Brief Biographical Sketch

Charles R. Figley, Ph.D.

Brief Biographical Sketch (2015)


Dr. Figley is an award-winning trauma psychologist, traumatologist, psychoneuroimmunologist, educator, and scholar. He is the Tulane University Paul Henry Kurzweg, MD Distinguished Chair in Disaster Mental Health and Associate Dean for Research, Co-Founder of Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy in the School of Social Work, and Director of the award-winning Traumatology Institute.[1] He is a former professor at both Purdue University (1974-1989) and then at Florida State University (1989-2008) and former Fulbright Fellow and Visiting Distinguished Professor at the Kuwait University (2003-2004). A much shorter version of this biosketch is available.

Professor Figley received both graduate degrees from the Pennsylvania State University and his undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii, all in the interdisciplinary field of human development. He is founding editor of the Journal of Traumatic Stress, the Journal of Family Psychotherapy, and the international journal, Traumatology. He is also Founding Editor of the Book Series Death and Trauma (Taylor & Francis), Innovations in Psychology (CRC Press), and continues to as Editor of the Psychosocial Stress Book Series (Routledge).

Scholarly Activities

Professor Figley has written more than 200 scholarly works including 25 books. Most have focused on stress, particularly traumatic stress, and most recently a focus on human and systemic traumatic stress resilience. In the last five years he has published five books: First do No Self Harm: Understanding and Promoting Physician Stress Resilience (Oxford University Press, co-edited with P. Huggard and C. Rees, 2013); Practitioner’s Guide to Treating Traumatic Stress Injuries in Military Personnel: An EMDR Practitioner’s Guide (Routledge, co-authored with Mark Russell, 2013); the Encyclopedia of Trauma: An Interdisciplinary Guide (Sage References, 2012 and winner of two awards by reference librarian organizations);  Helping Traumatized Families, 2nd Edition (Routledge, c-authored with Laurel Kiser, 2012), and Treating Families Under Fire: Handbook for Systemic Therapy with Military Families  (Routledge, co-authored with Blaine Everson, 2010).

Other recent books winning high praise from reviewers include, Combat Stress Injury (Routledge co-edited with William Nash, 2007), Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Care Community (Figley & Roop, 2006, Humane Society Press), and Mapping the Wake of Trauma (Figley, 2006, Routledge). Most of his earlier books focused on some aspects of stress, resiliency and coping such as his books focusing on families. They are Stress and the Family, Volume I: Coping with Normative Transitions (McCubbin & Figley, 1983), Stress and the Family, Volume II: Coping with Catastrophe (Figley & McCubbin, 1983), Helping Traumatized Families (Figley, 1989), Treating Stress in Families (Figley, 1989), and Burnout in Families (Figley, 1997). His first book, published in 1978, like his most recent, focused on combat stress that is credited as helping to establish the modern era of traumatology: Stress Disorders Among Vietnam Veterans . This book was followed by another book on war veterans, Strangers at Home: Vietnam Veterans Since the War (Figley & Leventman, 1980). Subsequent traumatology books expanded the focus to other traumatizing contexts: Trauma and Its Wake: The Study and Treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (Figley, 1985), Trauma and Its Wake, Volume II: Theory, Research, and Intervention (Figley, 1986), Beyond Trauma: Cultural and Societal Dynamics (Plenum (Kleber, Figley, & Gersons,1995), Compassion Fatigue: Coping with Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder in Those Who Treat the Traumatized (Figley, 1995), Death and Trauma (Figley, Bride, & Mazza, 1997), Traumatology of Grieving (Figley, 1999), and Brief Treatments for the Traumatized (Figley, 2002) Treating Compassion Fatigue (Figley, 2002). In addition to books, Dr. Figley has published more than 150 peer-reviewed journal articles, more than 50 chapters, and more than 400 scholarly presentations and guest lectures all over the world since 1976. In addition to traumatic stress and resilience, Dr. Figley and his research teams have focused on other types of stress including fame-related stress, social (especially speech) anxiety, and lawyers and law librarians' stress. Most of this research has been guided by and contributes to theories and interventions that are evidence-based which prevent, limit, or eliminate unwanted distress.

Humanitarian Activities

Dr. Figley is equally committed to applying his research and scholarship toward solving human problems. Many of his efforts were through the collective efforts of the international humanitarian organization, the Green Cross, which he helped establish in 1995 followed the April 19 th bombing in Oklahoma City that year. He then established by supportive institutions that would provide financial support (the Green Cross Foundation and research, ethical, and standards of practice and self care (the Academy of Traumatology). Dr. Figley's humanitarian activities include the following:

  1. Participated as a volunteer in South Vietnam as the US Navy People to People Program while serving in the USMC in 1965-66.
  2. Founding of the Consortium on Veteran Studies in 1975 to study and help Vietnam veterans returning from war or recently discharged. This effort led to the development of the diagnosis of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a national outreach program for Vietnam veterans within the Veterans Administration.
  3. Under his direction, his Purdue University Family Research Institute established the national Task Force on Families of Catastrophe late in 1979.
  4. In 1988 he helped lead an American humanitarian delegation to the Soviet Union to help them develop health and mental health services for their young men and women returning from the war in Afghanistan.
  5. He returned in January, 1989, at the request of the USSR Ministry of Health, to help organize efforts in response to the Armenian Earthquake.
  6. Professor Figley, in response to the lingering problems faced by Vietnam combat veterans and their families, established the Vietnam Veteran Families Project. The project sought the most effective and efficient ways of helping these families cope and live happier lives.
  7. In response to the growing tensions in the Middle East and the deployment of thousands of troops to that region, he organized an emergency meeting of military mental health professionals shortly after the start of the Middle East crisis in 1990. He organized similar workshops and training conferences in 1991.
  8. Based on the recommendations emerging from these meetings, Dr. Figley organized and chaired a national conference focusing on the same topic on October 4, 1990 Washington, D.C.
  9. Late in 1990, his research program team at the Marriage and Family Therapy Center established the "Gulf Crisis Families Project." The Project provided free counseling and consultation to all families affected by the Middle East crisis, thanks in part to a grant from the Vietnam Veteran's Aid Foundation.
  10. In May 1993, he presented a lecture and series of presentations to policy makers and mental health professionals in Kuwait. This was at the invitation of the government, to help reverse the growing mental health problems associated with the Gulf War.
  11. In April 1994 he chaired a committee formed by the Florida Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. The Association was awarded a grant to establish a center "to promote understanding about international development required by the victimization and violations of human rights standards and how social workers can learn from these experiences."
  12. In April, 1994 his laboratory established the first international network of traumatologists through Internet to collaborate toward solutions to world problems associated with trauma stress.
  13. In June 1994 he participated in the NATO Advanced Research Workshop, held in southern France , to design more effective methods for responding to regional disasters.
  14. In 1995 his Program established the Green Cross Projects, to provide long-term rehabilitative assistance to communities that experienced an overwhelming traumatic event. The first was the Oklahoma Green Cross Project in response to the Oklahoma City bombing , April 19, 1995.
  15. He helped the Green Cross Projects establish the Bosnia Green Cross Project by the end of 1995 the Program. The purpose was to establish and maintain a web site on the Internet for the friends and family of loved ones in Bosnia , including but not limited to those there on humanitarian missions.
  16. In response to requests from the State of Florida following Hurricane Andrew, Figley helped establish the Florida Green Cross Project in 1996.During the first year the Project sponsored a four-city tour where he and two senior officials in the State educated over 400 professionals about the State of Florida plans for disaster rescue and relief and their special role in their community. The Florida GCP has responded to two major disasters under contracts and its members have responded to at least 25 other disasters.
  17. Following the mass shootings in Dunblane , Scotland and Port Arthur , Tasmania , Australia , Professor Figley responded to humanitarian responses for training and with consultation in 1996.
  18. In response to invitations by South Africa and his many colleagues there, Professor Figley visited and lectured throughout South Africa in September, 1996. (18) Months later he helped establish the South Africa Green Cross to help educate and certified traumatologists. The Project will also assist the Truth and Reconciliation Commission staff and Commissioners in dealing with stress and avoiding compassion fatigue.
  19. In 1997 Professor Figley conducted a lecture tour in Finland in response to concerns about its increasing suicide rate and the need to establish a national training program in traumatology.
  20. In that same year Professor Figley led a team of the Green Cross Project to provide consultation and training in Arkadelphia, Arkansas following a deadly tornado. Similar requests were answered in response to various community disasters since 1997.
  21. In response to the Columbine High School shooting, Professor Figley provide extensive consultation to State of Colorado including a series of articles in helping mental health providers cope.
  22. From 1999-2001, at the invitation of WAVE of Northern Ireland, a community-based organization serving the victims of "the Troubles," Professor Figley has continued to provide consultation, training, and general assistance in establishing improved policies and procedures to help the nation cope following the Good Friday peace accords. This includes trips in 1999 and 2001 and an international conference he is chairing for 2002.
  23. In response to the 11 September 2001 attack on New York, Professor Figley was part of the advanced party of the Green Cross that arrived there 16 September and served as official spokesperson and organizer of the local New York Green Cross Chapter. The GCP responded to an official invitation from the 32B-J (Local chapter of the Service Employee's International Union) and provided disaster mental health services to its members and employees and consultation to its leaders for a 30-day period (pro bono).
  24. He assisted in the Green Cross response in 2004 to State of Florida 's four hurricanes when his wife, Kathy, served as Incident Commander. He worked on evaluation research, Internet communication, and fund raising. 
  25. He assumed these roles as Green Cross responded to a requests from Sri Lanka following the December 26, 2004 tsunami. It was the first international mobilization by the Green Cross and resulted in training 128 Sri Lankan's in basic trauma responding who, in turn, provided services or training to more than 3000 affected by the tsunami.
  26. The Green Cross also responded in the Wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to provide psychological first aid to the Humane Society of the US in their efforts to rescue animals and reunite them with their owners (2005).
  27. In 2008 he was recruited by New Orleans-based Tulane University to join the faculty and serve as the new Chair of Disaster Mental Health to, among other things, promote humanitarian assistance to vulnerable children and families.
  28. In response to the Katrina and the flooding of Tulane University and New Orleans, he published a special issue in Traumatology composed of essays by Tulane faculty about their ordeal and its lessons (2008).
  29. Another similar special issue emerged in 2009 following the Virginia Tech Shooting composed of faculty autobiographical essays about what happened the lessons learned.
  30. Professor Figley assisted Australia in 2010 in their efforts to recover and learn from the Black Saturday Bushfires across the state of Victoria (173 died).
  31. Most recently he assisted Takashi Fujioka and his efforts to improve the support to professionals working in the disaster zone following the triple disaster on March 11, 2011 (21,235 are either dead or missing by August 15, 2011).

Community Service

In addition to his international humanitarian work, Dr. Figley has dedicated considerable time to community service in a variety of contexts including serving in his own community in various roles such as President of his daughter's high school Parent Teacher Student Organization. He is Founder of the Academy of Traumatology composed of the elected leading scholars in the field around the world. Professor Figley was elected to the highest level, Fellow, in six professional organizations. They include the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Psychology, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Orthopsychiatric Association, and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. He has presented keynote addresses nationally and internationally.

Awards and Special Achievements

Dr. Figley has been instrumental in establishing organizations and societies that have flourished and enabled thousands of others in their work as researchers and practitioners. In 1975 he established the Consortium on Veterans Studies that went on to help establish the diagnosis of PTSD by the American Psychiatric Associations’ DSM III. Later in 1983, he established the Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and was elected President for the first two years. He was elected President of the prestigious Groves Conference on Marriage and the Family. Professor Figley as also co-founder of the American Psychological Association’s Division on Family Psychology (Div 43) and later the Division on Trauma Psychology (Div 56). Professor Figley is the recipient of numerous lectureships throughout the world including Northern Ireland, South Africa, England, Australia, Canada, and universities through the US. He was awarded a senior Fulbright Research Fellowship to conduct research in Kuwait in 2004 and follow-up on his work that was started in 1992, shortly after the liberation from and end of the occupation by Iraq. Also in 2004 he was named lifetime Alumni Fellow by the Penn State University, the highest honor to its graduates.

 Dr. Figley has received dozens of awards throughout his long career, perhaps the most gratifying was his selection by the leading traumatology organization in the world, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, as its final winner of its coveted Pioneer Award that recognizes traumatologists whose life time achievement substantially advanced the field. The American Psychological Association named Professor Figley Family Psychologist of the Year (1997). A year prior, the School of Social Work 's student body named him Professor of the Year (1996). Most recently, Professor Figley was honored with these awards:

  1. Distinguished Mentor Award, Student Section, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Baltimore, November 2011.
  2. Fellow of the National Council on Family Relations, Minneapolis, MN, November, 2010.
  3. Distinguished Contributions to Disaster Crisis Assistance, Australian Critical Incident Stress Foundation, July, 2010
  4. First recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Lifetime Achievement in Trauma Psychology by the Division on Trauma Psychology, August 2010
  5. American Family Therapy Award for Distinguished Contribution to Family Therapy Theory and Practice, the American Family Therapy Academy, August, 2009.
  6. The Paul Henry Kurzweg, MD Distinguished Chair and Professorship, Tulane University, 2008-present.
  7. Jericho Angel of Hope, The Jericho Project (New York City), 2008.
  8. The 2006 Humanitarian Award, the University of Missouri International Center for Psychosocial Trauma.
  9. Donna Cox Bridger Endowed Lectureship in Nursing and Health Care, University of Alabama, 2006
  10. The 2006 Apex Award of Publication Excellence, Compassion Fatigue in the Animal-Care Community by Communications Concepts (Springfield, Virginia)
  11. Marriage and Family Therapy Institute Annual Lecture, University of Georgia, 2005
  12. Frontiers of Science Lecturer, University of Ottawa, 2005
  13. Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, 2005.
  14. Academic Keys, Who’s Who in Social Science Education, 2005.
  15. Alumni Fellow, Elected by the Pennsylvania State University, 2004.
  16. Fulbright Research Fellowship, 2003-2004.
  17. Distinguished Service to Families Award, the National Council on Family Relations (co-recipient with Kathleen Regan Figley), November 2001.
  18. Community Service Award by the Florida Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the division of the American Association located in Washington, DC, 2000.
  19. President's FSU Continuing Education Award, April 2000. Outstanding Program Award by the University Continuing Education Association (UCEA) for the FSU Traumatology Institute Certificate Program, 2000.
  20. Shaffer Award for Contributions to the Victim's Movement in the Field of Research by the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA), August 2000.
  21. Distinguished Contributions to the Field of Marriage and Family Therapy, Tallahassee Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, November 1998.
  22. Psychologist of the Year, American Psychological Association, Division 43 (Family Psychology), 1997
  23. Elected, Academy of Traumatology, 1997
  24. Advancement of Science Award faculty of Georgetown University Medical Center’s Trauma, Loss & Dissociation Conference, 1996
  25. Professor of the Year, FSU School of Social Work Students Association, 1996-1997
  26. Who's Who in Science and Engineering, 1994-1995
  27. Pioneer Award (for distinguished life time achievement), International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, 1994

Personal Information

Dr. Figley is an avid runner, most often running with an 8-pound barbell in inch hand. He also enjoys playing basketball, ping-pong, traveling, and creative writing and sketching scenes at the beach. Dr. Figley is married a wonderful friend and wife, Kathleen ("Kat") Regan Figley who share their home with two puppies (Grace and Cleo) and cat (Fox). They have two wonderful daughters, Jessica Chynoweth (Physician practicing family medicine with the Isleta Native American Tribe near Albuquerque, NM) with her husband Mike, a senior Intel engineer who care for daughter Maya and son Zen. Their daughter, Laura Lundblom (2007 Florida State University Magna cum laude graduate) and her husband Brian care for their two daughters, Lily and Laila.  

Contact information: Office Phone at Tulane: 504-862-3473, Email: or, Web:

[1] The Institute was recognized in 2000 as the best program of its kind by the University Continuing Education Association.