Sophie* was a bright young woman. She was neither my best student, nor my worst, but her work was always on point and on time. She was pleasant, and a hard worker.
I teach conflict management. Students often draw upon life experiences for classroom activities and assignments. So I knew something about Sophie’s life outside of school. A single mother and army veteran, she worked full-time, mostly evening hours, while taking classes toward her degree. She had a close relationship with her mother. She loved her boyfriend.
What I did not know, not at first, was that Sophie suffered from PTSD. What I would learn was that, although she was in treatment, her symptoms were getting worse. Her doctor suggested inpatient treatment, but as a single mother she didn’t have reliable child care.
Before that, all I knew was that her work started falling off. Her essays were shorter, and less organized. She turned in one assignment late, another not at all.
It is not unusual for students to “check out” of a course. Sometimes they are busy, other times simply disinterested. But other times, I knew, students may be responding to stress, or even trauma. I reached out to Sophie, who confided in me. We were able to develop a plan that put her healing first, but allowed her to complete her courses on an extended schedule.
It is easy to imagine that Sophie’s failing performance might have written off as just another case of a student losing interest in their studies, or even spreading herself too thin. But how often are students such as Sophie suffering from the effects of trauma? Would those students not be better served by educators who are trained in Trauma-Informed Approaches?
Trauma-Informed Approaches (TIA) recognize the impact of trauma on the human experience. Everyone experiences trauma differently, and our experiences create a lens through which we view, and process, stressors. Training in TIA not only enhances professionals’ abilities to recognize and accommodate people in crisis to ensure their success. If applied habitually, these principles allow us to help all students (or clients, or patients), and not just those about whose trauma we are already aware.
TIA has recognized practical applications in the fields of child welfare, behavioral health, criminal justice and policing, domestic relations, substance abuse treatment, and healthcare. According to the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), a program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed:
- Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery;
- Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system;
- Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and
- Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization." (Trauma-Informed Approach, 2018).
Indeed, trauma-informed approaches that meet SAMHSA’s standard have been incorporated into a variety of programs and services nationwide. For example, the theme of SAMHSA’s own 2018 Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day event was “Partnering for Health and Hope Following Trauma”. Additionally, police departments in jurisdictions such as Memphis, TN and New Castle County, DE have established crisis intervention programs that pair counselors with police so that vulnerable citizens can be immediately linked to treatment.
With the advent of such programs, it is more important than ever that professionals be trained to meet the demand of this growing field. Wilmington University’s Certificate in Trauma-Informed Approaches prepares students to work in a highly recognized model of wellness, which supports resilience and recovery, promotes positive health outcomes, prevents the worst outcomes of psychological responses, and integrates knowledge about the pervasiveness of trauma in systems in policies, practices, and procedures. The TIA certificate program is available as part of an undergraduate degree or as a stand-alone certificate for individuals who have already graduated from another institution. Courses are available online. For those preferring the face-to-face format, courses are offered at Wilmington University’s New Castle, Dover, Dover AFB, or Georgetown, DE campuses.
For more information on Wilmington University’s Trauma-Informed Approaches Certificate, visit http://www.wilmu.edu/behaviora...med-certificate.aspx, or call (877) 967-5464.
*Sophie is a composite of more than one student. Names and identifying details have been changed to preserve privacy and anonymity.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2018). Trauma-Informed Approach and Trauma-Specific Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/nctic/trauma-interventions.
Wilmington University. (2018). Trauma Informed Approaches Certificate. Retrieved from http://www.wilmu.edu/behaviora...med-certificate.aspx.