The Trauma History Screen (THS) was developed by Carlson et al. (2011) to address the need for a brief, simple and easy-to-read tool to assess exposure to distressful events. THS contains 14 dichotomous items (‘Yes’ or ‘No’). Comprising of two constructs, the THS is designed to assess high magnitude stressor events (HMS) and events relating to significant and persisting posttraumatic distress (PDD). HMS items refers to global, sudden events known to illicit distress response to majority of individuals (for example, hurricane, earthquake), whilst PPD events refers to events associated with significant subjective distress persisting for longer than 1 month (e.g. abandonment by spouse). THS also assesses the individuals’ duration of distress and the distress level.
THS is intended as a preliminary assessment of exposure to HMSs and PPDs, and the subjective experiences of individuals. As such, THS does not include a formal cut-off scoring procedure. Instead, THS is a quick and useful tool assess trauma exposure and levels and duration of distress which could inform clinicians of therapeutic conceptualisation. Clinicians can therefore utilise further measures to confirm diagnoses if needed.
Tested across four samples (home veterans, clinical sample, community sample and university students), the THS test-retest correlations over 2 periods (between 1 week and 2 months) were found to be moderate and very high (ranging from .61 to .95). THS was found to be highly correlated to the more lengthy published measure of traumatic life events questionnaire (TLEQ) across a variety of samples such as veterans (r = .77) and young adults (r = .73). The THS is an easy-to-read tool, requiring a fifth grade reading level. It requires a short amount of time to administer and is available at no cost. While it has not been validated cross-culturally, the structure of THS can be replicated to reflect culturally appropriate items. (Jaber, 2012). One notable limitation of the THS is the reliance on self-report, which may not be entirely accurate and may be estimation influenced by current symptoms.
In sum, THS is a reliable and valid tool to assess exposure to traumatic events that is brief, cost effective, therefore easy to administer. It can be a valuable measure when conceptualising cases as well as a screening tool towards diagnosis.
Carlson, E.B., Smith, S. R., Palmieri, P. A., Dalenberg, C., Ruzek, J. I., Kimerling, R., Burling, T. A., Spain, D. A. (2011). Development and validation of a brief self-report measure of trauma exposure: the Trauma History Screen. Psychological Assessment, 23, 463–477.
Jaber, S. (2012). Developing a self-help guide for traumatised university students in Iraq. UK: University of Nottingham, PhD thesis.
The Trauma History Screen (2005). Available from http://www.ptsd.va.gov