Skip to content

Tara Leytham Powell

Associate Professor

Headshot of Tara Powell

What I Do

I am committed to supporting disaster-affected individuals, families, and communities.  My hope is that all people affected by collective traumas have the necessary tangible, emotional, and institutional support to recover from these events. To do that, I partner with schools, non-profits, and community-based organizations to develop and test interventions designed to increase protective factors (e.g., social support, healthy coping) and reduce risk for those impacted by all forms of humanitarian crises.


  • BA – University of Iowa
  • MSW and MPH – Tulane University
  • PhD in Social Work – University of Texas, Austin
  • Peace Corps volunteer – Mali, West Africa


Dr. Tara Powell is a researcher and advocate for behavioral health interventions in disaster-affected communities. With a dual master’s in social work and public health from Tulane University and a PhD from the University of Texas, she explores the impact of behavioral health interventions in the US and abroad.

Drawing from her experience living in and working with disaster-affected communities, Dr. Powell has actively collaborated with local communities and global humanitarian organizations to develop, research, and distribute behavioral health interventions for individuals, families, and communities affected by collective traumas. Following Hurricane Katrina, she co-developed the “Journey of Hope” intervention with Save the Children, which has since been adopted as one of the organization’s hallmark programs, reaching over 80,000 children worldwide.  Her experience spans a range of contexts, from communities impacted by conflicts like the Syrian Crisis to those who have experienced pandemics and climate-induced disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes.

Dr. Powell is currently the principal investigator of a multi-state randomized control trial to examine the impact and implementation of the Journey of Hope intervention (1R01MH131248).  Dr. Powell is also a co-investigator on the “Reducing Disparities in Disaster-Related Mental Health Burden” study that uses a community-based participatory research approach to adapt and test the efficacy of a community-based mental health intervention in the Gulf Coast (NASEM 2000013444; PI: Jennifer Scott).

Selected Publications

  • Powell, T., Qushua, N.(2023). A community-based mental health intervention to improve well-being among Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan: A qualitative analysis.  International Journal of Social Psychiatry. DOI:
  • Powell, T., Scott, J., Yuma, P., Hsaio, Y. (2022). Surviving the Storm: Intervening to reduce psychological distress for health and social care providers post-disaster. Health and Social Care in the Community. DOI: 10.1111/hsc.14059
  • Powell, T., Wegmann, K., Backode, E. (2021). Coping and Post-Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents After an Acute Onset Disaster: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Public Health.  DOI:
  • Powell, T., Li, S.J., Hsiao, Y., Thompson, M., Farraj, A., Abdoh, M., Rarraj, R. (2021). An integrated physical and mental health awareness education intervention to reduce non-communicable diseases among Syrian refugees and Jordanians in host communities: A natural experiment study. Preventive Medicine Reports. 21, 101310. DOI:
  • Powell, T., Wegmann, K., & Shin, O.J. (2019). Stress and coping in frontline mental health providers after Superstorm Sandy:  An examination of a post-disaster psycho-educational intervention. 25(2), 96 Traumatology.
  • Powell, T., Davis, J. (2018). Addressing the social emotional needs of children in chronic poverty: A pilot of the Journey of Hope. Children and Youth Services Review. 98, 319-327. DOI:
  • Powell, T. & Bui, T. (2016).  Supporting social and emotional skills after a disaster:  Findings from a mixed methods study.  School Mental Health 8 (1) 106-119.

Latest news

  • Faculty & Staff

We’re Living One Disaster to the Next 

October 05, 2023

 People check an area damaged by flash floods in Derna, Libya, on Monday. AFP via Getty Images
  • Faculty & Staff,
  • Research

What We Know And Don’t Know About Long COVID 

October 20, 2022

image of person wearing facemask and holding their head in pain
  • Students,
  • Faculty & Staff,
  • Research

Study Examines Pandemic’s Impact on Volunteer Health Care Workers 

July 12, 2022

News Bureau

Tara Powell and social work doctoral student Jenna Muller
  • Faculty & Staff,
  • Research

For Scientists Studying ‘Disaster Fatigue,’ This Has Been a Year Like no Other 

November 24, 2020

 Linda Smoot, a resident of Lake Charles, Louisiana, returned from a shelter after Hurricane Laura in August to find storm damage at her niece's home. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
  • Faculty & Staff,
  • Research,
  • Community Impact

How can we identify, respond to pandemic-triggered mental health crises?

January 14, 2022

headshot of Tara Powel
  • Faculty & Staff,
  • Research

A Role for Social and Emotional Learning After a Disaster 

March 28, 2021

The wreckage of a home sitting on top of an upside down pick up truck. (Image credit: Unsplash/John Middelkoop)
  • Faculty & Staff,
  • Research,
  • Community Impact

Who’s Taking Care of Your Therapist? 

March 29, 2021

Illinois Public Media

illustration of Illinois with the 21st text on top
  • Faculty & Staff,
  • Research,
  • Community Impact

Advice For Coping With Isolation During The Coronavirus Crisis 

March 19, 2020

Illinois Public Media

children walking in the grass
  • Faculty & Staff,
  • Community Impact

Comic: A Kids’ Guide to Coping With the Pandemic 

November 17, 2020

screenshot of small portion of comic
Cookie Settings