The new Italian National Trauma Center (INTC), based in Orvieto, Umbria, Italy, has been over three decades in the making. Finally, this first ever center for healing with natural and man-made disasters in Italy has become reality.

The INTC has its origins in the early work of Professor Richard F. Mollica, MD, MAR, of Harvard Medical School. Professor Mollica first came to Italy in 1980, having been asked to give a keynote address on Social Class and Mental Illness at La Sapienza University, Rome. Dr. Mollica at that time was a United States Fulbright scholar in Essex and London, England working on the British Black Report on health care and social inequality. In the British National Health Service Dr. Mollica was asked by British authorities to contribute on mental health and social class disparities in English healthcare.

While lecturing in Italy, Dr. Mollica established a lifelong relationship with three distinguished psychiatrists and professors, Massimo Ammaniti, Giovanni Muscettola, and Franco Paparo. These three life-long colleagues provided over time with other Italian and American experts the much needed support to build the INTC. Professors Ammaniti, Muscettola, and Ammaniti shared the Harvard Team’s vision that a mental health policy was crucial to the care of the Italian people who have suffered loss of home, friends, and family members during the many natural and man-made disasters that have affected the Italian people over the past 100 years. The auto-biographical writings of Primo Levi, well-known to the Harvard-Italian Team, also have served as a cultural inspiration in their pursuit of healing for those who have experienced terrible traumatic life experiences.

During his early trips to Italy, Professor Mollica was fortunate enough to meet Professor Franco Basaglia. One major product of this consultation was the devotion of an entire International Journal of Psychiatry issue to an analysis of the successes and failures of the radical psychiatric Italian reform. This special issue edited by Dr. Mollica was called, The Unfinished Revolution in Italian Psychiatry: An International Perspective.

The Harvard-Italian Team founded in the late 1980s has also included two decades of outstanding support for its work in Italy by Giampiero Rosati (Orvieto) and psychologist, Sonia Graziano (Rome).

Over time, a central role was played by Dr. Maya Habboush (psychologist), Prof. Giampaolo Nicolais (psychologist), Dr. Irene Toniolo (psychiatrist), and Dr. Eugene F. Augusterfer (social worker).

Phenomenological Approach

The Italian National Trauma Center’s approach has been steeped in the phenomenological traditions of Edmund Husserl and his followers.

Each generation wants to make its own discoveries without being blinded by the observations of the past. Consequently, INTC, in order to confront the clinical phenomena of traumatic persons without prejudice, “bracketed” the phenomena. This phenomenological approach, which has been applied widely in Europe, allows the clinician to directly engage in experiencing the subjective experiences of survivors without introducing social biases that might obscure what actually exists.

The INTC has applied this methodology of discovery to all of its clinical and empirical research activities. It has allowed INTC to get as close to the clinical reality of the survivor as possible before being captured empirically before being captured empirically by quantitative epidemiological studies.