June 25 2021

What is Trauma? What is a Trauma-Informed Approach?

Darryl W. Stephens, Lancaster Theological Seminary

illustration of a group of masked people

“What’s wrong with you?”

When one of my students is habitually distracted, inattentive, or disruptive, this question might surface in my mind. If vocalized, this response to undesired behavior in my classroom, might, at best, suppress outward disruption so that class can continue as “normal.” Yet, it could perpetuate a cycle of shame and blame, exacerbating the underlying issue and contributing to an ongoing public health crisis. Over the past thirty years, our societal understanding of trauma has opened up a different way to address these presenting issues. Instead of confrontation, I focus on care. Now I know to ask instead, “What has happened to you?”1

This shift from confrontation to care is the crux of a trauma-informed approach, a new paradigm in public services. As educators, we are part of a community of service providers with the power to contribute to or detract from this circle of care. Furthermore, our understanding of trauma (or lack thereof) significantly impacts our pedagogical effectiveness and ability to nurture the best learning in our students. We enter the classroom uninformed about trauma at our own peril—and to our students’ detriment.

This issue of Spotlight on Teaching is dedicated to the theme of trauma-informed pedagogy. Kate Ott and I proposed this theme to the Spotlight editor, Jessica L. Tinklenberg, as a way of generating conversation on this important topic and building on the scholarship of Michelle Mary Lelwica, Stephanie M. Crumpton, and others who contributed to our recent, co-edited volume, Teaching Sexuality and Religion in Higher Education: Embodied Learning, Trauma Sensitive Pedagogy, and Perspective Transformation.2 For this issue of Spotlight, Ott and I have broadened the scope from sexuality and narrowed the purview to trauma. We invited new contributors to address specific aspects of classroom teaching, illustrating how we as instructors in higher education can bring a trauma-informed approach to our pedagogy in religious studies and theological education. This introduction serves as a shared basis for this endeavor. It offers a basic definition and description of trauma, introduces the features of a trauma-informed approach, and presents the core values guiding a trauma-informed pedagogy.

Trauma

Simply put, psychological trauma is the result of an experience that is too much to handle. Judith Herman, a pioneering researcher in the modern understanding of trauma, stated that, “traumatic events . . . overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life.”3 Trauma engages psychic, physiological, and neurological survival mechanisms when a person feels disempowered to respond to a grave threat. Trauma involves a loss of agency and a profound sense of powerlessness. Yet, a trauma victim is also a survivor, coping with overwhelming danger in ways too deep to fathom.4 The result is often some variant of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The effects touch the core of being and reside deep in the body.

A central feature of trauma is that it disrupts one’s personal narrative, interfering with one’s sense of self and experience of the world. Traumatic memories interrupt the present in ways unbounded by chronology. A traumatic memory can be neither coherently articulated nor forgotten. It is an unspeakable response to horror, a response that refuses to be integrated into the past even as it haunts the present.5 Besser van der Kolk, another pioneering researcher in the field, described it this way: “trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body.”6 A traumatized person relives their terror again and again, triggered involuntarily by sensory reminders.

Because trauma overwhelms the normal coping mechanisms, it is fragmented rather than integrated into a person’s experience. One result is popularly known as a “flashback,” for example, when a war veteran with PTSD responds viscerally to the sound of a car backfiring as if the noise indicated a mortal danger. For a person with PTSD, the trigger brings the past trauma into the present moment, and they relive the original experience, engaging in survival response to the stimulus. Traumatic memories can be triggered by emotions, sights, smells, noises, and many other somatic reminders of the original traumatic experience. The work of recovery involves practices of mind and body designed to empower a person to integrate their traumatic memories into their sense of self, reducing the past’s hold on their present reality.

In 2014, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provided the following definition of individual trauma to serve as a common reference point among various sectors of public service provision:

Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.7

This definition highlights what SAMHSA referred to as “the three E’s of trauma”: events, experiences, and effects.8

An event can be traumatic in a single occurrence or over a series of incidents. Traumatic life events include military combat, natural disaster, life-threatening accident, sexual assault, abandonment, death of a loved one, and many other psychologically overwhelming situations. Trauma can also result from prolonged exposure to threat, including domestic violence, bullying, poverty, abuse, and racism.9 Encountering negative biases through microaggressions based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identity markers can also be experienced as traumatic.10 Nevertheless, it is important to remember that trauma is not the event but rather the wound resulting from the event. Thus, trauma can result from a variety of events, depending on how the event is experienced by the individual within their community.

The experience of trauma is personal, resting on a combination of factors. Not every adverse experience is traumatic, and the same event might be experienced as traumatic by one person and not by another. Researchers use the term “potentially traumatic event (PTE),” since the experience of the event (as traumatizing or not) will vary from person to person.11 Personality, social support network, developmental health, previous experiences, and other complex factors shape whether any particular event is experienced as traumatic. These factors contribute to a person’s degree of resilience, defined as “the capacity to bounce back from adversity.”12 A landmark study in the late 1990s examined the relationship between “childhood abuse and neglect and household challenges and later-life health and well-being.”13 The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study clearly showed that “adverse childhood experiences are common and they have strong long-term associations with adult health risk behaviors, health status, and diseases.”14 More to the present point, “early exposure to ACEs is associated with traumatic stress reactions and subsequent exposure to trauma in adult years.”15 Thus, the experience of trauma varies by person and is shaped by previous social, psychological, developmental, and cultural factors.

SAMHSA’s definition includes single horrifying events as well as a series of events or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as traumatic. Religious educators Callid Keefe-Perry and Zachary Moon described these aspects of trauma as temporal and structural:

Trauma is an experience that is not readily assimilated or accommodated into a sense of normalcy, overwhelming a person’s beliefs, values, behaviors, and/or meaningful relationships. Traumatic experiences have features that are both temporal (occurring in a certain moment of a traumatic event) and structural (occurring as a result of ongoing systemic social and economic inequalities). Trauma leaves a person grasping for new, functional coping strategies meant to facilitate survival, including ways in which to re-develop meaningful relationships.16

This definition also emphasizes the communal and relational impact of trauma. Trauma is not confined to individual experiences of single horrifying events; trauma can be collective (community-wide),17 epigenetic (inherited or intergenerational),18 social-cultural (e.g., racism), or vicarious. Regardless of the type of trauma, its effects on persons and relationships are real and noticeable.

In classroom teaching, what is most evident are the effects of trauma. A. Hoch and colleagues presented this list of effects observable in postsecondary learners:

  • Difficulty focusing, attending, retaining, and recalling
  • Tendency to miss a lot of classes
  • Challenges with emotional regulation
  • Fear of taking risks
  • Anxiety about deadlines, exams, group work, or public speaking
  • Anger, helplessness, or dissociation when stressed
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Involvement in unhealthy relationships19

Some of these effects were evident in my classroom during the spring 2020 semester, in the first months of societal response to COVID-19. Many of my students suffered from distraction, inability to concentrate, and short attention spans. They exhibited the effects of trauma (though most of them were unaware of this connection). Furthermore, students of color seemed to be the most affected.20 The long-term trauma of racism compounds the effects of ACEs and other potentially traumatic events, contributing, for example, to the well-documented disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Latinx communities in the United States.21 Furthermore, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, sparked by the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, compounded trauma upon trauma for many students, their families, and communities. In these circumstances, how can we, as instructors in higher education, contribute to the health and success of our students?

Trauma-Informed Approach

A trauma-informed approach signals a recent (approximately 15-year-old) culture-shift in public services of which education is one part.22 It is a community-wide effort involving social work, public health, policing, law, education, ministry, and other sectors of public service. While some sectors provide trauma-specific services or interventions, many do not. Thus, it is not the responsibility of a classroom instructor to provide mental health services but rather to partner with mental health and other service providers by becoming part of a trauma-informed community.23 Becoming a trauma-informed institution is a campus-wide effort, involving student services, academic affairs, administration, athletics, and all areas of the student experience. “SAMHSA defines any setting as ‘trauma-informed’ if the people there realize how widespread trauma is, recognize signs and symptoms, respond by integrating knowledge into practice, and resist doing further harm.”24 This four-fold description (realize, recognize, respond, and resist) provides guidance for classroom instructors to contribute to a community of trauma-informed care.

Realizing the widespread impact of trauma is essential. For example, “By the time they reach college, 66 to 85 percent of youth report lifetime traumatic event exposure, with many reporting multiple exposures.”25 This is one of many statistics aggregated by Shannon Davidson of Education Northwest on the prevalence of trauma. The ACEs study revealed that adverse childhood experiences are disturbingly prevalent in US society.26 The point is, trauma is not an unusual experience, and many people bear the effects of trauma in their everyday lives. Furthermore, students bring “their whole-messy selves” to the classroom, including past experiences of trauma.27 Thus, a trauma-informed approach does not view the student exhibiting the effects of trauma as the exception. Rather, “trauma-informed care is initiated by [the] assumption that every person seeking services is a trauma survivor.”28 A trauma-informed approach to pedagogy is for the benefit of every student.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma is also essential, as is understanding the causes. Common external indications of trauma, listed above, can often be observed in students by classroom teachers. It is important to understand that these behaviors are adaptive. Trauma overwhelms a person’s normal stress-response and elicits a survival-based alarm system. The effects of trauma include adaptive behaviors essential to survival, including fight, flight, or freeze responses. However, when traumatic memories are triggered (often with no conscious awareness by the survivor), the body responds as if the original threat were still present. The very behaviors that ensured survival in the first instance become ineffective and inappropriate when triggered at other times and places. The response is individualized: “resilience and recovery look different for each individual. Thus, what educators often identify as maladaptive behaviors are really misapplied survival skills.”29 The classroom teacher, recognizing the signs of prior trauma in students, can then learn to respond in appropriate and helpful ways.

Responding as a trauma-informed organization involves more than strategies for immediate intervention. A trauma-informed institution “responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, practices.”30 Thus, a set of classroom pedagogical techniques is but one part of an overall organizational response, the purpose of which is to “promote a culture based on beliefs about resilience, recovery, and healing from trauma.”31 In higher education, it is just as important for administrative assistants, administrators, housing directors, and athletic coaches to become trauma-informed as it is for classroom instructors. For example, the Association of Title IX Administrators identified “failing to understand and use trauma-informed investigations and questioning” as the first of “The Seven Deadly Sins of Title IX Investigations.”32 For classroom teachers, this means we are partners with all of the other offices on campus contributing to any aspect of the student experience in our institution in responding to the effects of trauma.

Resisting doing further harm is the fourth aspect of a trauma-informed approach. Failing to realize, recognize, and respond appropriately to a survivor of trauma can do harm. Re-victimization can easily occur when I fail to shift from an attitude of blame, “What’s wrong with you?” to a stance of care, “What has happened to you?” This shift in perspective, to a trauma-informed approach, allows the classroom instructor to become a partner in recovery and resilience for survivors of trauma.

Trauma-Informed Pedagogy

A trauma-informed approach requires not only knowledge of trauma but also commitment and action. “The foundation for effective trauma-informed classroom practice is the educator’s grasp of how trauma impacts students’ behavior, development, relationships, and survival strategies.”33 However, subject matter knowledge is not the essence of trauma-informed pedagogy.

[T]eaching about trauma is not the same thing as using trauma-informed pedagogy and educators should aim to reduce the risk of retraumatization (triggering or reactivating trauma-related symptoms originating from earlier life events) and secondary traumatization (experiencing trauma-related symptoms from learning others’ stories) when exposing students to potentially sensitive material.34

I would hasten to add that trauma-informed teaching is not reserved for “potentially sensitive material” but rather recognizes that many of our students arrive in the classroom already dealing with past traumatic experiences. A trauma-informed pedagogy is guided by five core values: safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment.35 Each of these values can guide classroom pedagogy and practices, allowing classroom instructors to contribute to a community of trauma-informed care.

Safety is a high priority—not only physical but also psychological. A person dealing with the effects of trauma must feel safe in order to de-escalate their physiological survival-response, allowing them to regain some sense of control in the present. While the need for safety pertains to all aspects of a survivor’s life, in the classroom, safety may involve clearly marked exits, nearby restrooms, and the ability to leave the classroom at any time. The level of commitment to and awareness of safety is communicated from the first contact. Trigger warnings are one way to provide classroom safety.36 How might a commitment to safety shape the kind of welcome and introduction activity used in your classroom?

Trustworthiness is also necessary for a trauma-informed approach. Many traumatic experiences are due to a person in authority abusing their power over someone more vulnerable. Re-establishing trust is imperative for many survivors. In order to lessen perceived threats and to provide a conducive environment for recovery, classroom teachers must be clear and transparent about policies, procedures, expectations, professional boundaries, and roles—including self-disclosure in the classroom.37 How might a commitment to trustworthiness shape the way you present your syllabus and assignments?

Choice is important for survivors of trauma. Trauma robs a person of agency and exposes a deep sense of helplessness. Providing adequate information about their rights and responsibilities and offering choices, when appropriate, can help restore a sense of agency to trauma survivors. For example, Stephanie M. Crumpton developed a classroom “Covenant of Presence” for this purpose, assuring not only a degree of safety and trust but also choice and control.38 How might a commitment to the value of choice and control change the way you shape assignments, deadlines, and forms of communication with students? 

Collaboration is essential to becoming a trauma-informed community. Resilience from trauma is greatly increased by a social support network, and for this to work to the survivor’s benefit, the survivor must have agency in the process. The event of trauma is something that happens to a person, overwhelming them; healing and recovery is a process that happens with a person, inclusive of them. How might a commitment to the value of collaboration change the way you understand teaching and learning in the classroom?

Empowerment underlies all of the above values. Restoring voice, choice, and agency to a survivor is key to recovery. Empowerment means helping the student discover and develop their own capacities. Trauma-informed classroom teachers are part of the community that acts on the belief that “trauma-affected students can learn self-efficacy and social-emotional skills” needed to transcend the grip of the past and live fully into their present potential.39 As classroom instructors, we are in a privileged position to assist trauma-survivors. There are few things more empowering than education. How might a commitment to the value of empowerment change the way you teach in the classroom?

Especially for instructors in theological education and religious studies, it is important to recognize that trauma is a spiritually disruptive experience. Trauma affects mind, body, and soul, causing the survivor to reassess who they are and who God is. Theological works by Shelly Rambo, Serene Jones, Jennifer Beste, and others are helpful resources. Furthermore, classroom instructors on the front lines of community support are exposed to many survivors and their stories of past trauma. The experience of vicarious or secondary trauma (sometimes accompanied by compassion fatigue) is a real and present danger. It is important that classroom instructors take time to debrief with colleagues, pastors, and other professionals about the emotional weight that such work entails.40 Being aware of trauma helps us through this journey, but the spiritual effects are no less intense. Remember: a trauma-informed approach is the work of an entire community of support.


Notes

1 Susan Salasin, “Sine Qua Non for Public Health,” National Council Magazine 2011, no. 2: 18.

2 Darryl W. Stephens and Kate Ott, eds., Teaching Sexuality and Religion in Higher Education: Embodied Learning, Trauma Sensitive Pedagogy, and Perspective Transformation, Routledge Research in Religion and Education (New York: Routledge, 2020). 

3 Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (New York: Basic Books, [1992]2015), 33.

4 Foregrounding the language of “survivor” over “victim” is an intentional aspect of a trauma-informed response. See glossary of terms in: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services,” Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 57. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4801 (Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014), xvi–xix. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207201.

5 Herman called this “the dialectic of trauma”: being “caught between the extremes of amnesia or of reliving the trauma.” Herman, Trauma and Recovery, 47. Shelly Rambo explored the narrative disruption of trauma as a site for theological exploration and meaning in Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010).

6 Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (New York: Penguin, 2014), 21.

7 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “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, 2014), 7. https://store.samhsa.gov/product/SAMHSA-s-Concept-of-Trauma-and-Guidance-for-a-Trauma-Informed-Approach/SMA14-4884. Emphasis in the original.

8 SAMHSA, “SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma,” 8.

9 Shannon Davidson, “Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education: A Guide” (Education Northwest, 2017), 4. https://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/resources/trauma-informed-practices-postsecondary-508.pdf.

10 On microaggressions, see Kevin L. Nadal, Microaggressions and Traumatic Stress: Theory, Research, and Clinical Treatment, Concise Guides on Trauma Care (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2018).

11 Isaac R. Galatzer-Levy, Charles L. Burton, and George A. Bonanno, “Coping Flexibility, Potentially Traumatic Life Events, and Resilience: A Prospective Study of College Student Adjustment,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 31, no. 6 (2012): 542–567. https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2012.31.6.542.

12 van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, 163.

13 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “About the CDC-Kaiser ACE Study,” https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html.

14 Vincent J. Felitti, Robert F. Anda, Dale Nordenberg, David F. Williamson, Alison M. Spitz, Valerie Edwards, Mary P. Koss, James S. Marks, “Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 14, no. 4 (May 1998): 254.

15 SAMHSA, “Trauma-Informed Care,” 47.

16 L. Callid Keefe-Perry and Zachary Moon, “Courage in Chaos: The Importance of Trauma-Informed Adult Religious Education,” Religious Education 114, no. 1 (May 2019): 31. doi:10.1080/00344087.2018.1435989.

17 Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth, “Seven Key Traits of a Trauma Informed Congregation,” Nov. 18, 2019, https://www.ictg.org/congregational-blog/seven-key-traits-of-a-trauma-informed-congregation.

18 Rachel Yehuda and Amy Lehrner, “Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma Effects: Putative Role of Epigenetic Mechanisms,” World Psychiatry: Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) 17, no. 3 (2018): 243–257. doi:10.1002/wps.20568.

19 Davidson, “Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education,” 8.

20 Oluwatomisin Oredein, “Pandemic Predispositions: Minority Trauma Responses in Higher Education,” Teaching and Learning During Crisis blog series, Wabash Center, May 18, 2020, https://www.wabashcenter.wabash.edu/2020/05/pandemic-predispositions-minority-trauma-responses-in-higher-education/.

21 SAMHSA, “Double Jeopardy: COVID-19 and Behavioral Health Disparities for Black and Latino Communities in the U.S.” (Submitted by OBHE), https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/covid19-behavioral-health-disparities-black-latino-communities.pdf. Last accessed February 26, 2021. For an example analysis of a specific geographic area, see Matt Nowlin, Jeramy Townsley, Jay Colbert, and Sharon Kandris, “The Inequalities Behind COVID-19 Disparities for African Americans in Indianapolis,” SAVI, May 15, 2020, http://www.savi.org/2020/05/15/the-inequalities-behind-covid-19-disparities-for-african-americans-in-indianapolis/.

22 Charles Wilson, Donna M. Pence, and Lisa Conradi, “Trauma-Informed Care” Encyclopedia of Social Work (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199975839.013.1063

23 SAMHSA, “Spotlight: Building Resilient and Trauma-Informed Communities—Introduction,” SMA17-5014, February 2017. https://store.samhsa.gov/product/Spotlight-Building-Resilient-and-Trauma-Informed-Communities-Introduction/SMA17-5014.

24 SAMHSA, “Spotlight: Building Resilient and Trauma-Informed Communities.” See also SAMHSA, “SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma,” 9.

25 Davidson, “Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education,” 5.

26 SAMHSA cited the ACEs report as one of two studies significantly influencing the development of the trauma-informed care model, the other being: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “The Women, Co-Occurring Disorders and Violence Study and Children’s Subset Study: Program summary” (Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2007), http://www.wcdvs.com/pdfs/ProgramSummary.pdf. SAMHSA, “Trauma-Informed Care,” 8.

27 Michelle Mary Lelwica, “Embodied Learning Through Pedagogical Promiscuity,” in Teaching Sexuality and Religion in Higher Education: Embodied Learning, Trauma Sensitive Pedagogy, and Perspective Transformation,  eds. Darryl W. Stephens and Kate Ott, Routledge Research in Religion and Education (New York: Routledge, 2020):17–29. For data, see American College Health Association, “National College Health Assessment: Executive Summary,” 2017, www.acha.org/documents/ncha/NCHA-II_FALL_2017_REFERENCE_GROUP_EXECUTIVE_SUMMARY.pdf.

28 Salasin, “Sine Qua Non for Public Health,”18.

29 Davidson, “Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education,” 13.

30 SAMHSA, “SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma,” 9.

31 Ibid., 10.

32 According to this 2016 whitepaper, Title IX investigations should include four components: understanding the impact of trauma, promoting safety and support, proactively avoiding retraumatization, and promoting choice and empowerment of the trauma survivor. Michael Henry, et al., “The Seven Deadly Sins of Title IX Investigations: The 2016 Whitepaper,” ATIXA, 2016. https://atixa.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/7-Deadly-Sins_Short_with-Teaser_Reduced-Size.pdf.

33 Davidson, “Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education,” 17.

34 Ibid.

35 Roger D. Fallot and Maxine Harris, “Creating Cultures of Trauma-Informed Care (CCTIC): A Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol” (Washington, DC: Community Connections, 2009), https://www.theannainstitute.org/CCTICSELFASSPP.pdf. SAMHSA offers six key principles of a trauma-informed approach: SAMHSA, “SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma,” 10–11. For discussion of additional resources on trauma-informed pedagogy in higher education, see Stephens, “Trauma-Informed Pedagogy.”

36 Stephanie M. Crumpton, “Trauma-Sensitive Pedagogy,” in Teaching Sexuality and Religion in Higher Education: Embodied Learning, Trauma Sensitive Pedagogy, and Perspective Transformation, eds. Darryl W. Stephens and Kate Ott, Routledge Research in Religion and Education (New York: Routledge, 2020): 30–43. SAMHSA provides guidance for professionals to help empower survivors to return to the present and to regain focus when such triggering occurs. SAMHSA, “Trauma-Informed Care,” 151.

37 Stephanie M. Crumpton, “Trigger Warnings, Covenants of Presence and More: Cultivating Safe Space for Theological Discussions About Sexual Trauma,” Teaching Theology & Religion 20, no. 2 (2017): 137–47. https://doi.org/10.1111/teth.12376.

38 Crumpton, “Trauma-Sensitive Pedagogy.”

39 Davidson, “Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education,” 13.

40 Ibid., 20–21.

Select Recommended Resources

Carello, Janice. “Trauma-Informed Teaching & Learning: Resources.” March 2020. https://traumainformedteaching.blog/resources.

Carello, Janice, and Lisa D. Butler. “Potentially Perilous Pedagogies: Teaching Trauma is Not the Same as Trauma-Informed Teaching.” Journal of Trauma & Dissociation 15, no. 2 (2014): 153–168. doi:10.1080/15299732.2014.867571.

Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, Emory University. “Teaching in a Time of Uncertainty.” May 2020. http://www.cfde.emory.edu/news-events/news/2020/may/teaching-time-uncertainty.html.

Davidson, Shannon. “Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education: A Guide.” Education Northwest, 2017. https://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/resources/trauma-informed-practices-postsecondary-508.pdf.

Harrison, Neil, Jacqueline Burke, and Ivan Clarke. “Risky Teaching: Developing a Trauma-Informed Pedagogy for Higher Education.” Teaching in Higher Education (June 2020): 1–15. doi:10.1080/13562517.2020.1786046.

Keefe-Perry, L. Callid, and Zachary Moon. “Courage in Chaos: The Importance of Trauma-Informed Adult Religious Education.” Religious Education 114, no. 1 (May 2019): 30–41. doi:10.1080/00344087.2018.1435989.

Stephens, Darryl W. “Trauma-Informed Pedagogy for the Religious and Theological Higher Education Classroom.” Special issue Reflecting on the Possibilities of Religious Education Research. Religions 11, no. 9 (2020): 449. doi:10.3390/rel11090449.

Stephens, Darryl W., and Kate Ott, eds. Teaching Sexuality and Religion in Higher Education: Embodied Learning, Trauma Sensitive Pedagogy, and Perspective Transformation, Routledge Research in Religion and Education series. New York: Routledge, 2020. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429327162.


Darryl StephensDarryl W. Stephens is director of the Pennsylvania Academy of Ministry and director of United Methodist Studies at Lancaster Theological Seminary. He holds a PhD from Emory University in Christian ethics. His research focuses on the church and social change, particularly relating to issues of gender and sexual justice. His writings have been published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Religious EthicsInternational Journal of Practical TheologyReligionsTheological Education, and Religious Education. His current writing project is Trauma-Informed Christian Ethics: Bearing Witness through Love, Justice, and Solidarity, under contract with T&T Clark. A full description of his publications, including Teaching Sexuality and Religion in Higher Education (Routledge, 2020), can be found at his website, http://www.ethicsconsidered.com/.