Providing Youth-Supportive Service through a Trauma-Informed Lens

Gina Desiderio

Gina Desiderio

It’s extremely important that any professional working with youth is prepared to encounter and address disclosures of trauma. Over 60% of U.S. youth under 18 have either directly experienced or witnessed some type of violence in the past year. Nearly 40% experienced two or more direct victimizations.[1]

When I started my career as a high school teacher, I know I was not prepared for the disclosures I would encounter from my students, or how to handle them. In one situation, I remember sitting there, listening to the young woman’s story, knowing that she was trusting in me enough to confide in me, and knowing that I needed to acknowledge the disclosure, as well as connect her to any appropriate resources…but my initial reaction was one of complete lack of preparation.  I was unsure of myself, what I should say, and I was afraid I’d say something wrong or completely fail to support her. I certainly didn’t know about how I could use trauma-informed approaches in the classroom.

Being prepared is part of using trauma-informed approaches…learning more about how to listen with a different ear—one that hears the child within and recognizes earlier traumatic experiences that may be shaping current behavior—could have been incredibly helpful in my teacher-student relationships.

It’s extremely important to use trauma-informed approaches because we know that child maltreatment and childhood exposure to trauma has long-reaching effects on adolescent development, and it may increase risk factors related to sexual behaviors, substance use, and violent behavior.[2]

If you’re interested in learning more about trauma-informed approaches, Healthy Teen Network encourages you to join us for a 60-minute webinar, Hearing the Child Within: Trauma-Informed Approaches, on Tuesday, February 18th, 2014, 3-4:00 EST. Pat Paluzzi, CNM, DrPH and Deborah Chilcoat, MEd will define trauma and explore the types most often experienced by children.  They will address the connections between earlier exposure to trauma and current sexual, reproductive, and parenting behaviors among youth. Finally, Pat and Deb will share examples of how youth-supportive services may differ if conducted through a trauma-informed lens. Register for the webinar here.

Read more about our upcoming webinars here.

How do you work to incorporate trauma-informed approaches into your work?

Gina Desiderio is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Healthy Teen Network.
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