Camille Wortman, Ph.D.
Duke University (1972) Professor, Social and Health Psychology
Dr. Wortman is an expert on grief and bereavement, with an emphasis on coping with the sudden, traumatic loss of a loved one. She received the Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution in Psychology from the American Psychological Association for this work. Her research has been featured in such media outlets as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, National Public Radio (NPR), USA Today, The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Scientific American, and many others.
Dr. Wortman has completed several studies on how people are affected by the sudden, unexpected death of a spouse, child, or parent. She has authored five books, including one on traumatic bereavement, as well as more than 100 articles and book chapters, most dealing with grief, loss and trauma. Her research confirms that those who experience the sudden, traumatic loss of a family member show enduring difficulties in nearly all areas of their lives. On the basis of these studies, Dr. Wortman received an award from the Science Directorate at the American Psychological Association and the National Science Foundation. This award recognizes the achievements of women in science.
Over the course of her career, Dr. Wortman has been involved in public service and has volunteered her time to several projects pertaining to traumatic loss. Following the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, Dr. Wortman was contacted by Kenneth Feinberg, M.D., and asked to develop a position paper on the long-term effects of traumatic loss. This paper was utilized in determining financial compensation for those who lost family members on September 11. She was also asked to design a training program for therapists on how to treat traumatic bereavement. In collaboration with Dr. Laurie Pearlman and Dr. Therese Rando, she developed a treatment that addressed the PTSD symptoms that often plague survivors of traumatic loss, as well as grief symptoms. This program, which was described in the New York Times, was made available to therapists throughout the city. In recognition of this work, she received an award “for providing assistance to families who lost loved ones in the attacks on September 11, 2001.”
In the years following the September 11 catastrophe, Dr. Wortman was invited to offer many workshops to clinicians who were interested in treating survivors of traumatic loss. Because of the strong interest in this topic, Dr. Wortman and her colleagues, Dr. Laurie Pearlman and Dr. Therese Rando decided to write a book on Traumatic Bereavement. This book, entitled Treating Traumatic Bereavement: A Practitioner’s Guide, was published by Guilford Press in 2014.
Dr. Wortman has been invited to develop educational materials on trauma and loss for several websites, including those of the American Psychological Association, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. She also assisted in creating a website on grief for PBS. She posted a number of blogs on that website for bereaved individuals (e.g., How to Get Through the Holidays) and their family members and friends (e.g., Offering Support for the Bereaved: What to Say and Do).
For over four decades, Dr. Wortman has served as a professor on the faculty of Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, and Stony Brook University. At every college at which she has taught, Dr. Wortman has received recognition for her teaching and awards for teaching excellence. One of the awards, which was received from the Psychology Department at Stony Brook, was for Teacher of the Year. This award was based on the votes of graduating seniors, who were asked to identify the professor who had inspired them the most.
Because her research focuses on the ramifications of traumatic loss, Dr. Wortman is frequently asked to serve as an expert witness in wrongful death cases. Over the past 30 years, she has been involved in cases against American Airlines, Electrolux Home Products, Union Pacific Railroad, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, General Motors, and Fox News, among others. Her role is to help the jury understand the intense and prolonged distress that many people experience following the sudden, traumatic death of a loved one.
At present, Dr. Wortman is contacted regularly by the media and health care professionals regarding how to help people who have lost a loved one in the COVID-19 pandemic. Because few treatment options are available for those who are struggling with grief, Dr. Wortman developed a comprehensive list of free internet resources. This internet resource guide is being widely distributed to mental health organizations, as well as city, county, and state governments, who are making it available to their constituents.
Pearlman, L. A., Wortman, C. B., Feuer, C., Farber, C., & Rando, T. (2014). Treating traumatic bereavement: A practitioner’s guide. New York: Guilford Press.
Carr, D., Nesse, R., & Wortman, C. B. (2006). Spousal bereavement in late life. New York: Springer.
Articles and Book Chapters:
Wortman, C. B. (forthcoming). Internet resources for the bereaved. In L. A. Burke & E. Rynearson (Eds.), Exploring interactions with the deceased: The restorative nature of ongoing connections. New York: Routledge.
Wortman, C. B. (forthcoming). Mediums for the bereaved: Exploring their roles and contemplating the use of their services. In L. A. Burke & E. Rynearson (Eds.), Exploring interactions with the deceased: The restorative nature of ongoing connections. New York: Routledge.
Wortman, C. B. (in press). Lessons from tragic losses. In J. Bookwala & N. Newton (Eds.), Reflections from pioneering women in psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Barlé, N., Wortman, C. B., & Latack, J. A. (2017). Traumatic bereavement: Basic research and clinical implications. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 27(2), 127-139. (PDF)
Wortman, C. B. & Pearlman, L. (2016). Traumatic Bereavement. In R. A. Neimeyer (Ed.), Techniques of grief therapy: Assessment and intervention (pp. 25-29). New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.
Wortman, C. B. (2016). Coping with death and dying. In J. C. Norcross, G. R. VandenBos, D. K. Freedheim, & N. Pole (Eds.), APA handbooks in psychology. APA handbook of clinical psychology: Psychopathology and health (p. 567–581). American Psychological Association.(PDF)
Prigerson, H. G., Horowitz, M. J., Jacobs, S. C., Parkes, C. M., Asian, M., Goodkin, K., Raphael, B., Marwitt, S. J., Wortman, C., Neimeyer, R. A., Bonanno, G., Block, S. D., Kissane, D., Boelen, P., Maercker, A., Litz, B. T., Johnson, J. G., First, M. B., & Maciejewski, P. K. (2009). Prolonged grief disorder: Psychometric validation of criteria proposed for DSM-V and ICD-11, PLoS Med, 6(8), e100021. (PDF)
Wortman, C. B., & Boerner, K. (2007). Beyond the myths of coping with loss: Prevailing assumptions versus scientific evidence. In H.S. Friedman & R.C. Silver (Eds.), Foundations of health psychology (pp. 285-324). New York: Oxford University Press. (PDF)
Carnelley, K. B., Wortman, C. B., Bolger, N., & Burke, C. T. (2006). The time course of grief reactions to spousal loss: Evidence from a national probability sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 476-492. (PDF)
Boerner, K., Wortman, C. B., Bonanno, G. (2005). Resilient or at risk? A four-year study of older adults who initially showed high or low distress following conjugal loss. Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences, 60B (2), P67-P73.(PDF)
Bonanno, G. A., Wortman, C. B., & Nesse, R. M. (2004). Prospective patterns of resilience and maladjustment during widowhood. Psychology and Aging, 19, 260-271. (PDF)
Wortman, C. B. (2004). Post-traumatic growth: Progress and problems. Psychological Inquiry, 15, 81-90. (PDF)
Bonanno, G. A., Wortman, C. B., Lehman, D., Tweed, R., Sonnega, J., Carr, D., & Nesse, R. (2002). Resilience to loss and chronic grief: A prospective study from preloss to 18-months postloss. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1150-1164.
Davis, C. G., Wortman, C. B., Lehman, D. R., & Silver, R. C. (2000). Searching for meaning in loss: Are clinical assumptions correct? Death Studies, 24, 497-540. (PDF)
De Vries B., Davis, C. G., & Wortman, C. B., & Lehman, D. R. (1997). Long-term psychological and somatic consequences of later life parental bereavement. Omega, 35(1), 97-117.(PDF)
Wortman, C. B. & Smyth, J. (1997). Using one's own passion and undergraduate TA’s to transform the large-lecture introductory psychology course. In Sternberg, R. J. (Ed.), Teaching introductory psychology: Survival tips from the experts (pp. 163-180). Washington, D.C.: APA Books. (PDF)
Lepore, S. J., Silver, R. C., Wortman, C. B., & Wayment, H. A. (1996). Social constraints, intrusive thoughts, and depressive symptoms among bereaved mothers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(2), 271-282. (PDF)
Wortman, C. B., & Silver, R. C. (1989). The myths of coping with loss. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57, 349-357. (PDF)
Lehman, D. R., Wortman, C. B., & Williams, A. F. (1987). Long-term effects of losing a spouse or child in a motor vehicle crash. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 218-231. Excerpted in MADDvocate (1990), 3, 13.(PDF)
Wortman, C. B. (2020, May). Grief in the Age of the Coronavirus. Invited presentation, Health & Welfare Council of Long Island, Huntington Station, NY.
Wortman, C. B. (2019, May). Internet Resources for the Bereaved. Invited presentation, Training Conference on Restorative Connection with the Deceased, Seattle, WA.
Wortman, C. B. (2019, May). Maintaining a Connection with the Deceased: Impact on the Grieving Process. Invited presentation, Training Conference on Restorative Connection with the Deceased, Seattle, WA.
Wortman, C. B. (2018, October). Death of a Child: Implications for Parents. Invited presentation, The National Academy of Sciences Planning Meeting: Assessing the Impact of Child Death and Needs of Bereaved Families, Washington, DC.