Posttraumatic Understanding

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With a better understanding of the contributing factors to posttraumatic stress, we can design in a way that is sympathetic to this altered state and conducive to healing.

Matthew A. Finn, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Founder, Cognitive Design

 
 

Facilitating Psychotherapy

This research holistically examines the experience and recovery process of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, for the purpose of identifying design strategies that facilitate the recovery process.  The built environment can’t solve PTSD on its own, but it can help.

 

Innovative Process and Results 

Matt Finn's work on the connections between PTSD and Design was the first of its kind and continues to break new ground with innovative design strategies.  Collaborating with psychologists, veterans, experts in human factors, research methodology, design and construction ensured a comprehensive understanding from the varying perspectives of everyone involved in making and using healing spaces. 

Unconventional research methods allowed for a deep and meaningful learning process that produced insights unlikely to come from conventional techniques.  To bridge the gap between his life's experiences and that of a veteran with PTSD, Finn partnered with a U.S. Marine Corp veteran, from whom he received hands-on training of military observational techniques in a simulated combat setting. Insights into the psychological recovery process and perspective of the caregiver were contributed by collaborator Edward Vega, PhD in psychology and Director of the Trauma Recovery Program at the Atlanta Department of Veterans Affairs. 

This research, and the innovative and unconventional thinking it embodies, has been featured in numerous academic institutions, media outlets and conferences.  These include the New York School of Interior Design, Washington University in St. Louis, Kennesaw State University, Healthcare Design, Behavioral Healthcare, Contract, Sidewalk Radio, the 2014 Academy of Neuroscience For Architecture Conference, and the 2015 Convention of the American Institute of Architects. 

To learn more about Phase 1 of this research, download a copy of the white paper Posttraumatic Understanding: The Connections between Posttraumatic Stress and Environmental Design.  To get the latest insights and stay informed about future developments, Contact Us and write a message mentioning Posttraumatic Understanding.

 Matt Finn (left) partnered with Corporal Clinton McMahan (right), U.S. Marine Corp veteran, from whom he received hands-on training of military observational techniques. They focused on methods used to identify threats in indoor and urban conditions, as these are the most common environments veterans will encounter upon their return to civilian life.

Matt Finn (left) partnered with Corporal Clinton McMahan (right), U.S. Marine Corp veteran, from whom he received hands-on training of military observational techniques. They focused on methods used to identify threats in indoor and urban conditions, as these are the most common environments veterans will encounter upon their return to civilian life.