Connecting Trauma-Informed to Community-Engaged

In the years before #MeToo exploded into public awareness, conversations about trauma and its impact on schools and other institutions were growing under the banner of becoming trauma-informed. Trauma-informed principles such as those outlined by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offered new ways to think about institutional policies and practices that recognize and address trauma’s impact.

More recently, understanding of institutional betrayal and institutional courage has revealed the potential for both harm and healing, depending on how institutions respond to violence.

Now, the time seems ripe to connect the momentum for building trauma-informed institutions and promoting institutional courage with another movement — specifically, the efforts to advance equitable community-scientist partnerships through community-engaged methods.

At least, that’s the case that Drs. Apryl Alexander (DU), Joan Cook (Yale University), and Omar Gudiño (University of Kansas) and I made in a new article, “A roadmap for preventing and responding to trauma: Practical guidance for advancing community-engaged research.”

In particular, we pointed to the potential power in connecting the expansion of trauma-informed approaches to the movement to advance community-engaged methods as a way to improve community-university collaboration. After all, community-engaged methods are all about how to build equitable partnerships to work towards social change. Embracing these methods, we argued, would lead to equipping students at all stages of their postsecondary education with the kind of public skills that are necessary for addressing seemingly intractable problems, like trauma and violence.

Focusing in on our discipline of psychology, we offered a roadmap for more intentionally linking trauma-informed and community-engaged approaches. That roadmap points to (at least) three actions. First, prepare students for public impact. Second, invest in faculty development of skills to support community engagement and public scholarship. And third, build infrastructure for equitable community-scientist collaborations.

Preparing students, faculty, and institutions to do collaborative work that has a public impact is critical for social change generally and addressing trauma specifically — whether we’re talking about improving research on trauma or preparing the students who will graduate and join your agencies to be public champions for community solutions to trauma and collaborators for change.

Of course, the roadmap sketched out in the new article is a start, offering some guideposts for evolving psychology training so that psychologists can be part of increasing the public impact of trauma science and practice. Yet, those changes won’t be enough to turn the tide of trauma and its impact in our communities.

Transformative change is going to take us working together in new ways within and across disciplines, industries, interests, and passions. That potential for transformative change is something I’ve been thinking a lot lately about with my forthcoming book, Every 90 Seconds: Our Common Cause Ending Violence against Women. I’m excited to explore new paths to collaborative action with you with the book’s release this spring!


Spoiler alerts: For a deeper dive into building collaborations for action to end violence against women, I hope you’ll check out my forthcoming book, Every 90 Seconds: Our Common Cause Ending Violence against Women, available now for preorder (Barnes & NobleIndie BoundAmazon, Grass Roots).

And, stay tuned for an upcoming editorial on “Translating Scientific Knowledge about Trauma into Action” in the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation.

Finally, drop me an email if you’d like a copy of the new article, “A roadmap for preventing and responding to trauma: Practical guidance for advancing community-engaged research.”

Published by Anne P. DePrince, PhD

Author of "Every 90 Seconds: Our Common Cause Ending Violence Against Women" (Oxford University Press), Anne is Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Associate Vice Provost of Public Good Strategy and Research at the University of Denver. She directs the Traumatic Stress Studies Group.

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