Christopher Blodgett, a clinical psychologist and Washington State University (WSU) faculty member, spent most of his career working in areas of community violence, child maltreatment and adolescent substance abuse—issues that, too often, occupied separate professional realms. The ACE study put those pressing concerns together.
“It gave us the integrating language,” he says. “It moved us from isolated, fragmented conversation to an organized, concurrent process.” New insights into trauma and brain development didn’t undo Blodgett’s training in classical learning theory and cognitive-behavioral principles, but they changed the context of his work, reminding him that people are, at heart, relational beings. “It inverted my whole way of thinking about the work I do with individuals, groups and communities.”
Chris has served as principal investigator for more than three dozen federal and national foundation grants addressing high-risk children and families. As Director of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s CLEAR Trauma Center at WSU, Chris and his team adapt the science of resilience, brain development and trauma treatment to create systematic interventions.
He hopes to bring the hard lessons of that work—how to translate best-practice recommendations about treating trauma into meaningful strategies to be used in non-therapy settings—to the MARC project. What he has learned is that awareness doesn’t automatically translate into change; it takes discipline, intention, persistence and careful management to move people from exposure toward new skills and then to system-wide transformation.
He’s seen it happen—in schools, for instance, when educators come to understand the reasons why kids “act out,” then alter their discipline practices, abandoning punishment as a primary tool. “This is the part of our intervention work that has teachers breaking down in tears with a sense of responsibility and loss for all the kids they could have helped,” he says.
“The biggest question we’ve got is: Can we translate these ideas to scalable solutions? ...I think all of us remain really active learners. What I’m hoping, as a participant in the process, is to learn from people who may challenge me about my assumptions. There is very little established wisdom about doing this work.”
Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC) is a learning collaborative of 14 communities committed to building resilience and addressing childhood trauma through an explicit application of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) science, language, and data. MARC is coordinated by the Health Federation of Philadelphia with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment. You can read more about the MARC initiative here.
This blog is Part 1 of an 8-part series profiling members of the MARC Advisory Committee.