involves developing interventions to teach trauma survivors and their partners to minimize social constraints and promote healthy discussions about traumatic experiences.

In addition to discussing social constraints and their impact on recovery in individuals, Dr. Cordova will also explore the impact social constraints have on systems, such as healthcare systems and on society in general. He believes that healthcare systems are socially constraining because there’s no time to process the stress and trauma patients, families, and healthcare providers go through. “These systems are focused on  efficiency, and healthcare providers experience pressure to suppress their emotions and do the work,” says  Dr. Cordova. In a broader sense, Dr. Cordova believes that our society is also structurally socially constraining. “Part of the reason I wanted to present this topic is because I have grown up professionally thinking about social constraints on one level. From a broader perspective, we see how social constraints play out at the individual, dyadic, systemic, and societal levels.”

To attend the colloquium register here. Presented both on campus and via Zoom, it is part of PAU’s ongoing series that launched last fall with professor Teceta Tormala’s presentation on "Our Intersectional Humanity: Navigating Our Work in a Diverse and Polarized World." The colloquium was an interactive discussion framed around a set of questions focused on how the sociopolitical climate emerges in the work of our daily lives.  

About Professor Matthew Cordova

Dr. Cordova co-directs PAU’s Early Intervention Clinic, a PAU clinical research group dedicated to evaluating evidence-based psychotherapeutic approaches to prevent trauma-related problems in recently traumatized individuals. He is also the Director of PAU’s Health Psychology area of emphasis. Dr. Cordova is a staff psychologist at the VA Northern California Health Care System’s (VA NCHCS) Martinez Outpatient Clinic providing behavioral medicine clinical services to Veterans. He is also the mental health training program manager for VA NCHCS and the training director for the VA NCHCS East Bay Psychology Internship and Postdoctoral Fellowship programs. Dr. Cordova’s research interests are in health psychology, behavioral medicine, traumatic stress, and “positive” psychology.