Trauma Informed Curriculum


Trauma Healing: Building Resilience in the Context of Cultural Humility


This module provides interactive activities designed to learn about, and reflect on, cultural humility as a critical framework for approaching trauma healing in child welfare contexts.  Alternative resources are provided for integrating additional didactic presentations or applying concepts through case studies, which may be adapted by trainers/faculty for beginning or advanced audiences.  

Learning Objectives

  • Social workers will understand concepts of Intersectional Cultural Identity relative to rendering trauma-related services in culturally diverse settings.
  • Identify three main focuses of Cultural Humility in all level of Trauma-Informed Practice
  • Gain an understanding that healing partnerships are challenged by service providers not checking their intersectional cultural privilege

Audience: Intermediate (may be adapted for beginning or advanced trainees)

Module Outline

I. Reflection on Cultural Humility

Activity Name: Diversity Awareness/Cultural Competency/Cultural Humility

Modality: Facilitated Discussion

Learner Level: All levels

Duration: 30min

Materials: White Board/Chalk Board/Large Chart Pad and writing implements

Facilitator Instructions:

Write three headers atop the board and ask participants to speak about what each means to them and what each mean in relation to each other.  If these interventions were solving a problem, what was the problem at each stage that each intervention sought to address?

  1. Diversity Awareness
  2. Cultural Competence
  3. Cultural Humility

II. Introduction to Cultural Humility

Activity Name: Cultural Humility Video and Discussion

Modality: Video and Discussion

Learner Level: All Levels

Duration: 60min

Materials: Cultural Humility YouTube Video

Facilitator Instructions:

Review the video together to address the following:

  1. Lifelong learning and critical self reflection regarding awareness of how our own intersectional privileges, both earned and unearned, can impact others
  2. Recognize and mitigate power imbalances in all professional settings by way of acknowledging privilege (academic instructors are expected to model this)
  3. Institutional Accountability regarding how trauma-treatment modalities are selected and provided to clients: assessment on vs. assessment with

ALTERNATIVE: Provide the Cultural Humility YouTube video in advance in order to save classroom time for a deeper discussion on the three topics listed.

III.  Cultural Trauma and Historical Trauma

Activity Name: Cultural Trauma and Historical Trauma

Modality: Facilitated Discussion

Learner Level: All Levels

Duration: 30min


  1. Cultural Trauma and Historical Trauma Handout (provided in text below); 
  2. large chart pad paper and pens

Facilitator Instructions:

  • Distribute the Cultural Trauma and Historical Trauma handout.
  • Each small group creates two lists, with a line drawn down the middle vertically: Cultural Trauma (on the left) and Historic Trauma (on the right).
  • Co-Facilitators allow participants to make a list of as many Cultural Traumas they can think of in the United States, allowing for diverse collective group wisdom to emerge.  
  • Intersectional Cultural Identity among small group members allows for more comprehensive lists to emerge so asking groups to mix up to allow for more diversity of thoughts and experiences is encouraged but is not required.
  • Once groups are given about 10 minutes to complete their lists of Cultural Traumas, they are then given 10 minutes to list the Historical Trauma that may have come as a result of experiencing Cultural Traumas – item by item.
  • Participants are encouraged to consider Historical Trauma symptoms in a number of areas: biology and neurobiology, behaviors and coping mechanisms, emotions, belief systems, including trust.

ALTERNATIVE: Provide the Cultural Trauma and Historical Trauma handout for silent review and reflective journaling or as a reflective homework assignment.

Cultural Trauma and Historical Trauma

Reflection Question:  Why do disparities among wealth, education, life expectancy, infant mortality and a number of other societal domains disproportionately affect some cultural groups more than others?    

Cultural Trauma is an attack on the fabric of a society, affecting the essence of a community and its members.  Cultural Trauma creates a legacy of poverty, poor mental health, physical health and a pervasive sense of hopelessness in some communities.  The impact of Racism and Institutional Racism, prejudice, discrimination and health disparities persist in many ethnic minority communities.  Multi-generational/Intergenerational Trauma occurs when trauma is not resolved and is subsequently internalized and passed from one generation to the next.

Historical Trauma is a type of Cultural trauma that has a collective and cumulative emotional wounding across generations.  Cumulative exposure to traumatic events not only affects an individual but continues to affect subsequent generations of individuals as well. The trauma is a psychological injury held personally and transmitted over generations both behaviorally through modeling as well as genetically.

“The final stage of genocide is when the oppressor looks down upon the oppressed and blames them for the consequences of the oppression they’ve suffered.” - unknown

This is an example of victim blaming called “Gas-lighting” which is often experienced in Domestic Violence relationships where the perpetrator criticizes the victim for the consequences of the abuse.  

Reflection Question: Identify the psychological similarities between:  

  1. Domestic Violence abusers minimizing his/her abusive behavior while criticizing the symptoms of abuse in the abuse survivor
  1.  People who minimize Cultural Trauma in order to blame symptoms of Historical Trauma on the survivors.  
  • What function does this psychology serve?  
  • How does this psychology impact the prognosis for behavior change?
  • How does victim blaming for the Historical Trauma of Institutional Racism impact current policy at the Federal, State and local government level?

Alternative Activities

Understanding child traumatic stress in a cultural framework

Description: Integrate and adapt elements on the National Child Traumatic Stress Network NCTSN) Child Welfare Trauma Training Toolkit described below.  The NCTSN includes helpful slides for didactic presentations that may be particularly useful for beginners (e.g., defining culture, influence of culture on trauma, and background about historical trauma) as well as material that are useful for all levels (e.g., discussion of disproportionality and cultural case scenarios).  The toolkit includes PowerPoint Slides, and Instructors Guide, and optional case studies:

Location: NCTSN Child Welfare Trauma Training Toolkit described below 

Access: You will need to register to access the materials, then you may download all resources

Recommended Module: Module 6, entitled What is the influence of Culture?

Key Resources and Reading

Ortega, R. M., & Coulborn Faller, K. (2011). Training child welfare workers from an intersectional cultural humility perspective: A paradigm shift.  Child Welfare, 90 (5), 27- 49.

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