Trauma Informed School

  • Spotsylvania County Social Workers are educated mental health professionals with a focus and expertise of supporting our students with histories of trauma.  Many have been trained in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and work to promote a whole-school, trauma-informed approach through training, education, and resources.

What is a Trauma Informed School?

  • A trauma-sensitive school is one in which all students feel safe, welcomed, and supported and where addressing trauma’s impact on learning on a school-wide basis is at the center of its educational mission. It is a place where an on-going, inquiry-based process allows for the necessary teamwork, coordination, creativity and sharing of responsibility for all students, and where continuous learning is for educators as well as students.

    Why we need Trauma Informed Schools (Courtesy of Trauma Sensitive Schools):

    • All children need safe and supportive environments in order to learn.
    • Trauma-sensitive schools help all students feel safe to learn.

    The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study demonstrates that nearly every school has students who have been exposed to overwhelming experiences, such as witnessing violence at home, being direct targets of abuse, homelessness or having a parent with substance abuse or mental health issues.

    For some children these experiences result in a trauma response that can lead to a cascade of social, emotional and academic difficulties that can interfere with a child’s ability to learn at school. Recent neurobiological research has shown that the trauma response can diminish concentration, memory and the organizational and language abilities students need to succeed in school, potentially leading to problems with academic performance, challenging behavior in the classroom, and difficulty forming relationships.

    What are ACEs?  ACEs are adverse childhood experiences that harm children's developing brains and lead to changing how they respond to stress and damaging their immune systems so profoundly that the effects show up decades later. ACEs cause much of our burden of chronic disease, most mental illness, and are at the root of most violence.  Additional information about ACEs, including the ACEs test, can be found on ACEs connection 


    TF-CBT (  Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of therapy that addresses the specific emotional and mental health needs of children, adolescents, adult survivors, and families who are struggling to overcome the destructive effects of early trauma. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is especially sensitive to the unique problems of youth with post-traumatic stress and mood disorders resulting from abuse, violence, or grief.  Spotsylvania School Social Work team are trained or are in the process of training in TF-CBT.  6 are currently fully certified clinicians.


    Social Emotional Learning (SEL) (  Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.  The Impact of Social Emotional Learning (video)


    Mindfulness (  Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment with openness and curiosity.  It has a variety of research-backed impacts, including reduction in stress, and improvements in job satisfaction, emotional regulation, and focus.  Mindfulness is a state, a trait, and a practice.  Mindfulness can be thought of a “state,” a “trait” or a “practice.” You can have a moment of mindfulness, which is the state of your mind. You can also have a sustained experience that is more like a habit or strong tendency to be mindful, a trait. Or you can engage in a more intentional practice of mindfulness by using different forms, postures and activities, such as seated mindfulness meditation, mindful walking, and mindful eating.

    Why do people practice mindfulness?  Mindfulness can support and sustain you, by helping you manage the stress of today’s world. Mindfulness has been shown to have a positive impact on stress, attention, and even relationships. The American Psychological Association shares research on a range of benefits of mindfulness, including:

    • stress reduction
    • boosts to working memory
    • focus
    • less emotional reactivity
    • more cognitive flexibility
    • relation satisfaction

    You can read more about the research and benefits of mindfulness and how mindfulness practice can literally change your brain, here. Yet the benefits of mindfulness can take us beyond the terrain of managing symptoms to a place where we are developing our deeper human capacities for awareness, attention, empathy, kindness and compassion.

    What is mindfulness in schools?  In the Mindful Schools community – educators, parents, and school community members – many of us are exploring mindfulness because we’re excited to share mindfulness with our students who are facing an increasingly complex and technology-based world.  Research shows that in addition to benefits for adults, youth benefit from learning mindfulness in terms of improved cognitive outcomes, social-emotional skills, and well being.

Additional Information