Fostering Trauma-Informed Processes Within Organizations 


Over the past two decades, there has been an increasing amount of recognition regarding the role and impact that psychological trauma has had in a wide range of health, mental health and social problems. When people hear the word “trauma”, they often correlate the term with war veterans and people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although they’re not wrong in their assumption, the reality is that trauma includes a wide range of situations where people are physically threatened, hurt or violated, and or when they witness others in these situations. This includes such experiences as childhood physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, witnessing domestic violence, serious accidents, shootings, being threatened with a weapon, combat, life-threatening illness, and death of someone close, to name a few. (Add A.A. & A.I. experience?)

The impact of living through traumatic events, especially multiple events over the course of a lifetime, can result in a range of behavioral health problems other than post-traumatic stress disorder, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety problems, childhood behavioral disorders, psychosis, and some personality disorder diagnoses. The reality is that social workers have been working with trauma survivors from the first day the profession began. However, the growing knowledge base about how trauma affects people is now being used to inform changes in policy and practice to ensure that organizations support recovery and don’t inadvertently hurt people. A process that is referred to as Trauma-Informed Care (TIC).

To aid the TIC movement, HTSRS has created a symposium process that is designed to assist organizations in the first step of any TIC process, gaining a better understanding of trauma and those most affect by trauma. We cannot make meaningful change until we understand how we got here and before we can authentically change systems, we must first change ourselves. This includes an in-depth look at American history, a shift in mind-sets and how we perceive those we serve and learning how to interact with clients in a way that considers their past trauma(s) and the resulting coping mechanisms when attempting to address a client’s behaviors.  

Elements of the Historical Trauma & Structural Racism Symposium

The HTSRS was created and developed by Samuel Simmons, LADC and David Everett, Ph.D. in conjunction with the Collective Action Lab. The symposium is heavily grounded in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, behavioral consulting specializing in practical culturally sensitive trauma informed work with African American males and their families, and organizational leadership dynamics related to workplace culture, climate and capacity, as well as approaches to equity, inclusion and diversity. Below is a detailed process of the the HTSRS.

  • Assessment: To fully understand how an organization became what it is today, all organizations that commit to the seminar process will begin with an assessment process. The assessment will examine an organization’s current operations and service model(s), gain employee perspectives, and review existing reports and briefing documents.


  • Raising Awareness: Before we can undertake significant systems change, people working in systems must have the opportunity to better understand the historical context that has led to our present circumstances. Many of those working with the African American and Native American Indian clients have not had the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of the experienced history, and most of those who create the policies and procedures at the systemic level do not have full understanding of this history.

    During phase two, organizations would participate in a unique dialogue and engagement process on historical trauma and structural racism and its implications for the health and well-being of very young children and their families. The dialogue, led by Sam Simmons (insert title and/or bio here), follows a top-down approach with systems leadership, management, and staff.


  • Individual and Systems Support: The need for open dialogue which is non-confrontational and sensitive to all stakeholder’s emotions is a critical and foundational step in advancing reform. To accomplish this, Dr. David Everett (insert title and/or bio here) provides a series of workshops focused on cultural competency, unconscious bias, and organizational culture to help organizations meet their goals. The four-part series is outlined below: (ADD DIFFERENT SESSIONS LATER)


Extended Scope

  • Working with Clients: Communities are very often used in systems change efforts as an afterthought and not integral to shaping true, long term reform.  This engagement process would like to embed community voices into the fourth stage of the process to ensure that communities shape rather than superficially inform change. Families and communities have a direct impact on child well-being and development.  We can only make shifts in investments after better understanding what help families and communities heal, build capacity and thrive. 


  • Working with Staff

    This identifies additional training and development opportunities in the areas of Leadership, Organizational Culture, Equity, Inclusion & Diversity; addressing, but not limited to:

    1.   Achieving Equity: Moving from Initiation to Implementation

    2.   Effective Leadership in Changing Contexts

    3.   The Impact of Organizational Culture

    4.   An Inclusive Approach to Community Engagement

    Within each training and topic presentation, the impact on individual, institutional and systemic structures will be explored. These additional areas can be provided in response to specific organizational needs that may result from the introductory training sections of Historical Trauma & Equity, Inclusion & Diversity.

    The intent is to foster a practical understanding and application of the topic areas within an organization to broaden, deepen and connect core principles with specific dynamics to build individual skills, strengthen institutional capacity and further systemic effort.

    These additional sections are designed to be an extended learning opportunity for Leadership, Organizational Culture, Equity, Inclusion & Diversity best practices and address organizational needs.




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