PTSD Treatment Pioneer John P. Wilson, PhD (1945 – 2015)

John WilsonJohn P. Wilson, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Cleveland State University, and an internationally acclaimed traumatologist died midday July 6, 2015 in Cleveland, his home. He was instrumental in bringing attention to the Vietnam combat veterans through his innovative and pioneering work in the study and treatment of trauma.  The recent Cleveland Plain Dealer obituary was posted a few days later.

Shad Meshad, the President & Founder of the National Veterans Foundation and a pioneer in combat veteran policy and social services for more than 30 years, made the following statement:

With John’s death, I lost one of my dearest friends and colleagues.  I had the pleasure and the honor to know John and work with him on veterans issues for almost forty years. His importance in recognizing and bringing awareness to what we now call PTSD has touched thousands of lives, and continues as his legacy.

Dr. Charles Figley, internationally recognized for his work in trauma, introduced me to John at a conference in 1977 when we were both working with Vietnam vets.  We became instant friends and warriors in the battle to heal the veterans we saw daily.

In 1979, John helped in the training of the first counselors for the VA’s Vet Center Program, passed into law during the Carter Administration.  I founded the program based on my experience working with veterans dealing with the effects of war. John helped new counselors understand PTSD and its consequences.

A few years later, John and I, with several others, were involved in defending Vietnam vets in death penalty cases, battling for some degree of leniency due to their experiences in combat, and how that affected their behavior after the war. In the 80s into the early 90s we became a team of experts defending Vietnam vets, testifying on their behalf about PTSD and the part it played in their alleged crimes.  Our goal was to keep them from the death penalty and incorporate some form of treatment as part of their sentencing.

As you’ll read in his bio, he was one of the legends in PTSD, along with Dr. Charles Figley.  His many publications helped define and discuss the extent of PTSD and its symptoms.  A special world has suffered the loss of a truly dynamic teacher and writer on the effects of trauma.  His publishing career spans over 40 years. His work helped change the field we all work in.

I will dearly miss his friendship. Our long history together holds many highlights.  He was an extraordinary man, honored with a Presidential Commendation for his work with Vietnam veterans.

My condolences to his two sons and his widow, Silvana.

-Shad Meshad

Thousands of people have been touched by Dr. Wilson’s work. The above picture appeared at the end of his autobiographical essay written in 2004 was became Chapter 17 in Mapping Trauma and its Wake. He was co-founder of the Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and was elected President of the Society in 1987.

A brief version of Dr. Wilson’s bio was included in an online report of an interview with him :

Dr. John P. Wilson is an internationally recognized expert in the field of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Dr. Wilson is a founding member and past president of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS). Dr. Wilson is the author of eight books and over 20 monographs on traumatic stress syndromes. His most recent books include: The International Handbook of Traumatic Stress Syndromes, (co-edited with Dr. Beverley Raphael, Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Royal Brisbane Hospital, Brisbane, Australia); Counterttransference in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Guilford Press); and Assessing Psychological Trauma and PTSD: A Practitioner’s Handbook with Dr. Terence Keane of the National Center for PTSD, Boston, MA (Guilford Press). Research and clinical work developed by Dr. Wilson have led to consultations with the U.S. Army and Navy, Department of Veteran Affairs, The White House, U.S. House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs, National Institute of Mental Health, National Science Foundation, Commonwealth of Australia, American Psychiatric Association, American Red Cross and The World Health Organization, where he developed mental health programs during the war in Bosnia in 1994 and 1995. Dr. Wilson has lectured in the U.S. and abroad on the effects of trauma. Included among his numerous awards and honors are a Presidential Commendation from President Jimmy Carter for his work with Vietnam Veterans.

Anyone who would like to send a statement about John for publication here is welcomed to do so. Send it to Charles Figley at Figley@Tulane.Edu.

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