Posted: February 27th, 2023

Layout a Plan for Reducing the Risk of Secondary or Vicarious Trauma in the Classroom

Consider how you would lay out a plan for school staff on reducing the risk of secondary or vicarious trauma in a presentation. Reflect and consider at least two ways that educators and school professionals (i.e., social worker, counselor, or school psychologist) can work to reduce the risk of secondary or vicarious  trauma in the classroom. Reflect upon the importance of inclusive education environments and types of trauma. Also, define inclusive education and think about at least two strategies for creating an inclusive  learning environment. See the attached articles below.

41Controversial Issues in Education

Teacher Attrition: The Impacts of Stress
By Dionna Farmer

Teachers are subject to high amounts of stress because of issues they experience through
their work environment. Because education is a profession filled with relationship building,
problematic relationships with students and parents can cause teachers undue stress.
Teachers are subjected to a myriad of issues, from violence within the classroom to workplace
expectations that are beyond the scope of their professional knowledge. Teachers may also
experience compassion fatigue and burnout from constantly working with students who have
severe issues. Parents and unsupportive administrators are also causing the educational
workplace to be stressful and embedding a culture that causes teachers to leave the profession.
State and federal policies limit the ability of educators to utilize mental health benefits for
situations that they experience as a result of their employment. This research summarizes the
extent and scope of how those who work in the field of education are put at risk for mental
health issues resulting from stress on the job.

Nationwide in the United States, approximately 20% of teachers will leave the
profession by the end of their third year of teaching, and 50% will leave by the

end of their fifth year (Boe et al., 2008). With 17% of new teachers leaving after their
first year and 10% of veteran teachers (with 10 or more years of experience) leaving
the profession annually, significant numbers of classroom teachers are exiting the
profession each year and seeking new career paths (Blatt, 2016). According to
the United States Labor Department, during the first 10 months of 2018, public
school teachers quit at an average rate of 83 per 10,000 each month (Hackman
& Morath, 2018). Although this is still low compared to “the rate for American
workers overall—231 voluntary departures per 10 thousand workers in 2018—it is
the highest rate for public educators since such records began in 2001” (Hackman
& Morath, 2018).

Work-related stress is a well-known concept with roots in every facet of
a teacher’s workday. Teachers are expected to have constant knowledge of each
student’s mental state in order to make necessary referrals. Many administrators
are exploiting teachers by unfair treatment and giving staff members more work
than they can manage on top of their daily duties (Jacobs & Teise, 2019). When
situations arise where students are put in direct danger, teachers are in the forefront
of ensuring their safety. Teachers are experiencing compassion fatigue at a level that
is unprecedented. The expectations put on educators in their work environment have
a direct relationship to the current mental state of educators.

Special educators are at particular risk. The 2012-2013 Teacher Follow Up
Survey (TFS) indicated that nearly 20% of teachers in the field of special education
either moved schools or left the profession (NCES, 2014). When coupled with
approximately 10% of special educators who transfer to general education each year,
the numbers are alarming. Kersaint et al. (2007) noted that one significant reason
for these departures is the emotional stress involved in teaching special education.
Williams and Dikes (2015) confirmed that special education teachers report high
levels of both emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. As these feelings are
coupled with low levels of personal accomplishment, special education teachers
experience burnout at higher rates and more quickly than their general education

42 The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin: International Journal for Professional Educators

peers, likely contributing to their higher rates of turnover (Mitchell & Arnold, 2004;
Williams & Dikes, 2015).

The perceptions that teachers have related to working conditions influence
positive or negative outlooks at a particular time. Perceptions of working conditions
have also been linked to teacher satisfaction (Boyd et al., 2011). Teachers who report
more positive working conditions also report greater satisfaction with teaching, while
those who report less satisfaction report less than desirable working conditions. This
holds true when comparing teachers within the same school (Boyd et al., 2011).
Although the correlation of working conditions to satisfaction is not surprising, this
serves as a reminder that an individual’s perceptions are his or her own reality.

In their 2007 study, Kersaint et al. examined the factors that influenced teachers
in Florida who had either left the profession or remained. They identified six factors
that influenced teachers’ decisions regarding staying or leaving:

• administrative support
• financial benefits
• paperwork/assessment
• family responsibilities
• joy of teaching
• time with family. (p. 508)

Loeb et al. (2005) indicated that the strongest predictor of teacher stress is
how a teacher perceives his or her workplace characteristics. Existing research has
examined how workplace characteristics, such as administrative support, student
behavior, classroom autonomy, teaching conditions, school organization, and
professional culture impact teacher turnover (e.g., Boyd et al., 2011; Buckley et
al., 2005; DeAngelis & Presley, 2011; Kelly & Northrop, 2015; Tye & O’Brien,
2002). Although these factors can be examined individually, with some having
greater impact on individual teachers than others, it is likely that they do not function
in isolation from one another. Furthermore, Kukla-Acevedo (2009) stated that
workplace characteristics are “driven by administrator behavior” (p. 443), which
provides additional evidence of the interconnectivity of these factors. Boyd et al.
(2011) stated, “Not surprisingly, schools with more positive working conditions
on one dimension also tend to have more positive working conditions [in] other
dimensions” (p. 318).

Factors in Perceptions of Working Conditions
School Leadership

Supportive principals are indirectly able to alleviate the stress that their teachers
feel (Saekiet al., 2018). Administrative support, as defined by Boyd et al. (2011), is
“the extent to which principals and other school leaders make teachers’ work easier
and help them to improve their teaching” (p.307). A lack of administrative support
plays an important role in teacher attrition (Struyven & Vanthournout, 2014). Fifty-
one percent of movers indicated that poor administrative support was a reason for
dissatisfaction in their previous workplace, while 32% of leavers indicated it as a
factor of their dissatisfaction (Ingersoll, 2000). Referring to “executive support,”
(2013, p. 265), Burke at al. argued that support provided by school leaders strongly
impacts a teacher’s decision to remain in the profession. Kersaint et al. (2007) also
found that a lack of administrative support plays a role in teachers’ decision to leave
the profession.

43Controversial Issues in Education

Ladd (2011) utilized the results of a statewide teacher survey in North Carolina
to explore the relationship between teachers’ perceptions of their working conditions
and their departure rates from their schools. The survey examined working conditions
by asking teachers about the quality of school leadership, professional development
opportunities, opportunities for collaboration, facilities and resources, and growth
and leadership opportunities for teachers. Ladd analyzed survey items designed to
measure the quality of school leadership, including whether the teachers viewed the
administrator(s) as supportive with student discipline and classroom instruction, as
well as if they were perceived to be fair with the evaluation process, included teachers
in decision making, upheld high expectations of both students and teachers, and
were trustworthy. Ladd found that the quality of school leadership was the highest
predictor of teacher departure rates of all working-condition variables. Additionally,
she found that the quality of school leadership had a stronger effect on teacher stress
than the school characteristics of percentage of free or reduced lunch prices or the
percentage of students of racial minorities.

Positive Relationships
Burke et al. (2013) found that the most influential factor identified by beginning

teachers in their decision to remain in the profession was “student involvement,”
described as the “extent to which you engage your students” (p. 265). This aligned
with existing literature that explored the motivations of those entering the teaching
profession, including the desire “to make a difference in the lives of their…students”
(p. 265). Individuals who find that their visions of what teaching would be like do
not match the reality of their experiences are more likely to leave the profession
(Rinke, 2013).

Positive staff relationships have also been found to impact teacher stress, with
teachers being more likely to stay in schools in which they engaged in positive
relationships. Allensworth et al. (2009) defined positive relationships as those that
are “trusting and working” and that allow teachers to feel comfortable engaging in
discourse with their peers about their challenges and seeking advice from others.
Correspondingly, collegial support and relationships play an important role in
teacher attrition (Burke et al., 2013). Collegial support refers to the level of support
offered by other teachers within school, which is a great importance to teachers,
particularly new and beginning teachers. Similarly, positive relationships within
the school setting with colleagues and between individuals who are involved in
student learning allow for professional collaboration, which leads to higher levels of
stability among a faculty (Burke et al., 2013). One may conclude that when positive
relationships and collegial support are missing, the likelihood of teachers moving or
leaving increases.

An individual’s desire to be liked, accepted, included, and supported is not
exclusive to person-group interactions but is also applicable at the person-individual
level, defined as the compatibility between an individual and a significant other in
his or her work environment. Hargreaves (2001) explained that, although “classroom
responsibilities are at the core of teachers’ work, it is teachers’ relations with other
adults that seem to generate the most heightened expressions of emotionality among
them” (p. 506). In fact, while many teachers describe their work of teaching as a
source of pleasure, negative emotions such as dissatisfaction, anger, frustration,
and fear seem to surface more frequently when describing their professional
relationships (Hargreaves, 2001). The findings of the study described in this article

Dionna Farmer has
completed her fourth year
as a Grade 6 International
Baccalaureate English
Language Arts teacher at
Sebastian River Middle
School in Sebastian,
Florida. Throughout her
14-year career, she has
taught at the elementary,
middle school, and high
school levels and enjoys
mentoring new teachers
and collaborating with
veteran teachers. A
member of Beta Nu
Chapter in Florida State
Organization, Farmer is
currently in her second
year of doctoral studies at
Florida Southern College.
Her dissertation focus is
how the field of education
mentally affects teachers.


44 The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin: International Journal for Professional Educators

differed slightly from those of Hargreaves (2001). Each of the participants described
in detail their interactions with individuals within their new building, primarily their
building administrator. However, participants who experienced a strong fit with their
administrators expressed positive emotions such as joy, happiness, and relief when
describing their new professional relationships.

Mental Health Issues
Teachers have reported increased contact with health providers due to increased

disaster exposure attributed to traumatic events such as school shootings and
community violence. Schools have increased code-red, active-shooter drills and
professional development to teachers related to mental health for children (Green,
2016). For example, after the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, about
60% of the staff left. High turnover is common after an event such as this because
one of the most common ways of coping is to run from a situation.

It is common, furthermore, for those who work in professions that help people
to experience compassion fatigue. This type of fatigue is caused by being vested
in a situation with high emotion (Hupe & Stevenson, 2019). Compassion fatigue
is inevitable among professionals who advocate for children (Hupe & Stevenson,
2019). Educators work daily with children who come to school with a variety of
needs. Due to the likelihood of teaching children who have experienced trauma,
teachers may acquire indirect symptoms such as interpersonal isolation, diminished
professional performance, and behavioral changes. Because of the extreme nature
of the needs of many children, educators are vulnerable to experiencing secondary
traumatic stress. Teachers who have experienced secondary traumatic stress reported
having feelings of self-doubt and blame, restlessness, and haunting imagery of the
children (Hupe & Stevenson, 2019).

Stress is considered the main factor contributing to job dissatisfaction, job-
related illness, and early retirement. Stress research has focused on identifying
specific stressors and the reaction that comes from those stressors (Brenner et al.,
1985). Particularly, teachers’ stress results from their work responsibilities. This
level of stress can also come from work demands that are beyond the scope of
their professional understanding (Ekornes, 2017). For example, first-year teachers
are evaluated at the same level as a veteran teacher. This can be overwhelming to
someone who has just entered the teaching profession. Even with peer support, a new
teacher may not understand the acronyms and terms used in conversation with other
teachers or administrators. Teachers who repeatedly receive exposure to emotionally
charged social situations will experience a feeling of emotional fatigue that will
eventually cause them to leave the profession (Schwarzer, Schmitz & Tang, 2000).

The effects of work-related stress are associated with depression, anxiety, muscle
pain, headaches, and insomnia (Aznaret al., 2006). A variety of factors within the
workplace, such as support, long hours, and student behavior, can contribute to
teacher stress (Saekiet al., 2018). Stress is heightened when there is an actual or
threatened loss of valued resources. A balanced life between work and home has been
identified as a positive resource for individuals looking to abolish stress (Fontinha et
al., 2019). Individuals who either take work home or work more than 50 hours per
week tend to show less mental well-being on psychological assessments.

45Controversial Issues in Education

Mental Health Assistance for Teachers
Unfortunately, at this time, no bills or policies exist that directly address the need

of mental health benefits specifically for teachers. Title XXIX, Chapter 394: Part 1,
Florida Mental Health Act addresses the overall needs, assessments, and evaluations
of those giving referrals to mental health facilities and eligibility for reimbursement
of services. The statute is written in a general format and primarily addresses minors,
veterans, and those who are mentally incapacitated.

The United States Congress enacted the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici
Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008. This federal
law requires private health insurance companies to have a parity for mental health
and addiction benefits (MHPAEA, 2008). This act addressed the lack of access
for mental health benefits by providing the same level of coverage as provided for
physical health problems. Several issues exist with his act, however. Those who
have medical insurance through a group plan (of 50 or more people) are eligible
to utilize mental health benefits. Many teachers opt to utilize their employer’s
medical insurance plans. Should staff members or educators not opt to sign up
for the employer’s insurance, they would not be eligible for utilizing the mental
health benefits. The MHPAEA does not include the financial issues that come with
copayments, deductibles, and utilization limits (Cunningham, 1970) that would cost
educators more than they could afford. Teachers hand in more medical insurance
claims than people in other professions, often blaming stress as their reason for sick
leave from school (Olivier & Venter, 2003).

Other Key Factors in Decisions to Stay or Leave the Profession
Assessment and Accountability

In the current movement of high-stakes assessments, one can argue that teachers
endure a high amount of stress. Test-based accountability policies have been reported
by teachers as associated with high levels of stress. The accountability policies
have a direct correlation to negative workforce outcomes (Saeki et al., 2018).
Approximately 30% of teachers have experienced clinically significant anxiety
specifically related to test-based accountability policies (von der Embse et al.,
2015). Teachers in less-typically-tested Grades K-2 also experience a high level of
stress. Teachers in state- testing grade levels are expected to abide by accountability
policies that require their students to take an informal assessment of their reading
and math knowledge (Saekiet al., 2018). Teachers thus work in conditions where
student achievement is directly linked to their annual evaluation, and accountability
policies that use student test scores to calculate the proficiency of teachers have
damaging consequences on the teacher’s mental health. Teachers have also become
more involved in voicing their concerns regarding educational policy and reform
due to the fact that educational policy is swiftly implemented at the district level and
has a direct impact on a teacher’s work life (Loeb et al., 2013).

Kersaint et al. (2007) found that paperwork and assessment play a role in teacher
attrition, particularly within the middle and high school levels. Santoro (2018)
explained unprecedented expectations to collect, analyze, and maintain voluminous
amounts of data and information and the effects on the teacher workforce. She
described this process of intensification as “the increased professional demands
added to teachers’ workloads without concomitant time provided to incorporate new
expectations or any reduction in previous duties” (Santoro, 2018, p. 28). Although
some teachers “may accept the intensification of their work when it is held out as a

46 The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin: International Journal for Professional Educators

promise of professionalism” (Santoro, 2018, p. 28), others comply simply to avoid
disciplinary action or poor performance evaluations. Regardless, when left to fester,
intensification often results in increased feelings of job dissatisfaction and burnout.

Equitable Education
Equitable education is a stress that teachers concede for their students. If primary

and secondary education leaves gaps in supporting students, then the students who
come from an uneducated background are not going to receive the same educational
opportunities as their peers. Teachers are then overloaded to ensure that students who
have a weaker educational background are mastering grade-level content (Pachane
& Melo Vitorino, 2015). Under ESSA, research-based interventions are required
for children who are academically behind their peers. These interventions require
implementation by teachers within the classroom, which in turn requires teachers to
have not only knowledge of research-based intervention but also an understanding of
how to use the intervention and keep records of data each time the intervention is used
(Zinskie & Rea, 2016). Ensuring that students from a weakened educational background
are mastering grade level content is another example of a stressor for teachers who want
their students to succeed but do not have the time to teach content with fidelity.

The ESSA revised and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
of 1965. It followed a previous reauthorization known as the No Child Left Behind
(NCLB). After a decade of NCLB’s education reform policies, which included high-
stakes accountability policies of standardized testing, teacher evaluation systems, and
changes in collective bargaining agreements, teachers and educational leaders began a
grassroots movement to reform education (Zinskie & Rea, 2016).

Parental Involvement
Chavkin (1993) noted a plethora of research that proves a disconnect between

what is considered parental involvement and teacher-parent interaction. Dealing with
adverse events caused by parents contributes to the mental health strain on teachers
(Bauer et al., 2007). Teachers understand that their students are supported when a
positive relationship is built between school and home, and thus pressure exists for
teachers to build such a relationship with parents so that the student receives optimal
academic support at home (Prakke et al., 2007). The strongest predictor of a teacher
feeling disconnected from his or her work comes directly from negative relations
with parents (Ekornes, 2017) ). A negative relationship between a teacher and parent
directly stresses the education that is provided for students. Research also shows that
violence demonstrated toward teachers by parents and/or students impacts the value
of instruction that teachers are able to deliver (Fisher & Kettl, 2003).

Twenty-two percent of movers and 24% of leavers stated that discipline and

behavior issues were reasons for high stress and causes for leaving a school (Ingersoll,
2000). According to Kelly and Northrop (2015), “the most important organizational
determinant of attrition is the behavioral climate of the school; teachers are much
more likely to leave a school with disruptive, inattentive, or hostile students” (p.
630). Their findings aligned with those of previous researchers (Guarino et al.,
2006; Ingersoll, 2001; Kelly, 2004). Teachers also indicated low levels of student
engagement and lack of motivation as factors that influenced their level of stress
(Tye & O’Brien, 2002). School safety refers to “school conditions that affect the

47Controversial Issues in Education

physical and psychological well-being of students and teachers” (Boyd et al., 2011,
p. 308). Safety concerns range from classroom misconduct to violent behavior and/
or criminal activity that may result in arrest. Not surprisingly, schools that struggle to
maintain a safe school environment have higher levels of teacher stress and turnover.

School Violence
Violence within schools is becoming more and more common. According

to the National Center for Education Statistics, 5.8% of the nation’s 3.8 million
teachers had been physically attacked by a student (National Center for
Education Statistics, 2014). Forty-four percent of teachers who had been victims
of physical assault reflected that the attacks resulted in a negative impact on
their job performance. In the past 10 years, bills proposed throughout the United
States have sought punitive measures toward violent students, but the bills rarely
received unified support. For example, a bill proposed through the legislature in
Wisconsin was referred to as the Teacher Protection Act. This bill would have
allowed teachers to remove a violent student from the classroom setting for up to 2
school days (Will, 2018). Unfortunately, support for this bill was insufficient, and
it died during the legislative session prior to making it to the Wisconsin Senate.

The public school system in the United States is charged with providing high-

quality education to every student in Kindergarten through Grade 12. To accomplish
this tremendous task, an ample supply of skillful, trained individuals willing to serve
as teachers (Guarino et al., 2006) is needed. Various factors related to occupational
stress have a direct correlation to the supply of qualified teachers who choose to
continue in the profession (Saeki et al., 2018). A need exists to provide resources
to educators for dealing with job-related stressors. According to a 2015 Stress in
America survey, only 25.5% of schools offered stress management education to
staff. Many districts offer programs that address wellness but only at a basic level of
understanding (Lever & Mayworm, 2017).

Daily, teachers ensure the health and safety of students, engage multiple
students toward mastery of standards, collaborate with colleagues to create lessons
or assessments, submit documentation about student progress, communicate with
parents, and attend informational meetings set forth by school administrators. Teachers
who encounter high levels of stress from poor work conditions, such as inadequate
time for planning and preparation coupled with teaching a heavy workload, have
shown increasingly negative health that includes emotional exhaustion (Klassen
& Chiu, 2010). This core stress does not include the time that teachers put into
involvement on various school committees or after-school tutoring that enhances
student achievement and may qualify as a highly effective feature on evaluations.
Workplace characteristics such as administrative support, school organization, and
professional culture all influence one’s decision about his or her position for the
subsequent school year (DeAngelis & Presley, 2011). Ultimately, teachers who
believe that their work is meaningless will experience a decline in mental health that
will culminate in their leaving the profession (Hupe & Stevenson, 2019).

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Preservice Teacher Burnout28

Issues in Teacher Education

Preservice Teacher Burnout:
Secondary Trauma and Self-Care Issues in Teacher Education

Kyle Miller
Karen Flint-Stipp

Illinois State University

Issues in Teacher Education, Fall 2019

This study examines preservice teacher coursework and interview
data related to encountering student trauma, secondary trauma, and
the role of self-care during clinical placement experiences. A thematic
analysis of the data led to the identification of four main themes: the
power of student stories, recognition of the many forms of trauma,
preservice teacher burnout, and barriers to integrating self-care. Ad-
ditionally, our analysis revealed the ways in which preservice teachers
experienced secondary trauma as a consequence of forming relationships
with students and listening to their stories. Some of the effects of this
secondary trauma were mitigated by engaging in self-care, but those
preservice teachers who felt they failed at supporting their personal
wellness experienced burnout. More troubling, only one preservice
teacher recognized self-care’s connection to trauma-informed teaching.
Our findings reveal the importance of infusing content on trauma, sec-
ondary trauma, and self-care in teacher education coursework and the
need to provide professional development on trauma-informed teaching
for clinical placement school sites.

Kyle Miller is an associate professor in the School of Teaching and
Learning of the College of Education and Karen Flint-Stipp is an as-
sociate professor in the School of Social Work of the College of Arts and
Sciences, both at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois. Their email
addresses are: &
© 2019 by Caddo Gap Press

Kyle Miller & Karen Flint-Stipp 29

Volume 28, Number 2, Fall 2019

Trauma is the experience of intense physical or psychological stress in
response to one or more adverse event(s) or life circumstance(s) (SAMHSA,
2015). Such events or circumstances can affect an individual’s physical,
emotional, social or spiritual well-being (Crosby, 2015). Disconcertingly,
the past decade of research has shown that trauma is abundant, and
especially prevalent in childhood (Alisic, 2012). Children who have expe-
rienced trauma are also K-12 students, and that trauma is carried with
them into classrooms. Student trauma might include suffering through
natural disasters, loss, abandonment, chronic poverty, fear, or abuse. Based
on growing statistics, it is likely there are children in every classroom
who have experienced some level of trauma (National Child Traumatic
Stress Network [NCTSN], 2016), with disproportionately higher rates
in low-income schools (Brunzell, Stokes, & Waters, 2016; Ford, Chap-
man, Connor, & Cruise, 2012). If we accept that trauma directly affects
students’ lives and their abilities in the classroom, we can anticipate
that it will have at least indirect effects on teachers (Fowler, 2015). Any
teacher who cares for traumatized students is thus susceptible to the
burdens of trauma.
Admittedly, there are many positive benefits associated with caring
for students, such as experiencing feelings of self-fulfillment, compe-
tence, and personal growth (Tehrani, 2007). But caring comes at a cost:
the risk of secondary trauma (Bride, 2007; Figley, 1995). Identified in
the 1990s within the field of counseling psychology, secondary trauma
is a consequence of learning about a traumatic event and the duress
associated with helping or wanting to help the traumatized individual
(Tehrani, 2007). Examples of secondary trauma include learning about
the death of a student’s caregiver, familial abuse, or food insecurity.
As Fowler (2015) writes, “When children hurt, we the compassionate,
competent adults in their lives hurt too—whether or not we are aware
of the toll it takes on us” (p. 31).
The ‘toll it takes,’ also recognized as secondary trauma, is a product
of the teacher-student relationship that serves as the foundation to
teaching (Crosby, 2015). Necessary for effective instruction, classroom
management, and the promotion of student success (Kearns & Hart,
2017), the teacher-student relationship also carries underlying risks.
Specifically, studies suggest that approximately 50% of helping pro-
fessionals, including teachers, are at high risk of secondary trauma
(NCTSN, 2016). Exposure to secondary trauma can lead to a number
of physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual consequences, such
as expecting the worst, avoiding friends or colleagues, diminished self-

Preservice Teacher Burnout30

Issues in Teacher Education

care, difficulty sleeping, and feeling hopeless (Hydon, Wong, Langley,
Stein, & Kataoka, 2015). These consequences compromise teachers’
personal health as well as the support they can provide to students in
their classrooms (Alisic, 2012).
Teachers respond to trauma almost every day in their classrooms
(Tehrani, 2007), yet schools have historically placed mental health con-
cerns in the hands of school counselors and social workers for students,
without providing commensurate resources for teachers. This general
tendency neglects to recognize that teachers are often the first outside
of family members to learn about student trauma and feel its effects
(Atkins & Rodger, 2016). Since few districts offer programs or supports
to help teachers develop the skills needed to manage these complex
emotions, rarely do preservice teachers (PSTs) observe or hone these
skills in clinical placements (Osher et al., 2008; Sutton, 2007). In turn,
little instruction is provided in teacher education programs related to
secondary trauma and how PSTs can learn to utilize personal resources
and self-care strategies to buffer against the associated stress (Mansfield,
Beltman, Broadley, & Weatherby-Fell, 2016; Wolpow, Johnson, Hertel, &
Kincaid, 2009). The purpose of this study, therefore, was to gain insights
into PST experiences with student trauma, secondary trauma, and self-
care within an elementary education course and clinical experience in a
Title I school. Secondary trauma and self-care are understudied at the
preservice level, and this study aimed to deepen our understanding of
what helps teachers stay resilient in the presence of trauma.

Theoretical Perspective
This article is founded on the theoretical concept of resiliency. We
adopt Brunetti’s (2006) definition that teacher resilience is “a quality
that enables teachers to maintain their commitment to teaching and
their teaching practices despite challenging conditions and recurring
setbacks” (p. 813). Our use of resiliency is based on a combination of
personal qualities and environmental characteristics that help teach-
ers thrive despite adversity. Focusing on the context of schools, teacher
education programs include clinical experiences that can be especially
stressful when PSTs face the realities of teaching (Gu & Day, 2007).
An even greater degree of stress is associated with K-12 classrooms af-
fected by trauma and the secondary traumatic stress related to caring
for students who have faced adversity, especially when adverse experi-
ences are cumulative (Mansfield et al., 2016; Maschi, 2006). We argue,
therefore, that in order to cultivate resilient teachers, the place to start
building resilience is in teacher education programs, before PSTs enter

Kyle Miller & Karen Flint-Stipp 31

Volume 28, Number 2, Fall 2019

into full-time positions as classroom teachers. Supporting PST develop-
ment of personal resources and strategies to manage the emotional and
physical demands of teaching (Koller & Bertel, 2006), as well as how
to recognize the impact of secondary trauma and mitigate some of its
effects through self-care, can help promote teacher resilience (Jennings,
Snowberg, Coccia, & Greenberg, 2011).

We used grounded theory methodology to inductively identify themes
from reflective writings and interviews to answer our research ques-
tions through a systematic, data-driven coding procedure and analysis.
Grounded theory is based upon the interpretivist perspective, which
proposes research is never purely objective, and multiple realities can
exist (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). Building upon this notion of multiplicity,
we embraced the idea that participant perspectives are based on their
perceived realities and unique situations within a teacher preparation
program (Thanh & Thanh, 2015). The following questions guided this
study: (a) How do preservice teachers describe the influence of student
trauma on their personal well-being during a practicum experience at
a low-income school site? (b) How do preservice teachers perceive the
connection between self-care and secondary trauma?

Participants and Context

This study took place at a large teacher education program in the
Midwest. Participating PSTs were beginning their junior year of the
program and entering their first clinical experience at Title I schools
in both urban and rural areas. In addition to assisting in a classroom
two days each week, PSTs were also enrolled in a 16-week introduc-
tory elementary education course that covered education practices and
policies (e.g., controversial issues in education, classroom management,
lesson planning, assessment, technology). The first author served as
the instructor for the introductory elementary education course, which
was redesigned to incorporate the topics of trauma and self-care in
discussions, activities, and assignments. Specific content related to
trauma and learning, trauma-informed practices, the Adverse Child-
hood Experiences (ACEs) questionnaire (Centers for Disease Control,
2019), domains of wellness (physical, social, psychological/emotional,
spiritual), work-life balance, meditation, and mindfulness (see Appendix
A) were added to the course. This additional content was unique to the
instructor-researcher’s section and was not included in other courses
or clinical experiences at the time.

Preservice Teacher Burnout32

Issues in Teacher Education

All PSTs in the introductory elementary education course agreed
to participate in the study per IRB regulations, and the sample (N=25)
included two male participants, and 23 female participants. Ethnically,
22 participants identified as White, one as Asian, one as Latina and one
as Biracial (Latina/White). One year after the conclusion of the course
(when participants were seniors), a subset of PSTs from the original
sample participated in the second phase of the study. This subsample
(N=8) consisted of eight females, six of whom identified as White, one
as Asian, and one as Biracial. The subsample was stratified to include
four participants who struggled with self-care during their junior year
and four participants who engaged in self-care regularly. Pseudonyms
were assigned to participant data in order to protect confidentiality.

Data Sources

The first phase of data collection consisted of PSTs’ written reflections,
self-care plans, and a research log kept by the researcher-instructor. The
end-of-semester written reflection prompted students to describe what
they observed in their Title I schools, focusing on the adversity in their
students’ lives, the influence of student trauma on their experience as
a preservice teacher, the types of self-care they engaged in during the
semester, and the role of self-care in teaching. The self-care plan asked
PSTs to complete a self-care template as a guide for future semesters
and teaching. In these plans, PSTs listed physical, social, psychological,
emotional, and spiritual activities in which they wanted to engage. They
also identified current barriers to and supports for the implementation
of these self-care activities.
The written reflections and self-care plans were assignments con-
nected to the course, whereas the research log was a record maintained
by the researcher-instructor, and consisted of in-class discussions, ar-
tifacts introduced and used in class, as well as researcher reflections.
Serving as a peripheral piece of data to capture the context of preservice
teacher data, the research log provided an additional lens for analysis
and interpretation of data.
The second phase of data collection occurred one year after the first
clinical experience and involved semi-structured interviews related to
how PSTs recalled their first clinical experience, with a focus on class-
room dynamics, student trauma, and self-care (see Appendix B). At this
time, PSTs were also asked to discuss their current student teaching
placement in relation to student trauma and the role of self-care in their
lives. At the end of the interview, participants reviewed the self-care
plan submitted during their junior year, identified the self-care goals

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Volume 28, Number 2, Fall 2019

they met, and reflected upon unmet goals. Interviews, which lasted ap-
proximately 45 minutes, were audio-recorded and later transcribed for

Data Analysis

Preliminary analysis began early in the semester as the research-
ers met to discuss the researcher-instructor’s implementation of course
content and reflections on discussions and activities. The researcher-
instructor shared notes from the research log and the co-researchers
created pedagogical notes on the delivery of the content and student
discussion points. Full data analysis was not initiated, however, until
grades were submitted at the end of the semester (per IRB’s require-
ments), and included analysis of reflections and self-care plans. This
analysis followed Boyatzis’ (1998) process for developing codes and
thematically analyzing data, and incorporated elements of the constant
comparative method (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). The coding and analysis
were inductive, allowing for the discovery of new ideas and ways to think
systematically about secondary trauma and self-care. Open and axial
coding involved two coders – the principal investigator and a graduate
student1—who coded data independently and then compared codes
before reaching consensus by discussing and then agreeing on the final
assigned codes. The same inductive process was used with interview
data. Emerging interview data themes were then compared against the
original reflection data to identify the most robust themes. The research
log and pedagogical notes were used to further contextualize findings
during axial coding and the write-up of findings. NVivo 12 assisted the
management and analysis of data (QSR International, 2010).

Our thematic analysis led to the identification of four major themes
related to how student stories can activate stress and concern in preservice
teachers, as well as how preservice teachers manage, or neglect to man-
age, negative emotional reactions. The themes are elaborated below.

The Stories They Tell

Written reflections, class discussions, and follow-up interviews all
exposed the power of stories. PSTs reported feeling the most unsettled
by the personal narratives that their students shared with them directly
or that they heard indirectly through cooperating teachers (CT). When
participants discussed the trauma in students’ lives, they retold stories

Preservice Teacher Burnout34

Issues in Teacher Education

and reflected on the emotional impact the trauma elicited initially and
over time. Junior and senior PSTs described student stories as “sad,”
“heartbreaking,” and “shocking.” In a follow-up interview her senior year,
Julie reflected on an interaction with a student when she was a junior:

I don’t know if you [instructor-researcher] remember this story, but one
of my students looked really tired one day, so I asked her if everything
was okay. She told me that her mom works at night and forgot to leave
the door unlocked for her after school. She didn’t have anywhere to go,
but realized she needed to find a place out of sight so that no one would
take her. She ended up sleeping in the bushes and then got on the bus
the next morning and came to school.

As Julie revisited this memory, she remarked that she still thinks about
this student and her experience. Nineteen participants shared stories
similar to this example and described feeling alarmed that their stu-
dents were facing levels of adversity so removed from their own lived
experiences. PSTs connected their students’ stories to the distress and
concern they reported experiencing during the semester, and made no
mention of resources or supports to help them process or make sense of
the stories during their junior year placements.
A general awareness of their students’ difficult circumstances
resulted in PST concerns for their students’ well-being. For example,
Madisyn wrote, “My [cooperating] teacher kind of gave me a heads up
on the students who have a lot going on in their lives and have experi-
enced trauma. She didn’t tell me specifics, but you could tell they had a
lot on their mind.” But it was the personal stories that led to a marked
increase in negative emotions and stress. In a follow-up interview, Peyton
reflected on the amount of stress and worry she experienced during stu-
dent teaching, as compared to her first clinical placement. She shared:

I know my students at my first placement had experienced trauma,
but it was just different. Like I knew that one of my student’s moms
got in trouble for selling her kid’s meds—so there is obviously some-
thing going on there. Being with my students now [senior year] and
spending every day with them, I feel like they just tell me more and
I feel more responsible. Like one of my students, I can’t even begin to
tell you some of the things she has been through and then something
else happened again last week. I was like, ‘Seriously?! Give this kid a
break. How much more can she take?’ And you can’t get that stuff out
of your head. You worry.

Peyton explained that the increased time spent with students—learn-
ing about their backgrounds and hearing their stories—opened her up
to greater concern as she attempted to empathize with them. She was
asked in a follow up prompt, “Do you think about your students in your

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Volume 28, Number 2, Fall 2019

free time?” and she answered, “Yeah [long pause]. I know I should leave
it at school but then I feel like, like I’m letting her down by shutting
her out.” Her response was common to three-quarters of the seniors
who built strong relationships with students or were matched with CTs
who retold student stories. When the trauma was personalized through
stories, PSTs seemingly experienced greater secondary trauma. Indeed,
as they assumed a more central role in the classroom during student
teaching, all of the seniors interviewed reported both a deeper knowledge
of students and an increased sense of responsibility.

What Counts as Trauma?

Even though the topic of trauma was covered in their coursework,
PSTs appeared to hold narrow definitions of the concept (i.e., “physi-
cal abuse,” “foster care,” “death”). For example, the first prompt on
the written reflection assignment asked PSTs to describe issues their
schools were facing, before being asked to discuss student trauma and
its impact specifically. Most commonly, participants discussed poverty
and fear outside of their definition of ‘trauma’ and 16 described these
circumstances as general ‘issues’ rather than ‘trauma.’ Moreover, one-
fifth of the junior participants (N=5) wrote some variation of, “I didn’t
have any students experiencing trauma, but all of my students lived in
poverty, which had a big impact on my experience,” in their reflections.
In far fewer cases did PSTs begin to broach poverty as a form of trauma.
A senior participant, Rachel, explained in a follow-up interview:

I mean, it might not officially be trauma, but many of my students are
dealing with poverty. That’s a big deal when you don’t always have a
bed at night or are stressed about having food and meals. It’s something
you worry about for them. You think about how you can make sure they
get food in class or making them feel safe.

Similarly, the notion of ‘fear’ did not fit neatly into all of the PSTs’
working definitions of trauma, even as they recognized its impact on
students. Mikayla, a junior PST, wrote:

One of the current issues that my clinical placement is dealing with is
the repeal of DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]. Directly
in my classroom, one student did not come to school for a week because
his mother is undocumented and was scared to send him. Along these
lines, some students still feel unsafe with Trump’s administration. The
school is working towards making sure that the students know everyone
is accepted there, documented or not. Because I can see how much this
affects my students and families. It has to be scary.

When prompted about trauma, Mikayla later wrote that there were

Preservice Teacher Burnout36

Issues in Teacher Education

only two students in her classroom who experienced trauma (they were
homeless); she did not formally recognize the fear her undocumented
students experienced as trauma. Another junior, Annie, wrote about the
fear her student expressed in relation to his mother’s terminal illness. She
identified the student’s situation as one of the difficult issues experienced
in her placement, but did not associate it with trauma. On the whole, it
appears that when their students’ life stressors did not align with the
PSTs’ personal definitions of trauma, the PSTs grappled with how their
negative emotional reactions fit into the discussion of trauma.

Preservice Teacher Burnout

The course also covered the importance of building relationships
with students (Crosby, 2015), and PSTs were encouraged to engage in
relationship building during their clinical experience. As a consequence,
PSTs were positioned to experience indirect trauma within those rela-
tionships, and they did. Indeed, although participants did not use the
term ‘secondary trauma” in their written reflections or interviews, their
responses consistently indicated that they carried additional stress due
to learning and caring about their students’ lives. These stresses, in addi-
tion to the general stress associated with their coursework, accumulated
during the semester and all PSTs reported feeling overwhelmed by
the pressure. Carrie exemplified the challenges PSTs described feeling
when she wrote, “This semester and my placement have really set off
my anxiety again. I even had to call my mom to come stay with me one
night because I was so overwhelmed.”
Problematically, as stresses accumulated during the semester, many
of the PSTs reported a diminishment of both self-care and wellness. Some
even began to question their desire to teach. Grace, a junior participant

This was the most stressful semester of my life. I’m not sure if my in-
structors didn’t realize that or just didn’t care. We were in really difficult
placements and they gave us more work than anticipated. My health
really suffered, and I know a lot of friends who suffered anxiety.

Grace’s description was typical of almost all of the participants; there
appeared to be a universal frustration with the junior-year semester and
the perceived lack of PST support. These frustrations were exacerbated
by personal traumas and/or adverse events that presented in addition
to the secondary trauma experienced in their clinical placements for
a subset of four participants. For example, Josh, a junior PST wrote,
“Just like my students, some things have occurred in my life that were
out of my control and they have taken a huge toll on my everyday life

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Volume 28, Number 2, Fall 2019

this semester.” Similarly, Maddie wrote in the junior-year reflection, “A
number of really bad things happened this semester that were out of
my control and added extra stress and responsibility to my life during
an already busy time. It has caused me to have a lot of doubts about me
teaching in general. This wore on me mentally and emotionally which
hindered my ability to even think about self-care.”
One year later, senior participants continued to describe feeling
burnout during student teaching, but they also communicated a greater
sense of purpose as they became central figures in their classrooms dur-
ing student teaching. Mikayla explained:

I think if I didn’t have edTPA [performance-based assessment for
teacher licensure], and you know, have to create lesson plans to turn
them in and do assignments, I would have a lot more time for myself.
As an actual teacher, I won’t have assignments along with teaching. I
think that’s why I’m so burnt out.

Mikayla later shared that when she secured a teaching position for
the following year, the excitement of signing the contract and knowing
that a classroom awaited her in the fall helped to ‘recharge’ her for the
remainder of the year.
For all of the seniors involved, their general routine consisted of
teaching during the day and then planning for the next day until they
went to sleep. Two of the PSTs who participated in the follow-up inter-
views explained that they returned to their family unit during student
teaching to help guard against complete teaching fatigue. Two other
follow-up participants also referred to peers at their clinical sites as ‘fam-
ily’ who helped them ‘get through.’ According to these PSTs, co-planning
and taking courses with fellow preservice teachers who shared similar
students and school contexts helped these PSTs maintain resiliency
during the semester.

Self-Care in a Silo

All PSTs welcomed discussions and activities related to self-care
enthusiastically during the semester and recommended that it become
one of the initial topics in the course. Junior-year written reflections
included: “I wish we could learn more about meditation and do more of
it in class,” “I loved talking about our wellness in all of the areas and
wish we could start it earlier in the semester,” and “The self-care part
of the course was great. I would also like to know how I can do self-care
with my students.” Based on junior-year reflections, approximately half
of the sample reported investing in some areas of wellness (e.g., physi-
cal, emotional, social and spiritual) during the semester but the efforts

Preservice Teacher Burnout38

Issues in Teacher Education

were challenging to integrate fully. For example, Elizabeth explained, “I
haven’t had much time this semester, but I found support through my
significant other, by speaking with my counselor, taking vitamins, and
getting 15 minutes of sun each day.”
Yet even these efforts were too much for the other half of the sample,
who described themselves as ‘failing’ at self-care. These participants
blamed the ‘impossible task’ of balancing coursework, clinical hours and
part-time jobs as the primary barrier to self-care. Similarly, five seniors
who participated in the follow-up interview hypothesized that their
senior year, which included a performance-based licensing assessment,
was more stressful and time consuming than the life they anticipated
experiencing subsequently as a classroom teacher, post-graduation. Oth-
ers, however, feared work-related stress might get worse, which would
further hinder self-care. Allison, a junior, questioned, “I want to know
how teachers are able to show their principals that they are committed
to their job and that they are working hard, but not have to stay every
day after school for hours. I have seen some teachers arrive at school
about 1.5 hours prior to school and then leave 2 hours after school, every
day!” For the PSTs in classrooms without teachers who established a
work-life balance, it was difficult to imagine it for themselves.
Indeed, although participants viewed self-care as an important
component of being an effective teacher, it was viewed initially like a
fragmented course topic, isolated from, rather than integrated within
all aspects of teaching. Chelsea, a senior, reflected on the importance
of self-care, “Originally, I knew it [self-care] was something good for
my health, but now I realize it is something good for my teaching.” She
commented, “Just like preparing my lesson plans, I need to get a full
night’s sleep to be ready to teach.” Like Chelsea, most PSTs did not make
an explicit connection between self-care and working with students af-
fected by trauma. For example, later in the interview, Chelsea worried
that she lacked the knowledge and skills to work in a trauma-impacted
classroom. Although she reported feeling well-versed and committed to
self-care, she did not associate self-care with trauma-informed teach-
ing. In contrast, Hillary, the one senior who explicitly linked self-care
to serving trauma-impacted students identified her CT as her mentor
in this area. She shared:

I remember trying to make photocopies during lunch on my first day
of student teaching. My cooperating teacher told me to put down the
papers and sit down for lunch. She told me that we had 45 minutes
for lunch and we were taking those 45 minutes for ourselves and not
talking about school. She explained that too many teachers burn out
because they won’t even let themselves eat lunch. And based on the

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Volume 28, Number 2, Fall 2019

lives of my students and their needs, we need that break. Small things
like that make a difference on [sic] how you view students and the way
you respond or even your desire to get out of bed each morning and
have hope for your classroom and high expectations.

Hillary later explained that she used to view self-care as selfish because
she believed students should ‘always come first.’ By her senior year,
however, she recognized self-care as an act that benefits her students,
too. She explained, “You have to take care of yourself first. I’ve had a
lot of students with trauma this year, so that’s been rough. So, I had to
take some breathers. I can’t help them if I don’t. So, that’s not selfish.”
She explained further that her CT helped to socialize her in this way
by modeling and discussing self-care practices.
With the exception of one PST, all of the participants discussed the
impact of student trauma on their emotional well-being and recognized
the psychological effects, but did not consider that some of their sleep,
nutrition, social and spiritual struggles during the semester might also
be connected to secondary trauma. Self-care remained more of a concep-
tual ‘topic’ and not necessarily as a way of being that intersected with
other aspects of teaching or a means to diminish some of the weight of
secondary trauma. Instead, the majority of participants viewed self-care
as a general professional practice—something they ascribed to, but did
not integrate into their lives.

Research has shown that there are many benefits associated with
caring for students affected by trauma, such as promoting student well-
being and feeling personal growth (Kemp & Reupert, 2012; Tehrani,
2007), but there are also costs. Caring for students opens teachers up
to the impact of secondary trauma (Hydon et al., 2015), and the PSTs in
this study experienced secondary trauma absent an understanding that
trauma can be transferred from one individual to another, even when
the effects of trauma on teachers’ well-being were discussed in class.
This type of secondary traumatic stress wears teachers out—physically,
emotionally, and mentally—and it is especially damaging when indi-
viduals feel unsupported in demanding environments (Fowler, 2015),
like teaching placements. PSTs expressed frustration with what they
viewed as unrealistic requirements and expectations from instructors,
coupled with a lack of support for processing the emotional realities of the
classrooms in which they were placed. The narrow definitions of trauma
these PSTs held may have prompted even more frustrations, as they
kept PSTs from recognizing that student trauma can be a consequence

Preservice Teacher Burnout40

Issues in Teacher Education

of fear or poverty, and can elicit secondary traumatic stress in teachers,
just like more recognizable forms of trauma.
While the term ‘trauma’ is at the fore of educational discussions
(Báez, Renshaw, Bachman, Kim, Smith, & Stafford, 2019), attention is
currently directed at student trauma and the development of responsive
teaching strategies (Thomas et al., 2019). The effects of secondary trauma
and ill-formed coping strategies, are not however, discussed widely in
teacher education or school districts (Dawson &Shand, 2019; Hydon et
al., 2015). Moreover, even when information on trauma and self-care was
infused in our participants’ teacher education course, PSTs struggled to
make connections between self-care and the secondary traumatic stress
experienced in their clinical sites. Instead, PSTs viewed self-care as an
isolated activity that could benefit one’s teaching, rather than recogniz-
ing it as a coping mechanism that could be integrated into traditional
teaching processes to offset the emotional stress their students’ stories
elicited. The emotional burden of working with students affected by
trauma is often carried home, which compromises teachers’ well-being
when not supplemented with self-care (Alisic, 2012).
Even more troubling, the emotional burdens on our PSTs grew
during their senior year. As PSTs took on more central teaching roles
in the classroom, seniors completing their student teaching experience
expressed greater responsibility for students, deeper connection with
them, and more direct access to student stories (Kearns & Hart, 2017).
Yet, instead of feeling better prepared to deal with the stresses of the more
profound and grounded relationships they formed with their students,
the PSTs said they felt more stress within these relationships. In fact,
participant data aligned with research that shows teaching is inherently
relational and student distress can evoke an innate desire to comfort
and care for children, which can lead to secondary trauma (O’Rourke,
2011; Tehrani, 2007). It is clear from our study that teacher educators
and school districts must work together to provide preservice and inser-
vice teachers with the tools to recognize and prevent secondary trauma.
Viable methods might include normalizing secondary traumatic stress
and providing spaces for discussion, as well as more formal professional
development in teacher education programs (Hydon et al., 2015).

Findings from this study affirm the need for including resiliency
practices as a part of teacher education programs (Cefai & Cavioni,
2014). Yet, teacher education and the schools teachers work in seldom
focus on building teacher resilience, ameliorating the effects of second-

Kyle Miller & Karen Flint-Stipp 41

Volume 28, Number 2, Fall 2019

ary trauma, or facilitating self-care (Benson, 2017; Gu & Day, 2007).
Some suggestions for building teacher resilience more generally (e.g.,
mindfulness workshops) are offered in the literature (e.g., Castro, Kelly,
& Shih, 2010; Jennings, 2015), but little is known about burnout and
resilience at the preservice level. Teacher education can thus play a key
role by making resilience central to its mission and infusing self-care
into coursework, as well as into mentored experiences in the field. For
example, in response to our findings, the elementary education course
that served as the platform for this study now introduces “trauma,”
“secondary trauma,” and “self-care” on the first day of class, and revisits
these concepts at the beginning of each subsequent session, in tandem
with concrete self-care activities.
Moving forward, researchers should explore curricular activities and
approaches embedded in adjacent fields of study. The departments of
social work and school psychology are aware of the transfer of trauma
from clients to clinicians and prepare their students for this phenomenon
accordingly (Bride, 2007; Sommer, 2008). Yet teacher education programs
also place PSTs in roles where the transfer of trauma can occur, thus it is
the responsibility of teacher educators to engage in similar prescriptive
practices to protect the well-being of PSTs. Seeking interdisciplinary
support from social work or psychology faculty is a practical starting
point that could begin with interdisciplinary discussions and grow to
co-planning and co-teaching workshops or class sessions on secondary
trauma. Additionally, given the challenges in obtaining work-life balance
and professional resilience, instructors might uphold their responsibility
to model and discuss self-care as a professional practice more explicitly
(Benton, 2019). As our participants noted, it is difficult to imagine such
a balance if it is not observed in the field.
Finally, teacher education programs should recognize and address
preservice teacher burnout and its relation to the professional practice
of self-care. Approximately half of the participants in this study believed
they ‘failed’ at self-care and noted the toll it took on their well-being
during their junior year clinical experience, with some subsequently
questioning their desire to teach. One year later, although participants
seemed more assured in their desire to enter the field as classroom
teachers, they again described the ongoing challenges of establishing
work-life balance and processing students’ stories of adversity. Given the
likelihood that student trauma exists in every classroom (NCTSN, 2016),
teacher education programs may be inadvertently placing preservice
teachers at risk of experiencing secondary trauma without commensu-
rate supports, which was the case for PSTs in this study. Modifying the
supportive structures of teacher education and K-12 schools to include

Preservice Teacher Burnout42

Issues in Teacher Education

a focus on self-care and teacher resiliency is one way we can work to
mitigate these risks and better prepare our teacher workforce while
cultivating a healthier work-life balance for teachers at all levels.

1 We gratefully acknowledge Sara Farmer for her invaluable role in coding
and analyzing the data. Her work is much appreciated.

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Appendix A
Trauma and Self-Care Content

Course Activities

u Trauma Power Point: Overview of trauma and how it impacts the brain/
self-regulation in students.

u Trauma-Informed Schools Project: One group selected the topic of trauma-
informed schools for their classroom management project. They presented the
history of the approach, research-based evidence supporting the approach, ap-
plication examples, and pros/cons.

u Adverse Child Experience (ACE) Survey Discussion: PSTs reviewed
the ACE survey followed by small group discussions and its application in

u Self-Care Power Point: An overview of work-life balance and physical,
emotional, social and spiritual wellness with definitions and examples.

u Meditation and Mindfulness Workshop: A representative from the Health
and Wellness Department facilitated an in-class session on meditation and
mindfulness including meditation techniques.

Kyle Miller & Karen Flint-Stipp 45

Volume 28, Number 2, Fall 2019

u Self-Care Plan: PSTs completed a self-care plan including the areas of physi-
cal, emotional, social, and spiritual self-care. They also identified barriers and
support to self-care.

u Final Reflection Discussion: PSTs brought their written reflections on
trauma and self-care (data source) to class and discussed their reflections in
small groups followed by a whole-class discussion.

Course Readings

Blitz, L. V., Anderson, E. M., & Saastamoinen, M. (2016). Assessing perceptions of
culture and trauma in an elementary school: Informing a model for culturally
responsive trauma-informed schools. The Urban Review, 48(4), 520-542.

Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development.
American Psychologist, 56(3), 227.

Nealy-Oparah, S., and Scruggs-Hussein, T.C. (2018). Trauma-informed leadership
in schools: From the inside-out. Educational Leadership, 47(3), 12-16.

Will, M. (2017, June). Happy teachers practice self-care. Education Week. Retrieved

Appendix B
Interview Script

For this interview, I would like you to think back to your junior-year clinical ex-
perience. Please tell me a little bit about that experience and what you recall.
What kind of student trauma(s) do you recall?
How did student trauma affect your experiences in the classroom?
How did student trauma affect you personally?
How did you respond to student trauma?

What kind of student trauma(s) are you aware of in your current placement for
student teaching?
How does student trauma affect your experiences in the classroom?
How does student trauma affect you personally?
How do you respond to student trauma?

How are you currently practicing self-care during your student teaching?
In what ways do you feel like you are succeeding at supporting your wellness?
In what ways would you like to improve your wellness?
How does self-care affect your student teaching experience?

Here is your self-care plan from junior year. Which self-care goals do you feel
you have met and are part of your routine? Which goals remain unmet and why?
Has your self-care plan changed during the past year? How so?

Is there anything else you would like to share about trauma and/or self-care?

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The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision

Volume 13 Number 2 Article 5


Integration of Trauma Based Education in Counselor Education Integration of Trauma Based Education in Counselor Education

Stevie VanAusdale
University of Florida,

Jacqueline M. Swank
University of Florida,

Follow this and additional works at:

Part of the Counselor Education Commons

Recommended Citation Recommended Citation
VanAusdale, S., & Swank, J. M. (2020). Integration of Trauma Based Education in Counselor Education.
The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 13(2).

Integration of Trauma Based Education in Counselor Education Integration of Trauma Based Education in Counselor Education

Abstract Abstract
In recent years, there has been growing awareness of the widespread prevalence of trauma experiences.
Knowledge of the prevalence and effect of trauma has led to a greater need for counselors to be
competent and confident in working with clients’ trauma; therefore, a needs exist for counselor educators
to prepare students for trauma work. Improving competency and self-efficacy among counselors-in
training may lead to better client outcomes and prevent vicarious trauma. The authors provide a brief
overview of the prevalence of trauma and the importance of trauma training. Then, they discuss ways
counselor educators can infuse trauma education within five counselor preparation courses: counseling
theories, assessment, developmental counseling over the lifespan, family counseling, and group
supervision for clinical experiences. They also discuss implications for practice and research.

Keywords Keywords
trauma, counselor education, training

This article is available in The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision:

In recent years, there has been growing awareness of the widespread prevalence of trauma

experiences. The PTSD Alliance (2016) estimated that 70% of the adult population in the United

States has experienced a traumatic event, and Farell-Sabin and Turpin (2003) reported that 95%

of individuals seeking mental health services have reported experiencing a traumatic event.

Additionally, an estimated 20% will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (PTSD

Alliance, 2016; Farell-Sabin & Turpin, 2003). Trauma is prevalent among children in addition to

adults, with researchers reporting that trauma was associated with 47% of childhood psychiatric

disorders (McLaughlin et al., 2012). Therefore, mental health professionals need to be prepared to

work with clients who have experienced trauma. Thus, the authors present an integrated approach

for teaching trauma-informed care (a counseling approach that includes a trauma perspective) and

trauma sensitive skills to master’s level counselor education students.


Trauma is a physiological and psychological experience where an individual experiences

overwhelming fear for their life either literally or figuratively (Van der Kolk, 2014). One can

figuratively fear for their life through witnessing a violent act or accident without being directly

involved, such as witnessing a car accident where a person dies. Amstadter and Vernon (2008)

stated that a person will likely experience a wide range of emotions during a traumatic event, with

the most pressing emotion being fear. The broad nature of trauma makes it difficult to clearly

define because trauma can happen in one event or it can be a chronic situation (PTSD Alliance,

2016). Adding to the complexity of defining trauma is that it is related to the subjective experience,

meaning the effects of trauma can surface even when addressing issues that seem disconnected

from the trauma (Elliot et al., 2005). Examples of traumatic events could be sexual assault, physical

assault, natural or manmade disasters, motor vehicle accidents, murder of a loved one, child abuse,

intimate partner violence, illness or injury, and other dangerous and life-threatening events

(Amstadter & Vernon, 2008; Yeager & Roberts, 2003).

The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study (Felitti et al., 1998) has shaped scholars

understanding about the effects of trauma on physical and mental health throughout the life span.

The ACE study encompassed a survey of 17,337 patients at San Diego’s Kaiser Permanente

facility that focused on childhood trauma experiences, such as childhood physical or sexual abuse,

substance use in the home, intimate partner violence, or divorce (Levenson, 2014). Felitti et al.

(1998) found that 40% of participants experienced two or more ACEs and 12.5% of participants

indicated that they experienced four or more ACEs. The ACE study exposed the widespread

background of ACEs. The researchers also found a profound correlation with ACEs and significant

health issues later in life (Felitti et al., 1998). The results of the ACEs study are considered the

turning point for trauma awareness (Levenson, 2014); however, the majority of the participants

were White, employed, and educated; and therefore, a need exists for replicating the study across

various groupings of class, education, race, and ethnicity. Since this landmark study, researchers

have continued to further examine the effects of ACEs through several studies (Hughes et al.,

2017). In addition to further evidence about health outcomes, researchers have also found that

contrary to past assumptions, children have the mental capacity to remember traumatic events that

occur in early childhood (Buss, Warren, & Horton, 2015). Furthermore, researchers have also

recently discussed expanded the classification of ACEs to be representative of experiences

worldwide, including organized crime, arranged marriage, witnessing criminal acts, bullying, and

sibling violence (Anda, Butchart, Felitti, & Brown, 2010).

The effects of trauma on the mind and body are explained in Van der Kolk’s (2014) book

The Body Keeps the Score. Van der Kolk’s work highlights the critical effects of traumatic stress

on an individual’s overall physical and emotional wellness (Wilkinson, 2016). Van der Kolk

discusses the importance of understanding that traumatized individuals continue to live their lives

as if the trauma is still happening (Wilkison, 2016). Understanding that clients may not have

awareness that the traumatic event has ended is important because this helps counselors to not

internalize the client’s trauma story, which helps prevent vicarious trauma.

Vicarious Trauma

Vicarious trauma is defined as one’s cumulative exposure to clients working through

traumatic events (Adams & Riggs, 2008). This type of trauma is a significant concern for mental

health professionals, considering the high prevalence of individuals who have experienced a

traumatic event, as well as the high number of individuals in counseling that have a trauma history.

The presence of vicarious trauma among helping professionals creates a need for greater

understanding of the occurrence, assessment, treatment, and prevention of this type of trauma. The

limited understanding of how vicarious trauma occurs is through the counselor hearing and

experiencing the traumatic event with their client (Cohen & Collens, 2012). McCann and Pearlman

(1990) coined the term vicarious trauma after realizing there was a specific symptomology

happening to practitioners who worked mainly with survivors of violence.

In examining the presence of vicarious trauma, McCann and Pearlman (1990) found novice

therapists (N=188) reported being significantly affected by the trauma stories of their clients. In

contrast, experienced counselors appeared to have developed ways to better cope with exposure to

trauma narratives. Adams and Riggs (2008) also found therapists in training reported higher levels

of distress when working with client with trauma histories. Another possible contributing factor is

past personal history of trauma. Pearlman and Mac Ian (1995) found that novice therapists with a

trauma history experienced more significant distress doing trauma work with clients that have

experienced trauma. However, the researchers also reported that these therapists were not

receiving supervision, or they had not received trauma training. Thus, training and supervision in

trauma work may help reduce the occurrence of vicarious trauma.

Researchers reported that the development of competency is a crucial strategy in alleviating

vicarious trauma and distress (Baker, 2012; Pearlman & Mac Ian, 1995; McCann & Pearlamn,

1990; Farrell-Sabin & Turpin, 2003; Cohen & Collens, 2012). Specifically, Baker (2012) found

that among 11 master’s level clinicians that had trauma histories and were currently working with

client’s that had traumatic experiences, the majority of participants thought a course dedicated to

trauma work and coping with reactions to trauma work would have normalized their experiences

and provided an opportunity for them to develop self-care practices. As an emerging professional

it is important to grow awareness of vulnerabilities, establish support networks, and develop self-

care plans (Killian, Hernandez-Wolfe, Engstrom, & Gangsei, 2016). Thus, offering trauma training

for counselors-in-training may help promote self-efficacy in working with clients who have

experienced trauma.

Counselor Self-Efficacy

A person’s perceived self-efficacy is a predictor of behavior (Bandura, 1977). Application

of self-efficacy to the counseling field is important when considering how to improve a counselor’s

belief in self. Greene et al. (2016) described the concept of counselor self-efficacy as a counselor’s

judgments of self as an effective clinician. When counselors believe in their abilities, they are

likely to have more positive client outcomes (Reese et al., 2009). Thus, in relation to working with

clients who have experienced trauma, providing training experiences for students to develop

knowledge, skills, and confidence in working with this population may facilitate positive client

outcomes with future clients.

Wachter Morris and Barrio Minton (2012) examined new professionals’ (N = 193)

experiences with crisis intervention preparation in both their master’s program and after graduation

and found that one third of the participants had no crisis intervention preparation in their master’s

program. Additionally, participants who took a crisis course rated their didactic experience, self-

efficacy at graduation, and current crisis self-efficacy higher than the participants who did not have

a crisis course. Furthermore, individuals that had some level of crisis preparation rated self-

efficacy higher than individuals with no preparation. Although this study focused on crisis and not

trauma training, the two topics are sometimes grouped together in training programs; and therefore,

this study may be relevant to trauma training.

The authors of this manuscript found no studies focused on trauma training; however,

researchers clearly articulate the need for trauma training in reporting that many counselors feel

incompetent to work with client who have experienced trauma (Albaek, Kinn, & Milde, 2018).

The need for trauma training is also emphasized within the American Counseling Association

(ACA) 2014 Code of Ethics, as it states that counselors should work within their scope of

competencies. Thus, due to the high prevalence of trauma, it is crucial that counselors-in-training

have trauma training to develop competency in this area and practice ethically in working with

clients who have experienced trauma. This includes training on working with clients with trauma

history and preventing vicarious trauma.

Integration of Trauma Training within the Counselor Education Curriculum

In recent years, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational

Programs (CACREP) has begun addressing the importance of trauma training. Specifically, the

2009 CACREP standards included within the Addictions Counseling, Clinical Mental Health

Counseling, Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling, Marriage Couples and Family Counseling,

College Counseling, and School Counseling domains a standard about understanding the effects

of crises, disasters, and other trauma causing events on a person. In 2016, CACREP further

extended the standards related to crisis response, disaster relief, and trauma by providing a more

concise standard. According to the 2016 standards, accredited programs are required to teach

master’s and doctoral level students the effects of trauma on individuals, couples, and families

over the lifespan; trauma-informed strategies; and the influence of trauma on individuals with

mental health diagnoses. The inclusion of trauma within the CACREP standards signifies the need

for better integration within counselor preparation programs.

Greene et al. (2016) examined the effects of infusing case studies about trauma, crisis, and

disaster response within a master’s level practicum course involving 24 students. The students

were presented with either audio or video clips of a mock client sharing pieces of the client’s story

with the students then being instructed to reflect on the content to develop a conceptualization of

the treatment for the client. In discussing other topics within the course, including ethics, diversity,

relationship building, risk assessment, disaster counseling, clinical writing, and intakes, the topics

were connected to the case studies to assist students in recognizing the pervasive effects of crisis

and trauma. The researchers measured self-efficacy and crisis self-efficacy through pre, mid, and

post-semester assessments and found statistically significant improvements in self-efficacy and

crisis self-efficacy (Greene et al., 2016). Limitations of the study included not having a control

group and a small sample size that lacked diversity. Similarly, Wachter Morris and Barrio Minton

(2012) found that new professionals with some level of crisis preparation in their master’s program

had higher crisis related self-efficacy, which may also be relevant for trauma training.

CACREP-accredited programs may not have the space in the curriculum to add another

required course (Lee, Craig, Fetherson, & Simpson, 2012). Therefore, programs may use an

infusion model to integrate trauma training within counselor preparation, which might be a more

cost and time effective option for counselor education programs. Abreu, Chug, and Atkinson

(2000) stated an integrated model is the most holistic form of training, but it does not negate the

importance of other program efforts to improve students’ competency. Thus, the integrated model

is one option to use with other strategies to foster student learning.

Integrating trauma training within counselor education involves having a clear

understanding of trauma-informed care. The main tenets of this approach are trust, empowerment,

and empathy (Berliner & Kolko, 2016). Embracing this approach involves considering the effects

of past traumatic experiences on current mental health when working with a client (Levenson,

2014). This requires specialized knowledge and skill that counselor educators may infuse within

counselor preparation programs, including a focus on a variety of trauma topics, including the

effects of trauma on the nervous system, personal reactions to specific traumatic narratives, and

the effects of vicarious trauma.

Counselor educators may seek to address the 2016 CACREP standards (CACREP, 2015)

regarding crisis and trauma through infusing this content within multiple courses within the

curriculum. We propose this strategy because it may not be feasible for programs to introduce

another course within the curriculum. Counselor educators may integrate this material within

several courses; however, we focus on integrating this content within five specific courses:

counseling theories, assessment, developmental counseling over the lifespan, family counseling,

and group supervision during clinical experiences. The benefit of having trauma explored in these

courses is that it provides students with an opportunity to learn how trauma is connected to all

facets of their clients’ lives. Additionally, the repetition may foster self-efficacy. Researchers

found that repeated integration and practice of skills across the curriculum helped increase

students’ self-efficacy (Hill et al., 2008).

Counseling Theories

Counseling theories is a foundational course that introduces counselors-in-training to the

conceptualization of client issues. This course would provide an opportunity for students to be

introduced to the process of conceptualizing clients who have experienced trauma. The

introduction of trauma-informed care in a counseling theories course builds foundational

knowledge of the principles that are central to trauma treatment. The counselor educator would

spend a week of class dedicated to trauma-informed care, similar to other theories. In teaching

students about trauma-informed care, the counselor educator emphasizes taking the perspective of

“what happened” versus “what’s wrong with you.” While there is no prescriptive formula on how

to treat trauma, some key principles to emphasize with students are developing and maintaining a

strong, trusting therapeutic relationship that includes normalizing problematic behaviors through

a trauma lens (i.e., helping the client understand the behavior is the body’s way of adjusting in a

typical way to a non-typical experience), embodying unconditional positive regard, and

demystifying the counseling process to help establish clear expectations. Additionally, the

instructor teaches students about the integration of psychoeducation, which involves discussing

the autonomic nervous system and its threat response designed to protect humans, which can

become problematic after the threat has disappeared and continues to be activated. Students also

learn about self-regulation skills (i.e., relaxation techniques), practicing them in class and learning

how to teach them to clients. Helping clients work through trauma memories is also a crucial

component and students learn how processing these memories may look different depending on

their theoretical orientation. Finally, students learn about the focus on post-traumatic growth,

where growth is verbalized through identifying strengthens, new life philosophies, or appreciation

of life (Gentry, Baranowsky, & Rhoton, 2017).

During the course, counselor educators may have students interview counselors in the

community that are engaged in trauma work (Huan-Tang, Zhou, & Pillay, 2017). Potential

interview questions students could ask include (a) What is your theoretical orientation and how

does trauma-informed care fit within your theory? (b) How did you develop your trauma focused

theory? (c) How does trauma-informed care influence your work with clients? The purpose of the

assignment is for students to learn about theories and techniques professionals are currently using

and begin to contemplate how trauma work may influence their theoretical development. After the

interview, students write a reflection paper about the experience and discuss how they might

integrate trauma-informed care within their counseling theory. Conceptualizing clients early in

their counseling coursework may assist students in understanding the effects of trauma and prepare

them to work with clients who have experienced trauma when they begin their clinical experiences.


Instructors may also focus on teaching trauma within an assessment course in two areas:

(a) intake (biopsychosocial) interview and (b) instruments designed for assessing trauma.

Regarding the intake interview, instructors can teach students how to ask questions to gather

information about areas that may involve traumatic experiences for clients (i.e., childhood abuse,

intimate partner violence, deaths), as well as how to balance gathering client information while

also building rapport. This may involve brainstorming with the class different ways to ask

questions to gather information about trauma experiences, and then having students practice the

intake interview process in pairs, providing an opportunity to experience the role of the client and

the counselor. Through this experience, students may also become aware of their own triggers, and

areas to address within their own lives through counseling.

In this class, instructors may also introduce students to instruments designed to measure

trauma. This may include various types of trauma assessments (i.e., risk assessments, screening

tools, interviews) that measure different forms of trauma (i.e. domestic violence, abuse).

Instructors may also introduce students to trauma assessments for different age groups (i.e.,

Trauma Symptom Checklist [for adults], Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children [ages 8-16],

Trauma Symptom Checklist for Young Children [ages 3-12]). There are several organizations that

provide extensive lists of trauma assessments (i.e., U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs National

Center for PTSD: In teaching students about trauma

assessments, instructors can have student critique the instruments, practice administering the

assessments (i.e., ACE Questionnaire: using a

similar process to practicing the intake interview process described above, and discuss how they

would communicate the results of the assessments to clients. Thus, students learn about assessing

client trauma.

Developmental Counseling over the Lifespan

Introducing trauma material within the developmental counseling course can be useful

because the influence of trauma on an individual’s development is a critical piece of client

conceptualization. Van der Kolk (2014) stated that a traumatic event, especially in childhood,

could cause a disruption in development. This disruption often prevents further growth and

requires the clinician to address areas of disruption. During this course, instructors can discuss

various forms of trauma that may occur at stages throughout the lifespan, which may include

childhood abuse, sexual abuse, sexual assault, death, violence, accidents, life altering experiences

(i.e. divorce, losing a job, bankruptcy), or military service. In discussing these topics, instructors

focus on adverse childhood experiences, brain development, prevalence of trauma, and effects of

trauma on different age groups (i.e., children, adults).

Instructors may use “The Body Remembers” by Rothschild (2000), a book that focuses on

the effect of trauma on the development of the brain beginning in infancy, as a resource in the

class. Discussing various trauma topics may help students begin to develop a comfort level with

listening to individuals talk about their traumatic experiences. Additionally, instructors may

introduce beginning level trauma interventions, such as introducing the hand brain model to help

clients understand the parts of their brain that are activated during traumatic experiences and during

flashbacks. Dr. Daniel Siegel has a YouTube video

( instructors can use to teach students the

different parts of the brain and then give them an opportunity to practice in pairs. Instructors may

also have students read The Body Keeps the Score by Van der Kolk (2014) to gain greater insight

about the neurological and biological effects trauma can have on an individual. Students can

identify three quotes or concepts that were either meaningful, or they disagreed with from the

chapter and discuss them during small and large group class discussions.

Family Counseling

A family counseling course includes content related to understanding how families

function and how family members influence each other. Because there is a high prevalence of

trauma experienced in childhood (Berliner & Kolko, 2016), it is likely that trauma may also affect

family members. A caregiver may also have a past trauma, or the entire family unit may experience

a trauma. It is important for a family to process the trauma collectively because the family system

experiences effects from the trauma either directly or vicariously (James & MacKinnon, 2012).

The healing process for the family is critical because it contributes to healing for the specific family

member who experienced the trauma, allowing this person to develop a sense of safety within their

family or community (Goodman, 2013). Thus, the integration of family role-plays in this course

may help students understand the complex ways family systems are affected by trauma, as well as

provide an opportunity to practice critical thinking. Role-plays focused on trauma histories provide

students with exposure to intense narratives and offer opportunities for developing awareness of

areas that could be potential triggers for students. Due to the intensity of trauma stories, it is

important for students to have an opportunity to work through their emotions before sitting with

actual clients (Huan-Tang, Zhou, & Pillay, 2017).

James and MacKinnon (2012) proposed 10 principles for family therapists to use in

adopting a trauma lens within their practice. The instructor may discuss these principles within the

course to assist students in understanding how to integrate trauma-informed care within family

counseling. Instructors may also address generational trauma (i.e., addiction, traumatic injuries,

systemic oppression, family violence) in this course. The transmission of intergenerational trauma

occurs when a caregiver transmits unresolved traumas to the next generation, creating an unhealthy

pattern within the family system (Isobel, Goodyear, Furness, & Foster, 2019). Instructors may

have students map out trauma experiences across generations through the development of a

genogram from a case study. In creating a genogram of intergenerational trauma, students see

patterns emerge, and they learn how to use genograms with future clients. Goodman (2013)

discussed how to use a genogram with a family while discussing transgenerational trauma and

resilience, which could serve as a resource for the class.

Supervision Course

Counselor educators may also teach students best practices for treating trauma within a

supervision course when students are enrolled in clinical experiences (practicum and internship).

Discussing trauma within supervision of clinical experiences may help students develop stronger

self-efficacy that may lead to better client outcomes. Within the supervision course, instructors

may introduce case studies to help students conceptualize clients and develop treatment plans for

clients with different trauma histories. Case studies help students understanding the effects of

trauma on clients without feeling inadequate in the presence of a client. Additionally, instructors

may have students review their counseling theory paper from theories class and reflect on how

they are integrating trauma-informed care within their theory.

With the foundation from the previous courses, the focus of teaching trauma in the

supervision course is on conceptualization and techniques to work with clients who have

experienced trauma. Greene et al. (2016) found the use of an unfolding case study within practicum

group supervision was positively correlated with students’ counselor self-efficacy at the end of the

semester. Thus, counselor educators may integrate case studies that include an element of trauma

within their courses to help students develop competency in trauma-informed care. This may

include techniques that improve self-regulation and relaxation, involve exposure and restoring

client’s trauma, and cognitive restructuring with psychoeducation (Gentry, Baranowsky, &

Rhoton, 2017).

Another classroom activity involves students assessing a painful memory. Instructors lead

students through seven steps to facilitate this activity: (a) select a painful memory (i.e., being

bullied, a break-up, parents’ divorce, confrontation with friend) they feel comfortable sharing, (b)

identify emotions associated with this memory, (c) recognize where in your body you experiencing

these emotions, (d) identify a negative belief you concluded about yourself as a result of this

experience, (e) reflect on whether this negative belief is actually true, and (f) consider positive

beliefs about the experience. Instructors may have students process the activity as a large group or

in small groups and write a reflection paper about the experience. Students are reminded to practice

self-care during the activity. Discussing vicarious trauma is particularly relevant during clinical

experiences coursework because students are working with clients. Adams and Riggs (2008)

emphasize the importance of teaching students about defense styles and helping students develop

awareness of their styles and learn more adaptive/mature defense styles (i.e., sublimation, humor).

Thus, counselor educators can assess and discuss defense styles during supervision and provide

opportunities for students to develop and practice self-care and wellness.

The activities described above provide counseling students opportunities to develop

knowledge and skills related to trauma through learning about traumatology concepts, becoming

comfortable with hearing trauma stories, developing an understanding of the effects of trauma, and

practicing techniques. Additionally, focusing on trauma early and often in the curriculum can help

foster self-awareness and encourage students to seek counseling to address personal traumas

(Killian, Hernandez-Wolfe, Engstrom, & Gangsei, 2016). Furthermore, integration of trauma

training throughout the curriculum may help students develop higher levels of self-efficacy by

feeling prepared to work with clients who have experience trauma (Sawyer, Peters, & Willis,



Integration of trauma training throughout the counselor education curriculum emphasizes

the importance of recognizing and treating trauma, which may help improve client care, the self-

efficacy of counselors-in-training, and the prevention of vicarious trauma. Additionally, teaching

students about trauma is a requirement for CACREP-accredited programs (CACREP, 2015).

Through integration of trauma education throughout the counselor education curriculum, students

develop a foundational understanding of the effects of trauma on clients, and its importance related

to various aspects of counseling. This is crucial because psychological trauma is an aspect of client

care that clinicians are exposed to throughout their careers (Webber et. al., 2017).

Counselor educators might be reluctant to integrate trauma training within courses due to

their lack of trauma expertise. Watkins Van Asselt, Soli, and Berry (2016) conducted a session at

an Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) conference to explore reluctance

counselor educators have related to teaching trauma. The session focused on exploring self-

efficacy and crisis and trauma training. They found that many attendees thought that they needed

more trauma training to feel competent in teaching students about trauma. Participants expressed

apprehension in sharing their concern with colleagues for fear of being judged. Considering these

findings, it is understandable why counselor educators may struggle with integrating trauma

education within their courses. Thus, faculty may need professional development on trauma before

teaching students about trauma. This may involve conference sessions, workshops, or certification

courses (i.e., somatic experiencing, EMDR).

A caution for counselor educators when teaching students about trauma is to be mindful of

the affect this topic can have on students who have their own trauma stories (Pearlman & Mac Ian,

1995; Baker, 2012). Before discussing trauma topics, faculty should be intentional in creating a

safe space and having resources for students if needed. A counselor educator can create safety in

the course through modeling of sharing vulnerabilities or professional experiences with trauma

and dedicating time at the beginning of the course focused on building trust between the instructor

and the students, and the students with each other through intentional conversations. Instructors

may also use mindfulness by having students identify a place or image where they feel safe and

calm; visualizing the place with specific feelings, scents, and tactile sensations; and associating a

word with the place that allows the positive sensations to be present for students during times of

potential triggers. Similar to the process of protecting against vicarious trauma in the counseling

room, instructors should strive to minimize students being triggered in the classroom through

consistent reminders for students to be doing regular honest self-reflection of their own

experiences. It is also helpful for counselor educators to allow students the space to have candid

conversations and to empower them to practice self-care. While engaging in trauma work with

clients can be difficult, it can also be rewarding when clinicians are properly trained. A clinician

may experience vicarious resilience, growth, and transformation experienced through engagement

with a client’s resilience (Michalachuk & Martin, 2018). Therefore, training students to work with

clients who have experienced trauma is both important and meaningful.

Future research may focus on evaluating the effectiveness of teaching trauma across the

counselor education curriculum. This may include the effect of training on students’ perceived

competency level, including knowledge, awareness, and skills. Additionally, researchers may

compare the effectiveness of this approach to teaching a dedicated course on trauma.

Scholars have recognized the need for training counselors-in-training on trauma to increase

students’ competency and self-efficacy in working with

clients who have experienced trauma.

Additionally, CACREP (2015) has incorporated standards requiring the integration of trauma

content within counselor preparation. Thus, it is crucial for counselor educators to integrate trauma

training within the counselor education curriculum. Through the integration of trauma training,

students may be less likely to experience vicarious trauma, and feel better prepared to work with

clients who have experienced trauma.


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