At A Glance
Most individuals have been exposed to a potentially traumatic event at some point in their lives. As a licensed clinical psychologist and professor, Heidi Zinzow addresses risk, protective factors for trauma victimization and perpetration, and how to ameliorate associated mental health symptoms, focusing on developing intervention and prevention programs. She has worked with military, civilian and college student populations, with an emphasis on sexual violence. Zinzow currently serves as an expert consultant for the National Mass Violence and Victimization Resource Center.
Zinzow’s work addresses factors putting individuals at risk of developing psychological symptoms due to trauma exposure, how to ameliorate related mental health symptoms and what the protective factors are. Applying science to practice and vice versa, she focuses on the development of intervention and prevention programs to improve a victim’s well-being, quality of life, and occupational and social functioning.
Her in-depth understanding of different types of trauma spans sexual assault, interpersonal violence and mass violence. She examines trauma-related mental health outcomes including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Additionally, she has moved into substance use disorders – and risky substance use – as a mechanism for violence perpetration and exposure. Another stream of her research is suicide prevention: how to develop efficacious programs that improve community members’ abilities to identify those at risk, ask difficult questions and provide support.
With intervention and prevention program development, Zinzow examines technology-based tools such as virtual reality, online methodologies and digital apps to deliver programming. Along with other novel applications of technology to help advance the field, Zinzow looks at the role of social media and the propagation of harmful behavior.
Zinzow joined Clemson’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences in 2008. As a professor in the Department of Psychology, she brings her knowledge as a licensed clinical psychologist in the classroom.
In clinical practice, she has analyzed intergenerational transmission of trauma, substance use and mental illness and how these variables affect each other. Working with the military, she has explored mental health and exposure to stress, combat and trauma, including military sexual assault. As an expert consultant, she has investigated ways to work with communities to better address mass violence exposure.
In collaboration, Zinzow has authored over 50 publications in scientific, peer-reviewed journals, which include “Journal of Traumatic Stress,” “Journal of Interpersonal Violence,” “Clinical Psychology Review” and “Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology.”
She co-founded Tigers Together to Stop Suicide, currently serves as an expert consultant for the National Mass Violence and Victimization Resource Center, and helps lead Clemson’s NSF Tigers ADVANCE initiative to improve campus gender equity. She has received an Emerging Scholar Research Excellence Award and Excellence in Service and Outreach Award and an Outstanding Woman Faculty Member Award from the President’s Commission on Women.
Before joining Clemson, Zinzow completed a postdoctoral fellowship in traumatic stress with the National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). In addition to her practice as a licensed clinical psychologist, she has served at many domestic violence and sexual assault centers. In her early career, she worked as a research assistant for Caliber Associates in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C., evaluating social programs that addressed domestic violence, child maltreatment and juvenile delinquency.
This research involves many factors and variables that influence the outcomes individuals experience in response to trauma. These include genetic factors, environmental factors and social factors that interact to contribute to various mental health outcomes. To be able to assess and measure all of these variables adequately and follow individuals over time, is very resource intensive and complex. It’s challenging to identify the specific factors we need to target, and the field is ever evolving for these reasons.