Rachel E Goldsmith, PhD
- ADJUNCT ASSISTANT PROFESSOR | Population Health Science and Policy
Rachel E. Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and traumatic stress studies researcher. Dr. Goldsmith’s research program examines connections among contextual aspects of traumatic experiences, psychological and physical health difficulties, and recovery processes. During her internship at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dr. Goldsmith taught classes for veterans on managing PTSD symptoms related to combat trauma, sexual assault, and other stressors, as well as mindfulness-based classes for both PTSD and depression. She also provided evidence-based group and individual treatments for PTSD and related problems, including Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Processing Therapy, and Prolonged Exposure. Dr. Goldsmith completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where she focused on cancer patients’ posttraumatic stress and related psychological difficulties. As a faculty member of Rush University Medical Center, Dr. Goldsmith started the hospital’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)-based program; taught cognitive behavioral, DBT, and mindfulness skills for patients and students; and provided instruction and clinical supervision for interns, medical students, residents, and post-doctoral fellows. She received a faculty incubator grant to implement research on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for PTSD and depression. She has also contributed to research initiatives involving MBSR for medical patients funded by the National Institutes of Health. Her current research focuses on the ways that mindfulness and self-compassion relate to recovery from trauma and impact physical health. She continues to be actively engaged in clinical practice with individuals who struggle with trauma, anxiety, depression, and physical health challenges. Dr. Goldsmith is a reviewer for several professional journals, and recently served as a guest editor for the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation’s special issue on systemic trauma – the ways that institutions, cultures, and communities exacerbate or mitigate trauma and people’s responses. She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation.
PhD, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Dr. Goldsmith’s research program pinpoints the ways that different types of trauma relate to people’s emotional processes, and uses these findings to investigate opportunities for recovery. Her studies have investigated the ways that trauma exposure disrupts basic awareness for one’s emotions, as well as the skills that people use to improve negative moods. Her contributions clarify links between trauma exposure and patterns of emotion regulation – the ways in which individuals experience, manage, and express their responses to internal or external events. Her research has helped establish that emotion regulation difficulties are strongly related to trauma experiences, and predict psychological symptoms across traditional diagnoses. For instance, Dr. Goldsmith’s work elucidates that emotion regulation difficulties mediate associations between relational trauma and psychological symptoms. Her studies indicate that relational trauma may lead to depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress by disrupting trauma survivors’ core capacities for understanding and managing emotions. Dr. Goldsmith’s research also demonstrates that different types of trauma are associated with diverse mental and physical health outcomes. Her studies show that relational trauma is more strongly related to depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress symptoms, alexithymia (difficulty identifying and describing feelings), and physical health problems than non-relational trauma such as accidents or interpersonal violence perpetrated by someone to whom the victim was not close. For instance, one study demonstrated that both alexithymia and traumatic stress symptoms mediated the relation between relational trauma and physical health difficulties. Trauma survivors may blunt or numb both emotional and physical signals – a coping style that may then worsen physical health. Dr. Goldsmith’s research also addresses the ways that childhood trauma relates to responses to adverse health experiences in adulthood. For instance, one recent study observed that patients’ childhood abuse histories were linked to cancer-related PTSD symptoms. A cancer diagnosis may trigger cognitions, emotions, and physiological stress responses that are consistent with patients’ prior trauma experiences. Physical responses to stress and trauma also include alterations in immune and inflammatory processes. Dr. Goldsmith and her colleagues have investigated connections between individuals’ exposure to traumatic events, levels of C-reactive protein, and cytomegalovirus. Dr. Goldsmith’s current research focuses on (1) the ways that mindfulness and self-compassion may promote resilience and recovery after trauma, and (2) ways to improve doctor-patient relationships, healthcare experiences, and health outcomes for victims of violence. Preliminary evidence suggests that mindfulness interventions reduce trauma-related shame, and that they increase tolerance and acceptance of emotional experiences. Mindfulnessinterventions also appear to decrease PTSD symptoms and depression. Dr. Goldsmith’s current collaborations at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai include work addressing trauma-related triggers in healthcare settings. Identifying common trauma triggers may inform opportunities to improve trauma survivors’ health visits and outcomes. These research directions reflect Dr. Goldsmith’s focus on the ways that trauma-related vulnerabilities can illuminate avenues for building new emotional, behavioral, and relational capacities.