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Kristen Zaleski, PhD, LCSW

I have been a psychotherapist in Los Angeles since 2004. The majority of my clients include trauma survivors and mental health clinicians working on the front lines of trauma. I have been heavily trained in neuro-informed interventions for connection and trauma resolution. My training and expertise is guided by psychodynamic oriented theory and interpersonal neurobiology to help me understand your body's reaction to trauma as connected to your relationships throughout your life. I have many post-graduate training in evidence based treatments that include Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT)  as well as 2nd and 3rd generation cognitive modalities that include trauma focused manualized treatments.


My pro-bono work is focused on psychological assessment and advocacy of immigrants in the United States, particularly trauma survivors and human rights abuses. I am currently the Founding Director of Forensic Mental Health at the USC Keck Human Rights Clinic in Los Angeles.  I recently left my position as a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and I continue to do research and author on issues of interpersonal violence and human rights. 


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My work has been featured in National Public Radio, Gizmodo, Teen Vogue, The Conversation, and other press outlets. I have experience as an expert witness on cases related to sexual trauma. I consult on response and prevention of technology facilitated violence with social media tech firms and private industry such as creating trauma informed support for film sets. I am on the advisory board of Center for Law and Military Policy on topics that involve military sexual trauma. I also sit on the board of HOPE 365 where we advocate on policy issues that affect women in California, including child marriage and human trafficking. Globally, I am an advisory board member at Sayiho, an organization dedicated to end female genital cutting/mutilation and creating positive social change.


As an author, I regularly contribute invited blog articles (also published to this site), peer reviewed journal articles, and currently have two published books. Selected publications are below.

Womens Journey to Empowerment in the 21st Century, Oxford University Press

Posting the Story of Your Sexual Assault Online

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Silence and shame often surround incidents of sexual violence. As technology and social media spawn movements for survivors to speak about their experiences, it is unknown if public online disclosures are aiding or hindering sexual assault recovery. This study explored the experiences of survivors of sexual violence who utilized social media to publicly disclose surviving sexual assault (n = 20). Qualitative interviews explored survivors’ motivations and overall experiences of self-disclosing their sexual assault via social media. A thematic, open-coded analysis was conducted using NVivo qualitative data analysis software. Four major themes emerged from the data: “I didn’t want to be silenced anymore,” “I named myself a resource,” “The fence begins to have holes in it once you disclose,” and “Disclosing myself was a form of renewal.” The findings elucidate how the majority of participants experienced a positive benefit from disclosing publicly, with two notable exceptions of negative experiences. The findings support further research into this phenomenon to discern whether disclosing one’s story of sexual assault via social media can be seen as an avenue for positive coping and facilitate further resolution after a sexual trauma, specifically regarding a sense of empowerment and a sense of contributing to a larger online narrative of survivors.

Women's Journey to Empowerment in the 21st Century offers a global view into the patriarchal attitudes that shape cultural practices that oppress women and continue to take form in the modern era. In closely examining a range of issues--from the college campus rape epidemic in the United States to the climate change effects in Ghana--this book compels readers to utilize a contextual framework in order to take a closer look into contemporary violence and oppression against women in our world. Written through the lens of transnational feminism, it examines the intersections of nationhood, race, gender, sexuality, and economics within the context of a world shaped by globalization and colonialism, causing the redefinition of borders and the realignment of migration patterns. A transnational feminist perspective also supports a definition of global sisterhood based on equity, understanding, and mutual experiences.

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Grounding Judith Herman’s Trauma Theory within Interpersonal Neuroscience and Evidence-Based Practice Modalities for Trauma Treatment

In 1992, Judith Herman published her seminal work, Trauma and Recovery, which outlined new concepts for understanding, defining, and treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although written over two decades ago, Herman’s work is still considered an essential work in the field of traumatology. This article links Herman’s central concepts of terror, hyperarousal, constriction, and intrusion with neurobiology of trauma. Her triphasic model of treatment will be discussed with linkages to the neuroscience that shape intersubjective relational–right brain interventions. Finally, practical applications of current neurobiologically informed trauma therapies based on Herman’s central concepts are examined.

Exploring Rape Culture in Social Media Forums

Current research has yet to examine the phenomenon of rape culture, particularly within social media forums. The present study investigated the attitudes about rape, rapists, and gender-based violence within the comments section of newspaper articles reporting about rape and sexual assault. Naturalistic observation was used in order to gather statements within the comment sections following newspaper articles posted on either the periodical website or the periodical’s Facebook page. Four themes and various sub-themes emerged from the data. The major themes include, Victim Blaming and Questioning, Survivor Support, Perpetrator Support, and Trolling Statements about Law and Society. Notable findings were found in the amount of victim blaming statements made in the comments responding to articles (25.8 percent) and perpetrator support comments were found responding to every article collected, except for one. The authors discuss the implications of rape culture within and outside social media and suggest future research to be conducted to further understand the impacts of rape culture within the online sphere.

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