Trauma Informed Curriculum


Self-Assessment: Understanding Stress and Trauma


This experiential module focuses on the development of self-care strategies to mediate the impact of secondary trauma.  Additional alternative resources are provided for introducing concepts of secondary trauma for beginner audiences.

Learning Objectives

  • Social workers will understand concepts self care in mitigating the impact of chronic trauma exposure.
  • Social workers will be able to identify three main areas of assessment in regard to sustaining resilience in a trauma setting
  • Social workers will gain an understanding that prevention requires action in a number of areas simultaneously.

Audience: Intermediate

Module Outline

I.  Activity: ABCs of Self Care

Modality: Individual Reflection and Journaling activity

Learner Level: All levels

Duration: 60min

Materials: Reflective Journals or blank pieces of paper and pens for each participant

Facilitator Instructions:

  • Trainers ask participants to get into a calm, reflective space and think about where they are in their self-care.  Then Trainers ask participants to think about where they would like to be in regard to their self-care and write it at the top of the page.
  • One way to help participants identify a goal is to have them think about if they were going to make a movie about their successful self-care journey, what would the title be?  Trainers then ask participants to write a few thoughts about how success was achieved or maintained in their movie.
  • As an example, Trainers can ask participants to think about a GPS – the Goal is the address.  The Action Plan consists of the step-by-step directions on how to get to the goal.  The Measurement is how far away you are from your goal at any given time.
  • Trainers then ask participants to come up with at least one Action Step in each of three areas: Escape, Rest and Play.
    1. Escape – set aside time for yourself away from trauma triggers
    2. Rest – put your life and brain on pause, enough time to heal
    3. Play – activities that make you happy, smile and laugh
  • Trainers then ask participants to come up with ways to measure how these three areas are improving: Awareness, Balance and Connection
    1. Awareness – How can you tell if you are becoming affected by trauma?
    2. Balance – How will you know if you are working too much?
    3. Connection – How might you notice isolation increasing?
  • Trainers ask participants to review their plans with a partner of their choice and identify flaws that may prevent or delay the plan from taking place and some secondary Action Steps to help overcome any anticipated challenges.
  • Lastly, Trainers ask participants to come up with a group of trustworthy people to help them achieve their goal.  Participants are encouraged to make a list of names and a realistic time frame for contacting them to share their Self Care Goal and related plan.

Sample Layout:

Self-Care Goal :

Measure Improvements:

A. (awareness)

B. (balance)

C. (connection)

Action Steps (what, when, who):

1. (escape)

2.  (rest)

3.  (play)

Alternative 1:  Introduction to secondary trauma beginners

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 various terms used to describe secondary traumatic stress, sources and symptoms of traumatic stress, and strategies to address secondary traumatic stress).


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

Recommended Module: Module 11, entitled Worker Resilience

Alternative 2:  Compassion Satisfaction/Fatigue Self-Test Activity

Description: Facilitators may elect to have participants fill out the "Compassion Satisfaction/Fatigue Self-Test Activity" in advance of, or during, the training session.  This may be particularly relevant to intermediate or advanced trainees who are in professional practice or internships.  The self-test includes instructions for completion and scoring guides.  Participants may fill out the form, then use the activity above to reflect on implications for self-care.

Location: Compassion Satisfaction/Fatigue Self-Test Activity [1]

Key Resources and Reading

Cieslak, R., Shoji, K., Douglas, A., Melville, E., Luszczynska, A., & Benight, C. C. (2014). A meta-analysis of the relationship between job burnout and secondary traumatic stress among workers with indirect exposure to trauma. Psychological Services 11 (1), 75.

Mathieu, F. (2012). The Compassion fatigue workbook: Creative tools for transforming compassion fatigue and vicarious traumatization. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Return to top