Trauma Informed Curriculum

Module 7

Creating Effective and Sustainable Trauma Informed Practice


This module focuses on skills and strategies for sustaining trauma-informed practice, including monitoring potential personal bias, recognizing risks for trauma exposure in the workplace, and working effectively in teams.

Learning Objectives

  • Social workers will understand the stages of the Ladder of Inference
  • Social workers will be able to identify the highest areas of risk for trauma exposure in the work place
  • Social Workers will appreciate the need for coaching in trauma treatment settings

Audience: Intermediate (activities may be adapted for advanced trainees)

Module Outline

I. Understand and Reducing Personal Bias

Activity Title: The Ladder of Inference: Understanding Personal Bias

Modality: Individual Reflective Journal Activity, small group activity

Learner Level: All levels

Duration: 30-60min

Materials: Ladder of Inference on-line video, Confirmation Bias Supplemental Reading, reflective journals or blank pieces of paper and pens.

Facilitator Instructions:

  • Following the video, Trainer can ask for general reactions from the large audience before asking the following reflection questions to for each small group to discuss:
    1. How does hyper-vigilance as an arousal state involve the Ladder of Inference?
    2. How do the Hippocampus and Amygdala regions of the brain connect to the Ladder of Inference?
    3. How might early childhood experience impact how people make meaning along the Ladder of Inference?
    4. How does repeated exposure to trauma related material in a work setting impact how people make meaning along the Ladder of Inference?
  • Trainer should mention that Confirmation Bias means looking for evidence to support a pre-existing belief, prejudice or bias.  Co-Facilitators can then ask the large group: “How does the Ladder of Influence relate to Confirmation Bias in various types of trauma-related investigations and assessments?” (Confirmation Bias Supplemental Reading can be used as pre-reading or homework from this module)
  • Trainer then asks each participant to write down in their reflective journals or on a blank piece of paper the stages of the Ladder of Inference with 1-3 reflective questions that they can ask themselves in order to slow themselves down when they are moving up the Ladder of Inference
    1. Observation
    2. Select Data
    3. Add Meaning
    4. Make Assumptions
    5. Draw Conclusions
    6. Adopt Beliefs
    7. Take Actions

II. Identifying Risk for Trauma in the Work Place

Activity Title:  The Terrible 10 List

Modality: Small Table or Large Group Activity

Learner Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Duration: 10-30min

Materials: Large chart pad paper for each small group and pens

Facilitator Instructions:

  • Trainer introduces learners to the concept of Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) as a way to rapidly respond to early onset symptoms of acute stress or trauma following a serious event on the job.  
  • Trainer lets participants know that Critical Incident Stress Response defusing/debriefing should take place at the host agency following a critical incident within 24-48 hours to help prevent the onset of PTSD symptoms in staff exposed to the event.  However, for each staff person and each agency or organization a Critical Incident can mean different things.  
  • Participants will review an example of a Top 10 List of Critical Incidents for First Responders as a reference guide to imagining what a Top 10 List of Critical Incidents would include for Social Workers:
    1. Line of duty death
    2. Suicide of a colleague, friend, family or tribal member
    3. Line of duty serious injury
    4. Death or serious in jury to a child
    5. Prolonged failed rescue with eye contact with the victim before death
    6. Mass casualty disaster which exceeds normal emergency response capacity
    7. Victim personally known to the First Responder
    8. Personal safety is unusually jeopardized
    9. Administrative betrayal
    10. Excessive or invasive media coverage
  • Participants are encouraged to bring their Terrible 10 Lists of Critical Incidents back to their host agencies or organizations in order to advocate that staff members are provided CISM services within 24-48 hours of these types of incidents.

III. Effective Teaming and Group Coaching

Activity Title: Teaming and Group Coaching Agendas

Modality: Individual Reflective Journal Activity, small group/large group activity

Learner Level: All levels

Duration: 30-60min

Materials: CLEAR Coaching Model Supplemental Handout, reflective journals or blank pieces of paper and pens

Facilitator Instructions:

  • Trainer can distribute the CLEAR Coaching Model Supplemental Handouts for review by the small groups.  Then each group is asked to consider ways each stage of the model may look the same or different when being applied to three different applications:
    1. Child-driven safety planning or treatment planning
    2. Family-driven team meetings with Cultural Brokers and Community Partners and Tribal Members making up the majority of the team membership
    3. A Unit Meeting or Bureau Meeting at a Trauma-Informed Agency or Organization

CLEAR Coaching Model:

  1. Contract – establish goals for the time being spent together: Purpose and Desired Outcome activities can be used in this stage.
  1. Listen – active listening skills, Cultural Humility concepts modeled
  1. Explore – Solution-Focused Questions, Appreciative Inquiry an Motivational Interviewing skills all apply
  1. Action – Concrete.  Who will do what by when?  What supports or reminders are needed?  If others are involved in this action and are not present, who will connect with them?
  1. Review – Is this plan Sustainable, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Sensitive?  How was the meeting in regard to psychological and emotional safety?  How was the meeting in regarding to connecting across cultural differences?  If you were to scale the facilitation of this meeting where 10 is the best and 1 is the worst, what number would you give it?  What could happen in the next meeting for that number to increase by 1 point?

Key Resources and Reading

Definition and description of the CLEAR Coaching Model, Blog entry, in Coaching in the Field of Child Welfare. A resource on professional development coaching maintained by the Northern California Training Academy, a unit of the Center for Human Services Development at the University of California, Davis Extension

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