Traumatic Stress and Resilience Research Group

Our joint efforts are focused on how individuals and groups are impacted by traumatic life circumstances and how that translates to psychological distress and illness as well as a surprising degree of thriving. Beginning with the work of Stevan Hobfoll, PhD on conservation of resources theory, one of the two leading theories of stress in the entire literature, our research emphasizes how access to personal, social, and material resources impact responses to trauma. These resources are reflected in culture, context, and disparities based on gender, social class, ethnicity and race. Much of our work focuses on stress in women’s lives and trauma experienced among vulnerable inner-city populations.

Our mission

Through our research partnerships, we endeavor to understand how people are impacted by traumatic stress circumstances, how these circumstances affect them psychologically and physically, and how we may intervene to support people who have experienced trauma. Our efforts focus on resilience and how interventions may enhance resilience by intervening on both the individual and contextual level. In this way, we often emphasize changing settings to make them more supportive and enhancing of empowerment. Our research and clinical efforts have a fundamental underpinning in social justice. A major direction of our varied projects is to understand how psychological distress may translate to physical illness, through rigorous studies, be they in hospital settings, the community or circumstances of political upheaval, terrorism and mass casualty.


Our current funding including several National Institutes of Health grants, foundation support and internally supportive efforts.

Our team

Stevan E. Hobfoll, PhD, professor and chairperson

Current focus:

  • Stress and resilience in the face of terrorism and war
  • Impact of trauma on immune dysregulation, pain, and illness

James I. Gerhart, PhD, assistant professor

Current focus:

  • Stress and resilience in the face of cancer and chronic pain
  • Enhancing resilience in medical professionals

Nicole M. Heath, PhD, assistant professor

Current focus:

  • Recovery from domestic violence, sexual assault, and childhood sexual abuse
  • Improving women’s sexual and reproductive health

Teresa A. Lillis, PhD, postdoctoral fellow

Current focus:

  • Impact of stress and trauma on postpartum functioning
  • Enhancing adjustment to the maternal role

Natalie R. Stevens, PhD, assistant professor

Current focus:

  • Improving pregnancy outcomes among vulnerable populations, including trauma survivors
  • Developing a model of trauma-sensitive obstetric care for trauma survivors
  • Examining effectiveness of physician training in trauma-sensitive obstetric care

Our group sponsors two, two-year post-doctoral fellows in Trauma and Traumatic Health. Psychology Interns and a strong group of research assistants also work with us.

Our group is placed in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Rush at 1645 W. Jackson Blvd., but our research and interventions are based throughout Rush University Medical Center, in the community and at many collaborative sites around the world.

Contact us