The Center on Trauma and Adversity (Trauma Center) was established on April 2, 2018, by a group of Mandel School faculty with expertise in trauma and clinical social work. Its founding director is Assistant Professor Megan R. Holmes, PhD. Assistant Professor Jennifer A. King, DSW, LISW, will serve as Assistant Director.  Other Trauma Center members include Associate Professor Sonia Minnes, PhD; Marjorie N. Edguer, PhD, LISW-S, LICDC-CS; Victor K. Groza, PhD; Amy Korsch-Williams, MSSA, CNM, LISW-S; Gerald Mahoney, PhD; Meeyoung Min, PhD; and Laura Voith, PhD.

More information to come.

The mission of the Center on Trauma and Adversity is to reduce the impact of trauma, respond to adversity, and promote resilience through trauma-informed integrated research and training.

The training focus of the Trauma Center bridges the classroom and the community, expanding trauma-informed knowledge to social work master’s students through innovative curriculum and field placements (internships) at partner agencies. The Trauma Center seeks to establish student fellowships for specialized trauma training in partner agencies that serve children, youth, families, or communities who have experienced trauma. As part of the fellowship, students will receive special training in trauma assessment/intervention and prevention of secondary posttraumatic stress; partner agencies will receive recommendations, planning, and training to become more trauma-informed; and more individuals and communities will be helped in more effective ways.

Adverse childhood experiences such as maltreatment, exposure to domestic violence, and parental substance use are traumatic or stressful events that lower an individual’s capacity to cope or adapt to future stressful events. Traumatic stress involves a threat to emotional or physical safety, results in feeling vulnerability and loss of control, leaves people feeling helpless and fearful, and interferes with relationships and beliefs (Herman, 1997). Childhood exposure to adverse experiences occurs at alarming rates in the United States. It is estimated that before turning 18 years old, two-thirds of all youth (63.9%) will experience one or more adverse childhood experience with 12.5% experiencing four or more (Felitti et al., 1998). Although children who experience adverse experiences are at heightened risk of developing emotional, behavioral, cognitive, mental health and physical health problems, not all children display such problems. In fact, some children continue to thrive and achieve adaptive development despite their early adverse life events. Resilience, in general, refers to the capacity for successful adaptation in the face of adversity.

As outlined by CSWE in 2012, graduate social work education must prepare students for competent trauma-informed practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities because social workers are the largest mental health profession treating trauma survivors. “Standards for competent practice in response to trauma are an ethical obligation of the profession, as the likelihood of encountering trauma survivors in every practice setting is very high.” (pg 2, CSWE, 2012). Trauma affects children and families in specific ways. Social work practitioners’ interventions incorporate a holistic understanding of the effects of trauma on children, families, and all systems with which children and families may interact. They recognize that individuals can exhibit a wide and complex range of reactions to trauma and loss, which can impact attachment, behavior, social skills, the ability to learn, and--for parents/caregivers who’ve experienced their own traumas--the ability to parent confidently and competently. Social workers are cognizant of the fact that trauma has the potential to be passed down intergenerationally, and that danger and safety are core concerns in the lives of traumatized children and adults. Social work practitioners recognize how protective and promotive factors can reduce the adverse impact of trauma, not only for the child but also for the family and broader caregiving systems as well. In other words, social workers work directly with the caregivers and the child who is affected by the trauma in order to promote family resilience and empower the family to succeed and thrive.