Reply to "Distress after ACE training"

Hi, Andrew: Thanks for bringing this up. I think it's important that an organization educate its own staff about all parts of ACEs science before educating anyone that organization serves, and then providing the people it serves with the same information. And what I mean by ACEs science is:

  • the epidemiology of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) (the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study and subsequent surveys that show these experiences are the norm, not the exception);
  • the neurobiology of toxic stress from ACEs on children's developing brains and the brains of high ACE-scoring adults;
  • the short- and long-term health effects of toxic stress from ACEs;
  • the epigenetic effects of toxic stress from ACEs, otherwise known as historical or inter-generational trauma (in addition to the question: "What happened to you?", also asking "What happened to your parents?" To your grandparents? To your great-grandparents? To your tribe, ethnic group, etc.?"
  • resilience research, which shows the brain is plastic and the body wants to heal, as well as resilience research that shows how organizations, systems and communities can heal by using trauma-informed and resilience-building practices.

We think it's critical to teach all these together, because no one of these stands alone in our new understanding of why people behave the way they do, or how to change human behavior, whether it's unhealthy, unwanted or criminal behavior.

As others have mentioned in their replies, it's important to warn people about what's coming before they enter the room, to make sure they know that they can step out anytime they want, and to provide time for group discussion as well as individual assistance later. That's just being trauma-informed about what you do.

It's important to note that it usually takes people more than one time to absorb this information, especially if it's new to them, so doing several presentations for people is a great idea.

Also, what I've also found is very powerful is, on the second or third time that a group has heard about this, to do an instant poll of the room (using something like, where people can answer the ACE questions — and a resilience survey — anonymously but see instantly where they are as a group. In the helping professions, the percentages of "yes" are usually higher than the original ACE Study. This is important for the organization to know in terms of whether it has created a safe work place for its employees.

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