School Mental Health

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 177–188 | Cite as

Implementing Trauma—Informed Practices in the School Setting: A Pilot Study

  • Diana L. Perry
  • Monica L. Daniels
Original Paper


There is a proven link between healthy socioemotional development and academic success (SAMHSA in SAMHSA’s concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, 2014; Alisic et al. in J Clin Psychiatry 69:1455–1461, 2008; Landolt et al. in J Trauma Stress 26:209–216, 2013). In order to achieve academic success, school systems serving children who have been exposed to trauma must deal with the unique challenge that come with resultant activation of the brain’s stress response (Perry in J Calif Alliance Ment III 11(1):48–51, 2000; Ford in Treatment of complex trauma: a sequenced, relationship-based approach. Guilford Press, New York, 2013; Schore in Infant Mental Health J 22(1&2):7–66, 2001). This warrants an alteration in how our educational system understands and responds to the needs of youth exposed to trauma (Bailey in I love you rituals. Harper Collins, New York, 2000; Stein and Kendall in Psychological trauma and the developing brain. Haworth Press, Binghamton, 2004; Badenoch in Being a brain-wise therapist: a practical guide to interpersonal neurobiology. WW Norton & Company, Inc., New York, 2008). Within the City of New Haven, the pressure to meet national expectations coupled with the reality that many schools within the city are impacted by the ripple effects of community-wide chronic stress creates added challenges. The New Haven Trauma Coalition was created to address the negative mental health and social effects of adversity, trauma, and chronic stress on families and school-aged children in the New Haven area. This paper reviews the process of implementing a trio of Direct Services in one public pilot school in the City of New Haven. It provides recommendations on how to successfully implement trauma-informed practices during the first year of implementation and utilizes a mixed-methods approach to outline findings obtained during implementation of three separate Direct Service components: Services Professional Development, Care Coordination, and Clinical Services.


Trauma-informed Education Professional Development Socio-emotional development Community mental health Chronic stress 


  1. Adelman, M. S., & Taylor, L. (2007). Systemic change for school improvement. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 17, 55–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alisic, E., Van der Schoot, T. A. W., Van Ginkel, J. R., & Kleber, R. J. (2008). Looking beyond PTSD in children: Posttraumatic stress reactions, posttraumatic growth, and quality of life. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 69, 1455–1461.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Australian Childhood Foundation. (2010). Making SPACE for learning: Trauma informed practice in schools. Australian Foundation. Accessed December 5, 2014.
  4. Badenoch, B. (2008). Being a brain-wise therapist: a practical guide to interpersonal neurobiology. New York, NY: WW Norton & Company Inc.Google Scholar
  5. Bailey, B. (2000). I love you rituals. New York, NY: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  6. Basch, C. E. (2010). Healthier students are better learners: A missing link in school reforms to close the achievement gap. Equity Campaign. Accessed January 4, 2015.
  7. Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force. (August 2011). Creating safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments to increase the success of all students. Massachusetts: Department of Education. Accessed February 5, 2015.
  8. Blodgett, C. (2012). A review of community efforts to mitigate and prevent adverse childhood experiences and trauma. Pullman, Washington: Washington State University Area Health Education Center.Google Scholar
  9. Bruns, E. J., Walker, J. S., Zabel, M., Matarese, M., Estep, K., Harburger, D., et al. (2010). Intervening in the live of youth with complex behavioral health challenges and their families: The role of wraparound process. American Journal of Community Psychology, 46, 314–331.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cole, G., Greenberg-O’Brien, R., & Wallace, G. (2013). Helping Traumatized Children Learn Vols. 1 (2004) and 2 (2013).
  11. Ford, J. D. (2013). Treatment of complex trauma: A sequenced, relationship-based approach. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gracy, D., Grant, R., Goldsmith, G., Fabian, A., Peek, L., & Redlener, I. E. (2014). Health barriers to learning: A survey of New York City public school leadership. Thousand Oaks: Sage. doi: 10.1177/2158244013520613.Google Scholar
  13. Innovation, F. O. (Director). (2013). Building adult capabilities to improve child outcomes: A theory of change [Motion Picture].Google Scholar
  14. Jaycox, L. H., Langley, A., Dean, K. L., Stein, B. D., Wong, M., Sharma, P., et al. (2009a). Making it easier for school staff to help traumatized students. RAND Corporation, Accessed December 5, 2014.
  15. Jaycox, L. H., Langley, A. K., Stein, B. D., Wong, M., Sharma, P., Scott, M., & Schonlau, M. (2009b). Support for students exposed to trauma: a pilot study. School Mental Health, 1(2), 49–60.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Jaycox, L. H., Morse, L. K., Tanielian, T., & Stein, B. D. (2006). How schools can help students recover from traumatic experiences: A tool-kit for supporting long-term recovery. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
  17. Kataoka, S. H., Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L. H., Wong, M., Escudero, P., Tu, W., et al. (2003). A school-based mental health program for traumatized Latino immigrant children. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 42(3), 311–318.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Kruczek, T., & Salsman, J. (2006). Prevention and treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder in the school setting. doi: 10.1002/pits.20160.
  19. Landolt, M. A., & Kenardy, J. A. (2015). Evidence-based treatments for children and adolescents. In M. Schnyder & M. Cloitre (Eds.), Evidence-based treatments for trauma-related psychological disorders: A practical guide for clinicians (pp. 363–380). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.Google Scholar
  20. Landolt, M. A., Schnyder, U., Maier, T., Schoenbucher, V., & Mohler-Kuo, M. (2013). Trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder in adolescents: A national survey in Switzerland. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 26, 209–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mersky, J. P., Topitzes, J., & Reynolds, A. J. (2013). Impacts of adverse childhood experiences on health, mental health, and substance use in early adulthood: A cohort study of an urban, minority sample in the U.S. Child Abuse and Neglect, 37, 917–925.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Metz, A., Naoom, S. F., Halle, T., & Bartley, L. (2015). An integrated stage-based framework for implementation of early childhood programs and systems (OPRE Research Brief OPRE 2015-48). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  23. National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Accessed January 6, 2015.
  24. Oehlberg, B., & LCSW. (2008). Why schools need to be trauma informed. Trauma and Loss: Research and Interventions, 8(2), 12–15.Google Scholar
  25. Perry, B. D. (2000). Traumatized children: How childhood trauma influences brain development. The Journal of the California Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 11(1), 48–51.Google Scholar
  26. Pynoos, R., Rodriguez, N., Steinberg, A., Stuber, M., & Frederick, C. (1998). UCLA PTSD Index for DSM-IV (Revision 1). Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Trauma Psychiatry Program.Google Scholar
  27. Schore, A. (2001). Effects of a secure attachment relationship on right brain development; affect regulation and infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22(1&2), 7–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Shonkoff, J. P., Garner, A. S., Siegel, B. S., Dobbins, M. I., Earls, M. F., McGuinn, L., et al. (2012). The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics, 129(1), 232–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L. H., Kataoka, S. H., Wong, M., Tu, W., Elliott, M. N., & Fink, A. (2003). A mental health intervention for schoolchildren exposed to violence: A randomized controlled trial. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 290(5), 603–611.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Stein, P., & Kendall, J. (2004). Psychological trauma and the developing brain. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.Google Scholar
  31. Steinberg, A. M., Brymer, M. J., Decker, K. B., & Pynoos, R. S. (2004). The University of California at Los Angeles post-traumatic stress disorder reaction index. Current Psychiatry Reports, 6(2), 96–100.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Stevens, J. E. (2012). Massachusetts, Washington State lead U.S. trauma-sensitive school movement [Blog post]. Retrieved from
  33. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). National registry for evidence based programs and practices. Accessed January 31, 2015.
  34. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). SAMHSA’s concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Google Scholar
  35. The Anna Institute. (2001) The role of schools in the life of traumatized children. Retrieved September 4, 2014.
  36. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (2010). Early childhood trauma. Retrieved September 4, 2014.
  37. Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative. (2014). The solution: Trauma sensitive schools. Helping Traumatized Children Learn, Accessed December 17, 2014.
  38. Vander Schee, C., & Gard, M. (2011). Politics, pedagogy and practice in school health policy. Policy Futures in Education, 9(3), 307–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Walkley, M., & Cox, T. L. (2013). Building trauma-informed schools and communities. Journal of Children and Schools. doi: 10.1093/cs/cdt007.Google Scholar
  40. Wilson, C., & Conradi, L. (2010). Managing traumatized children: A trauma systems perspective. Journal of Psychiatry. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e32833e076615.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New Haven Trauma CoalitionNew HavenUSA

Personalised recommendations