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Researcher | Research Overview

Dr. Heidi Ellis' primary focus is on understanding and promoting youth mental health and well-being, with a particular emphasis on understanding how trauma exposure, violence, and social context impact developmental trajectories. Her work in this area has included both research and programming related to understanding and preventing youth radicalization to violence, as well as developing psychosocial approaches to supporting the health and wellbeing of youth migrating from conflict affected regions. For more than a decade she has built a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) program with Somali refugees. Through this research program she has investigated the role of discrimination in refugee youth mental health, and developed and evaluated a school-based mental health intervention for Somali refugee youth. She also is working to support trauma-informed, multidisciplinary psychosocial programming in countries that are accepting returning families from formerly ISIS-controlled areas, including in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and the United States. She leads the Massachusetts Area Prevention Framework, which seeks to reduce the risk for terrorism and targeted violence in New England through a public health approach.

Dr. Ellis directs the Trauma and Community Resilience Center, a partner in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Dr. Ellis is the co-developer of Trauma Systems Therapy, a treatment model for traumatized children that explicitly addresses the interaction of social-environmental stressors with a child’s capacity to regulate emotions (Saxe, Ellis and Brown 2015). She is also the lead author of the book Mental Health Practice With Immigrant and Refugee Youth: A Socioecological Framework (Ellis, Abdi and Winer 2020).

Researcher | Research Background

Dr. Heidi Ellis received her B.A. from Yale University, her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Oregon and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Ellis is currently the Director of the Trauma and Community Resilience Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.


Researcher | Publications