Grief Informed and Trauma Informed Practices

Studies now show that nearly every school has children who have been exposed to overwhelming experiences, such as witnessing violence between their caretakers, being the direct targets of abuse, and other kinds of adversity that considerably impacts learning. The landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study found higher levels of traumatic experiences in the general population than previously imagined.

Recent neurobiological, epigenetics, and psychological studies have shown that traumatic experiences in childhood can diminish concentration, memory, and the organizational and language abilities children need to succeed in school. As students get older, exposure to traumatic experiences can also lead to the adoption of high-risk, self-medicating behaviors such as substance abuse, smoking, and overeating.

Schools serve as a critical system of support for children and adolescents who have experienced trauma. Schools can create trauma-informed environments that mitigate against the impacts of trauma and grief.  Administrators, teachers, and school staff can help reduce the effects of trauma and grief on children by recognizing trauma responses, accommodating and responding to traumatized students within the classroom, and referring students to mental health professionals when necessary.

Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS)*

A 10-session, school-based, group treatment program, has been implemented in elementary and middle schools across the country, with bilingual (Spanish, Russian, Armenian, and Korean) and multicultural urban and rural populations as well as Native American groups. CBITS is appropriate for students who have experienced a wide range of violence, such as home and community violence, trauma due to accidents and disasters, and trauma involving significant loss. This program has been studied extensively and has been shown in a randomized control trial to reduce symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression.

UCLA Trauma-Grief Curriculum 
This is an 8-10 session program that is suitable for either individual or group applications in clinical or school settings. The manual provides detailed descriptions of the sessions, focusing on trauma psychoeducation, activities to enhance emotional awareness, identification of personal trauma/grief symptoms and trauma/loss reminders, development of a personal set of coping skills, and how to access different types of support. These sessions make up the first module of a comprehensive four module program that also covers more intensive interventions for moderately and severely distressed students.

The Trauma Center Community Services Program
This is a structured program that is appropriate for group or classroom administration. It uses expressive art, music, and movement techniques to build safety and trust among group members. Extensive psychoeducation on threat and trauma is offered with a broad range of coping skills in a playful and engaging manner. This program has been widely implemented in the United States and abroad and has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing post-traumatic distress and improving functioning at school and in interpersonal relationships. The program requires approximately 10 sessions.

Road to Recovery: Supporting Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Who Have Experienced Trauma

The Road to Recovery: Supporting Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Who Have Experienced Trauma is a training that provides an overview for providers on how to work with children and families who are living with intellectual and development disabilities who have experienced trauma. This Toolkit consists of a Facilitator Guide and a Participant Manual. Together, they are designed to teach basic knowledge, skills, and values about working with children with IDD who have had traumatic experiences, and how to use this knowledge to support children’s safety, well-being, happiness, and recovery through trauma-informed practice.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network*

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers a number of resources for educators and other school personnel on child trauma.  The Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators was developed to provide school administrators, teachers, staff, and concerned parents with basic information about working with traumatized children in the school system. This toolkit is free through The National Child Traumatic Stress Network website.

Preventing Adverse Reactions to Negative Events and Related Stressors (PARTNERS)
This is a group treatment program whose goal is to provide social support, normalize responses to trauma, train children in anxiety and anger management skills, and improve the caregiver-child relationship. It is ideally carried out with parallel parent/caregiver groups. The program requires 12 sessions.

The Heart of Learning: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success

The Heart of Learning: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success is a handbook for teachers written and compiled by OSPI and Western Washington University staff. It contains valuable information that will be helpful to you on a daily basis as you work with students whose learning has been adversely impacted by trauma in their lives.  This book is a free pdf download.

Helping Traumatized Children Learn and Creating and Advocating for Trauma Sensitive Schools

Volume I describes the impact of trauma on learning. This landmark report summarizes the research from psychology and neurobiology that documents the impact trauma from exposure to violence can have on children’s learning, behavior and relationships in school. The report also introduces the Flexible Framework, a tool organized according to six core operational functions of schools that can help any school create a trauma sensitive learning environment for all children.  Volume 2 offers a guide to a process for creating trauma-sensitive schools. Both books can be downloaded for free.

Trust Based Relational Intervention

TBRI® is designed for children from “hard places” such as abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. Because of their histories, it is often difficult for these children to trust the loving adults in their lives, which often results in perplexing behaviors. TBRI® offers practical tools for parents, caregivers, teachers, or anyone who works with children, to see the “whole child” in their care and help that child reach his highest potential.

 Psychological First Aid (PFA) for Schools*

An evidence-informed intervention model to assist students, families, school personnel, and school partners in the immediate aftermath of an emergency. PFA-S is designed to reduce the initial distress caused by emergencies, disasters and critical incidents (e.g. school violence), and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning and coping. PFA-S assumes that students and staff members may experience a broad range of early reactions (e.g. physical, cognitive, psychological, spiritual) following an emergency. PFA-S has the potential to mitigate the development of severe mental health problems or long-term difficulties in recovery by identifying individuals who may need additional services and linking them to such services as need.

DFPS Trauma Informed Care Training

The Department of Family and Protective Services training to assist families, caregivers and other social service providers in fostering greater understanding of trauma informed care and child traumatic stress.

Texas Youth Hotline


Life Can Hurt, We Can Help. Contact the Texas Youth Hotline any time, day or night to discuss your problem. It's free and we're here to help!

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Contact Information
Julie Wayman, Mental/Behavioral Health Coordinator