• Freedom from Exploitation

    Freedom from Exploitation

  • APA Human Trafficking Resolution

    The American Psychological Association Releases Resolution on Human Trafficking in the United States, Especially of Women and Girls.

  • APA Task Force Report on Human Trafficking

    APA's Task Force Report on Human Trafficking

  • Human Trafficking Conference Sept 11, 2015

    Milay Lemos, MA Counseling Psychology Student & RIA House Staff in Toledo, Ohio.

Human Trafficking Community Research Hub (HTCRH)

Welcome to William James College's Human Trafficking Community Research Hub (HTCRH) that aims to address the mental health and psychological consequences of human trafficking with research in collaboration with communities. Anti-trafficking efforts have progressed substantially in the United States since Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000). Awareness of human trafficking and identification of affected populations has increased significantly over the last decade and generated a growing need for specialized health and social services. William James College's HTCRH and its community partners, together, evaluate human trafficking-specific services and engage in research that studies the concepts, tools, and best practices relevant to working with people affected by exploitation. A couple questions, among many, that HTCRH pursues to understand are: What are promising services to address the high levels of client mistrust commonly noted in this population? What are the benefits of combined peer mentorship and clinical services?

Human Trafficking Curricula

FS615: Human Trafficking: Introduction for Mental Health Providers

The course content includes a global overview of human trafficking and how the crime unfolds within the United States. The course reviews general human trafficking policy/legislation related to human trafficking, contentious debates that surround anti-trafficking work, cycles of supply and demand that fuel the crime, and human rights versus prosecution-focused discourse. The instructor facilitates discussions about one-to-one issues relevant to providing psychosocial services to persons affected by human trafficking. Students learn to identify the common dynamics of perpetration used by traffickers, their psychological consequences on victims, and the use of screening tools to identify victims and people at risk. Resources and legislation specific to working in Massachusetts will be a particular focus of the course, including invited class lectures by local professionals recognized for their work in human trafficking.

Community Partnerships

The Human Trafficking Community Research Hub (HTCRH) believes that research that is relevant practice needs to develop with the involvement of affected communities. Currently, HTCRH is in partnership with RIA House, a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization that provides clinical and peer mentorship services to adult women with experience in the commercial sex market.

Completed Research

Local Online Sex Market

William James College faculty in partnership with RIA House and the Imagine Foundation completed a three-month data-mining study. The study monitored the online commercial sex market in Massachusetts' Boston and Worcester regions from March 1 through May 31, 2015. The research team collected data on almost 17,000 ads for commercial sex that are estimated to have generated $7.7 million in revenue. Data on the number of people sold online for sex and the distribution of ads by day of the week allowed analysis of patterns in this market, and inferences of trends in the buying and selling of sex. In other U.S. cities, similar data mining studies have helped local law enforcement identify persons exploited within the sex industry and have also been instrumental for service organizations to develop targeted outreach.

Current Research

The HTCRH team is completing the steps to begin a study in collaboration with RIA House to learn more about close relationships, adult attachment patterns, and the role these play in experiences of sexual exploitation. Research on adult attachment patterns and human trafficking is necessary because attachment concepts are abundant in the trafficking literature. For instance, the struggles that many trafficked people experience to leave their traffickers are thought to be partially attributable to a combination of attachment-related issues and the trafficker's psychologically coercive tactics1.

1Contreras, P.M., Kalivayalil, D. & Herman, J.L. (2016). Psychotherapy in the aftermath of human trafficking: Working through the consequences of coercion. Women & Therapy, 40(1-2), 7-11.

References and Resources for Mental Health Professionals

The following is a list of peer reviewed references and resources related to mental health and psychology practice with trafficked populations. Our team makes every effort to update these resources on a quarterly basis.

Adult Psychotherapy

Contreras, P. M., Kallivayalil, D., & Herman, J. L. (2017). Psychotherapy in the aftermath of human trafficking: Working through the consequences of psychological coercion. Women & Therapy40(1-2), 31-54. doi:10.1080/02703149.2016.1205908

Countryman-Roswurm, K., & DiLollo, A. (2017). Survivor: A narrative therapy approach for use with sex trafficked women and girls. Women & Therapy40(1-2), 55-72. doi:10.1080/02703149.2016.1206782

Koleva, M. (2011). Psychodrama and the treatment of women victims of human trafficking: Research report. International Journal Of Psychotherapy15(1), 65-78.

Le, P. D. (2017). 'Reconstructing a sense of self': Trauma and coping among returned women survivors of human trafficking in Vietnam. Qualitative Health Research27(4), 509-519. doi:10.1177/1049732316646157

Pascual-Leone, A., Kim, J., & Morrison, O. (2017). Working with victims of human trafficking. Journal Of Contemporary Psychotherapy47(1), 51-59. doi:10.1007/s10879-016-9338-3

Robjant, K., Roberts, J., & Katona, C. (2017). Treating posttraumatic stress disorder in female victims of trafficking using narrative exposure therapy: A retrospective audit. Frontiers In Psychiatry863. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00063


Hopper, E. K. (2017). Trauma-informed psychological assessment of human trafficking survivors. Women & Therapy40(1-2), 12-30. doi:10.1080/02703149.2016.1205905

Child & Family Psychotherapy

Bennett-Murphy, L. M. (2012). Haunted: Treatment of a child survivor of human trafficking. Journal Of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy11(2), 133-148. doi:10.1080/15289168.2012.673413

Ijadi-Maghsoodi, R., Cook, M., Barnert, E. S., Gaboian, S., & Bath, E. (2016). Understanding and responding to the needs of commercially sexually exploited youth: Recommendations for the mental health provider. Child And Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics Of North America25(1), 107-122. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2015.08.007

Kleinschmidt, L. (2009). Keeping mother alive: Psychotherapy with a teenage mother following human trafficking. Journal Of Child Psychotherapy35(3), 262-275. doi:10.1080/00754170903234416

Surtees, R. (2017). What’s home? (Re)integrating children born of trafficking. Women & Therapy40(1-2), 73-100. doi:10.1080/02703149.2016.1206783

Crisis & Hospital Based Services

de Chesnay, M. (2013). Psychiatric-mental health nurses and the sex trafficking pandemic. Issues In Mental Health Nursing34(12), 901-907. doi:10.3109/01612840.2013.857200

Group Interventions

Hickle, K. E., & Roe-Sepowitz, D. E. (2014). Putting the pieces back together: A group intervention for sexually exploited adolescent girls. Social Work With Groups: A Journal Of Community And Clinical Practice37(2), 99-113. doi:10.1080/01609513.2013.823838

Pierce, A. (. (2012). American Indian adolescent girls: vulnerability to sex trafficking, intervention strategies. American Indian & Alaska Native Mental Health Research: The Journal Of The National Center19(1), 37-56.

Mental Health & Psychology Specific Reports & Resolutions

American Psychological Association. 2017. Resolution on Human Trafficking in the United States, Especially of Women and Girls. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: www.apa.org/about/policy/trafficking-women-girls.aspx

American Psychoanalytic Association. 2015. Position Statement on Human Trafficking. New York, NY: American Psychoanalytic Association. Retrieved from: www.apsa.org/sites/default/files/Position%20Statement%20on%20Human%20Trafficking.pdf

American Psychological Association Task Force on Trafficking of Women and Girls. (2014). Report of the task force on trafficking of women and girls. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/trafficking/report.aspx

Pastoral Counseling & Spirituality

Johnson, B. C. (2012). Aftercare for survivors of human trafficking. Social Work & Christianity39(4), 370-389.

Peer Support & Survivor Led Interventions

Heffron, L. C. (2013). Book review of Girls like us: Fighting for a world where girls are not for sale. Affilia: Journal Of Women & Social Work28(1), 101-102. doi:10.1177/0886109912475054


Borschmann, R., Oram, S., Kinner, S. A., Dutta, R., Zimmerman, C., & Howard, L. M. (2017). Self-harm among adult victims of human trafficking who accessed secondary mental health services in England. Psychiatric Services68(2), 207-210. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201500509

Cecchet, S. J., & Thoburn, J. (2014). The psychological experience of child and adolescent sex trafficking in the United States: Trauma and resilience in survivors. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, And Policy6(5), 482-493. doi:10.1037/a0035763

Deb, S., Mukherjee, A., & Mathews, B. (2011). Aggression in sexually abused trafficked girls and efficacy of intervention. Journal Of Interpersonal Violence26(4), 745-768. doi:10.1177/0886260510365875

Hossain, M., Zimmerman, C., Abas, M., Light, M., & Watts, C. (2010). The relationship of trauma to mental disorder among trafficked and sexually exploited girls and women. American Journal Of Public Health100(12), 2442-2449. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.173229

Oram, S., Khondoker, M., Abas, M., Broadbent, M., & Howard, L. M. (2015). Characteristics of trafficked adults and children with severe mental illness: A historical cohort study. The Lancet Psychiatry2(12), 1084-1091.

Tsutsumi, A., Izutsu, T., Poudyal, A. K., Kato, S., & Marui, E. (2008). Mental health of female survivors of human trafficking in Nepal. Social Science & Medicine66(8), 1841-1847. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.12.025

Turner-Moss, E., Zimmerman, C., Howard, L. M., & Oram, S. (2014). Labour exploitation and health: A case series of men and women seeking post-trafficking services. Journal Of Immigrant And Minority Health16(3), 473-480. doi:10.1007/s10903-013-9832-6

Zimmerman, C., & Pocock, N. (2013). Human trafficking and mental health: "my wounds are inside; they are not visible". Brown Journal Of World Affairs19(2), 265-280.

Service Utilization

Dewan, S. E. (2014). Patterns of service utilization among pre-certified victims of human trafficking. International Social Work57(1), 64-74. doi:10.1177/0020872813507592

Screening Tools

Vera Institute of Justice (2014). Screening for human trafficking: guidelines for administering the trafficking victim identification tool (TVIT). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved from www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/246713.pdf

Substance Abuse

Groot, K. (2013). Drug-abused women and children. In M. de Chesnay, M. de Chesnay (Eds.), Sex trafficking: A clinical guide for nurses (pp. 203-238). New York, NY, US: Springer Publishing Co.

Hulka, L., & Mutschler, J. (2016). Measuring substance misuse in trafficked people. The Lancet Psychiatry3(2), e11. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(15)00580-5

Treatment Frameworks

Baldwin, S. B., Fehrenbacher, A. E., & Eisenman, D. P. (2015). Psychological coercion in human trafficking: An application of Biderman’s framework. Qualitative Health Research25(9), 1171-1181. doi:10.1177/1049732314557087

Chung, R. C. (2009). Cultural perspectives on child trafficking, human rights & social justice: A model for psychologists. Counselling Psychology Quarterly22(1), 85-96. doi:10.1080/09515070902761230

Domoney, J., Howard, L. M., Abas, M., Broadbent, M., & Oram, S. (2015). Mental health service responses to human trafficking: A qualitative study of professionals’ experiences of providing care. BMC Psychiatry15

Macy, R. J., & Johns, N. (2011). Aftercare services for international sex trafficking survivors: Informing U.S. Service and program development in an emerging practice area. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse12(2), 87-98. doi:10.1177/1524838010390709

Muraya, D. N., & Fry, D. (2016). Aftercare services for child victims of sex trafficking: A systematic review of policy and practice. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse17(2), 204-220. doi:10.1177/1524838015584356

Nguyen, T. T., Bellehumeur, C. R., & Malette, J. (2014). Women survivors of sex trafficking: A trauma and recovery model integrating spirituality. Counselling And Spirituality / Counseling Et Spiritualité33(1), 111-133.

Stoklosa, H., MacGibbon, M., & Stoklosa, J. (2017). Human Trafficking, Mental Illness, and Addiction: Avoiding Diagnostic Overshadowing. AMA Journal Of Ethics19(1), 23-34. doi:10.1001/journalofethics.2017.19.1.ecas3-1701

Website - Webinar - Video - Resources for Mental Health Providers

APA, Survivor-Led and Survivor-Informed Human Trafficking Research

In this webinar, two presenters experienced in survivor-led and survivor-informed research in the United States, Thema Bryant-Davis, Ph.D. and Alexandra Pierce, Ph.D. share lessons learned from their human trafficking research experiences.

APA Annual Convention 2017, Sex Trafficking: Human Rights Violations on a Global Scale

Webinar on the overview of human trafficking, the dynamics of human traffickers, male victims in forced labor, LGBTQ youth and the question of legalization of prostitution.

HEAL Trafficking 

A united group of multidisciplinary professionals dedicated to ending human trafficking and supporting its survivors, from a public health perspective.

Office for the Victims of Crimes, Human Trafficking Task Force E-Guide

The OVC E-Guide offers guidelines on how to support victims and survivors of human trafficking using a trauma-informed approach.

Project REACH, Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute

A program that provides consultation and brief mental health services to trafficking victims throughout the United States.

Psychology of Modern Day Slavery

A 30-minute film that provides an understanding of human trafficking and modern-day slavery from a psychology perspective.

William James College, Human Trafficking: An Introduction

Dr. Paola Michelle Contreras joins Dr. Stanley Berman to discuss the complex issue of human trafficking, both concerning sex trafficking and trafficking for manual labor.

Faculty and Student Research Team

Paola Michelle Contreras, PsyD, Lead Researcher

Jennifer Dockery, MA, William James College PsyD Candidate, Research Assistant

Milay Lemos, MA, Research Assistant

Heather Wightman, MSW, MPH, RIA House, Community Research Partner